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Continued from:
Know Thyself – Part IV – Opening Up

mandala_46During this time, I was deep into dream analysis and mandala making. Through both, I developed keen insight into my own psyche – both in understanding my whole self, and gaining intuition in how to grow and delve deeper.

Some time after the operation, both in my dreams and in my mandalas, all evidence suggested that a woman was about to enter my life. In my mandalas, she was portrayed as yellow, and so I was pretty certain that she would be blonde. I was so certain, in fact, that I staked my entire conviction to the legitimacy of my dream and mandala efforts on it.

When it actually happened, I wasn’t at all looking for it or even aware that I was anticipating it. It just happened.

I was in the Whitney museum in New York City with my mother when I met her and we started talking. Coincidentally, it turned out that she was living strikingly close to our home in Connecticut and so we offered to give her a ride back.

Claudia and I became best friends.

The unusual thing about Claudia was her beauty. She was from Santiago, Chile, and was so extraordinarily beautiful that it was actually disarming. I remember ringing her doorbell to find her opening it and each time becoming totally mesmerized. We once asked a guy on the street for directions, and his jaw dropped and he stood there stunned, not able to say anything. She was that beautiful.

It took me two months to actually kiss her. And when I did, it was very similar to telling my mother about my chest. I couldn’t do it. I knew I had to. It was do or die, but it made no freakin’ sense to my rational mind. Why kiss? It wasn’t logical. All I knew was that I needed to do it. Face to face with an internal conflict I
couldn’t overcome rationally, I finally took the plunge, and mechanically kissed her. Very quickly, it became natural, and transformed into something extraordinary.

loverssunset1Though best friends, we were very different. I was an artist and wanted to change the world. She wanted an upper middle-class home, with good jobs, and a maid. I knew we weren’t destined to ride into the sunset. Claudia came as an utterly magical gift from the Heavens, and she helped to turn my life around.

Continued from: “Know Thyself – Part III – Knowing the World”

Though my life was rich and meaningful, I lived it almost entirely internally. I had very little real contact with other people and after a prolonged time living this way, the total alienation became too uncomfortable to bear. Something inside of me was crying out for some kind of human connection, for touch, for love.

I had lived with gynecomastia for 5 or 6 years. This means I had lived in deep secrecy and shame for all this time. I had endured so much, had carried a heavy burden, and felt like I was finally at a breaking point – I was suffocating. Something had to change.

I realized that I needed to break the silence and reveal my secret.

Finally the day came where I mustered up all the courage I had and approached my mother. I told her that there was something that I had to say. She listened and waited. The words wouldn’t come out. I had no other option but to force the words out. There was no place to retreat to. But I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.  I stood there trying, as the time ticked. She must have understood how important this was to me. She waited.

birdfreedomI don’t know how much time passed as I was caught in this stalemate, but we stood there for a long time, until finally I… managed… to… just… barely… get – the – words – out… and finally, finally, finally, they had been expressed. I had told my mother about my chest condition and how traumatic it was for me.

I went back to my room and drew a mandala – a wide open circle that went way off the edges of the paper. The dam had been broken. Change was to come.

My mother got busy trying to find a solution, and she discovered that an operation was an option. Soon, the operation was over, and I was finally normal again. Well, sort of.

Continue to: Know Thyself – Part V – A Boon from the Heavens

Image by © cloud9999

Coninued from: “Know Thyself – Part II – Beginning to Blossom”

questionmarkIn my life, there have been several “Big Question Marks” – areas of deep curiosity that felt like they needed to be answered, or I would somehow be left feeling incomplete and unsatisfied. In many Eastern philosophies, they talk about letting go, but these are some of the things that feel better fulfilled than dropped — because once they are answered, they are gone.

For me, travel was one of those things.

I always had a strong, intuitive feeling that I needed to travel as much as I could right away – to satisfy the curiosity – as the opportunity may not always be there. While I was delivering newspapers in Berkeley, I took a break to tour Europe for a month and a half. It felt incredibly liberating and empowering, knowing that all my classmates were still in high school, while I was off exploring the world.

I carried my frugality with me to Europe, staying in the cheapest places I could find and eating the cheapest of foods.  I decided to splurge once in each country and many of the experiences were pretty comical.  For one, I had a romantic notion of France and espresso and wanted to experience it. I laid down the francs for an espresso and felt a bit pained by how small it was for the price. I then indulged and couldn’t believe how horrible it tasted. It was a pretty surprising and disheartening encounter. In Italy, when I felt the urge for a splurge, I entered a charming pizza restaurant in Florence where I carefully studied the menu for the optimal selection. I settled on something that sounded quite poetic – pizza blanca. It turned out to be just a baked pizza crust, with nothing on it.

vgbridgearlesI visited most of the European counties, walking huge distances, and visited many of the key tourist sites.  Of particular significance to me was tracing the footsteps of Van Gogh in Arles, visiting Jung’s fantastic homes in Switzerland, and fainting for the first time in my life at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve in the packed Sacre Couer in Paris

I traveled with great confidence and became quite competent and self-reliant.

Maybe six months later, I decided to travel again – this time to India and Nepal.  My reason for wanting to go to India was much different from that of most people who yearn to go there. I was only 18, and had heard something about the deep spirituality of India and its sadhus. I had a romantic notion of these sadhus, but instead of going there to seek them out for answers, or perhaps to find a guru, I wanted to discover their flaws in order to humanize them. My experiences in life had been so profound, that I felt that they were my peers. I sensed a tendency within to romanticize them and project on them all of my divine qualities. Instead, I felt that by humanizing them, they would lose their power over me, enabling me to sustain these qualities myself.

My first trip to India was extraordinary. It started on the airplane with the thrilling feeling of being surrounded by people from such a rich and very different culture. At the airport I hung out with Tibetan monks until dawn where I caught a bus to the city. On the way there I saw a body floating in the river and a corpse on the street with its head cracked wide open. The poverty was all around – the leper-filled streets, starving families, and scrawny dogs. Though I didn’t know it at the time I had arrived on Diwali and firecrackers were bursting all around. As I gazed into the face of deep poverty I had the sense that finally I had found my home. Though I lived in America, land of the plenty, my own life was full of suffering and deprivation. In seeing this external poverty, I felt that it was the material manifestation of my inner state – something I wasn’t even really aware existed in the world. And it somehow felt very comforting to know I wasn’t totally alone.

banarasI felt great compassion all around, and also felt the joys in offering smiling hellos to all the kids and genuine Namastes to all the people I encountered.  My own spiritual being naturally blossomed. When I arrived in Banaras, I was so overwhelmed by the density of devotion and layers of spiritual expression that I decided to stay put. I could write quite a bit about my incredible experiences on this trip and also in the pristine and magnificent Nepal. Though I’m sure my own perceptions have changed and been diluted, I really think that India (and Nepal) have changed dramatically over the last 18 years since I first visited. I feel very fortunate to have gone when I did for a taste of this very rich place.

My traveling didn’t end here. There has been quite a bit more. Clearly, traveling expands our sense of reality and stretches our own place within it. Though the world is filled with amazing places that I would love to visit, and though I come alive when I travel, this Big Question Mark has already been answered. If I never travel again, I would be satisfied. Traveling broke open the provincial view of myself and the world that I had developed – and that is exactly what I needed to crack. It also gave me a sense of esteem for having tasted of the adventure. Though I love it, the question mark is now gone. I can let it go. From here, traveling is just an added joy.

Continue to: Know Thyself – Part IV – Opening Up

Continued from: Know Thyself – Part I – Moving to Berkeley

When I came back to Connecticut from Berkeley, I was able to find the comfort I needed to begin to blossom. I spent much of my time thinking deeply about everything, trying to figure out the secrets of the universe, and writing continuously. I started to read physics and philosophy, but for some reason, I was drawn like a magnet to the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Both were incredibly prolific writers, with volumes of work that look like complete encyclopedia editions – and over several years, I managed to get through a large chunk of both of their works.

freud_jung_01_1As I read them, I absorbed them – not merely their ideas, but their lives. I felt as if I knew them so completely that I had actually lived their lives, knew their times, and understood them from the inside-out.

There was a time my mother actually thought that I had gone
insane, reading the same books over and over. She just didn’t realize, like an encyclopedia, they all shared the same cover design. I think what I gained mostly from Freud and Jung was the understanding that there was so much more to me than what I knew. They both were pioneers in discovering the ‘unconscious’ and being able to tag along in their processes of investigation, I was enabled to connect with that which lay hidden within.

During this time, my creativity began to grow exponentially. I loved to cook – without following more than a few recipes ever, I knew by instinct the art of cooking. I could feel it and thrived using it as an art form. I actually considered it as a profession, though the thought of having to learn it in a meat-based institution immediately put an end to the idea.

My poetry also continued, becoming an indispensable outlet for self-discovery and expression.  And soon enough, I finally came to grasp art. One day, I went up to my room, got out some ink pens and water colors and just knew what to do. Within an hour or so, I had four finished paintings. Until then, I had the passion of an artist, but lacked any style. I never liked anything I had ever done. In just one hour, my innate style simply revealed itself. It was inspired and I loved it. And from that moment, there was no going back.

I have to give so much thanks and credit to my parents for giving me all the time I needed to discover myself. While my classmates were still all in high school, I was growing and developing in extraordinary ways.

My spirit was ignited. The extreme, nearly infinite, love I had felt for Lina was ever-present. I was continuously overcome with feelings and emotions. It was such an extraordinary experience to be so super-saturated with passion. I would visit her house, just standing outside immersed in the rapturous agony of soul separation. Wherever I went this blissful intensity came
with.

woodsA world full of magic began taking various forms. I would often walk into the woods, feeling the deep connection with Nature, and then take off running wildly without inhibition, tapping into a purely physical, purely instinctive side of my nature. I connected strongly with the deep romance and spirit of Led Zeppelin. And I started to search deeper.

Somewhere during this time, I began to write down my every dream, each followed with an interpretation. In a matter of time, I began to speak dream language fluently, knowing exactly what most every detail of every dream was telling me. Every aspect was a description of myself and contained within the needed secrets for working through the things that needed to be worked through.

mandla_1I also began to create mandalas. Mandalas are generally geometrically-shaped symbols that ultimately help one to find center and balance. Jung realized a value in the process of making these, where they would often serve as useful tools or guides in Self-integration and healing. I started off without much direction, and as I continued, I soon found Jung’s discovery to be profoundly accurate, where again I became fluent in the language of mandalas, later interpreting every aspect, every color, every meaning. Between the dreams and the mandalas, poetry and art, and all the other avenues of meaning, I had fully entered a state of self-discovery, self-integration, and self-expression.

Life during this period was rich and exciting, profound and boundless. Fully engaged in a sphere of inspiration, I had tapped into the core of my being. One evening, while taking a walk around the block, I had a vision of a gold square hiding behind the moon. This little vision would soon become the defining element in my life.

Continue to: Know Thyself – Part III – Knowing the World

berkeleygateThis story continues from:Lina“.

I was 17 years old when I dropped out of high school and headed west without a plan. My extended family was mostly from California, and my sister was going to school at UC Berkeley. As an idealistic kid, I was intrigued by the 60s and the sound of Berkeley resonated within. It’s where I would have wanted to go to college. Without a plan, Berkeley pulled me its way. I drove across the country, stopping at the Grand Canyon, and to my sister’s apartment.

The timing couldn’t have been much better as she was leaving that day to spend the next few months in LA and had just acquired a new apartment, which she wanted to sublet. Without pause, after four days of long driving, I drove her to LA, dropped her off, and drove back where I now had a place to stay for several months.

My aunt and uncle, Bob and Susie, also lived in Berkeley and, as timing would have it, they were looking to fill a job delivering newspapers. As a kid, I had a walk-around-the-block paper route for four years, but this was something altogether different. Here, the route covered 50 miles or so of driving up and down and around large areas, folding papers with rubber bands while knee steering, and lofting papers out the car window at high speeds with precision, or so one hopes. They trained me and I quickly got it down. I also took on an inserting job, assembling the various sections of the Sunday paper for the whole district.

I now had a quiet place to live and a job that required almost no personal interaction. I was able to live in virtual isolation, where I was free to suffer.

painjesusThe suffering came easy. I spent most my time lying in bed, thinking of Lina, writing poetry and thinking deeply about everything. The apartment was filled with roaches, and as a pacifist, we made a deal that after 8 pm every night, I would turn the lights out and let them have their run.

I was raised somewhat frugally, and had a good head for math. I tried to live on as little money as I possibly could which, aside from the apartment and car expenses, amounted to very little. My food bill averaged about $1.80/day, which included rare trips eating out. I lived mostly on oatmeal and potatoes with low-cost melted cheese. I was able to save almost all the money I earned.

I had begun fasting every Sunday in high school and continued it here. I was working all day on Saturday both delivering newspapers and inserting, and would then basically pull an all-nighter each Saturday night delivering Sunday’s papers. Because of Saturday’s long day and all-nighter, Sundays became consistently grueling, where I would spend them in sickness, vomiting pure, acid-green bile.

My self-discipline was very strong, and I endured the hardships.  Occasionally, I would do three-day fasts, and one time, to test my self-discipline, I decided on a whim to fast for 8 days. I told no one about this and was sick nearly the whole time. After day 5, I gave up, going to the grocery store at 1 am to get ice cream. That’s when I first became aware of the limitations of my will power.

During this time, I also read about the possibility of becoming breatharian. I had become a vegetarian at the time of leaving high school and thought that it would be amazing to be free from food entirely. The step to getting there, I read, was in first becoming a fruitarian. For several months, I tried living on only fruit. I became skinnier and weaker and probably anemic.

teatoast_1The suffering, loneliness, and physical endurance were all very difficult. At one point, I imagined sourdough toast with butter and tea with milk and sugar. This is a treat I would eat at home in Connecticut. My mind was so rigid in self-deprivation, that it didn’t even occur to me how easily I could satisfy that craving on my own right in California. The craving made me yearn for home – to find a little relief.

My car was also consistently breaking down. Bob and Susie would do all the repairs with me, and at a certain point I felt like I was becoming too much of a burden. I guess I was just too frugal to spend money on hiring someone. I had come here to die and not to learn to live, and as the troubles kept coming, I felt more and more helpless.

Eventually, I decided to leave the route and drive back to Connecticut. My parents were very happy.

Continue to: Know Thyself – Part II – Beginning to Blossom

The story that follows is about the single-most influential time period of my life – something that forever changed my life course. This story is a continuation of “The Making of a Martyr” – Part I and Part II.

swanI can’t recall the first time I noticed her, or the first time I began to develop feelings for her. She was the kind of girl who would go mostly unnoticed. Though pretty, she was quiet and seemed invisible and bookish. Perhaps that invisibility is partly what drew me to her.

I shared a few classes with her and eventually learned her name was Lina. Lina was from Bogotá, Colombia and had an identical twin sister named Claudia. No one could tell them apart.

Both were off the social radar. Claudia seemed slightly more outgoing and bubbly. Lina seemed more shy and introspective. Though they may have looked identical to everyone else, their differences to me were like night and day.

For years, my deeper love had all been directed toward just one girl, the wildly popular Tara M, but now suddenly, things began to shift. I started to notice Lina’s every gesture – the way she held her pencil, the books she read, the way her hair would fall against her shoulders, its shine – and it wasn’t long before I was head over heals in love with her.

I sat behind her in class, just staring. It wasn’t just that I was falling in love; it’s that I kept falling – deeper and deeper and deeper – into a love that seemed to have no end. Although this love was as sweet as anything could ever be, it was something that brought with it an unbearable torture. As I sat in class taking her in, I would sketch both images of love and brutal portraits of faces screaming.

During this period, my depth began to grow. I tapped into my own genius and began expressing it through poetry, writing, and art, though these skills weren’t developed enough to adequately capture the passion and fire that was blazing inside.

johnkidMy love for Lina wasn’t anything normal. For one, it was completely asexual. There wasn’t a trace of sexual thought anywhere near her. To me, these worlds were very different and I wanted the love to be as pure as it could possibly be. To me, Lina was pure innocence. Probably what she really represented was a simple and pure part of myself that had been long misplaced somewhere in my ego formation – a part of myself I longed to reacquaint with.

Secondly, I didn’t want her to become real. I both yearned to talk with her and dreaded it as I didn’t want the reality of her identity to interfere with the goddess-like image I had built up of her in my mind.

This was an impossible attraction from the start. She was too simple and innocent for a relationship. My chest condition created an impassable barrier anyway. Then, add to that a romantic notion that wanted to keep her mythical. It was a disaster in formation, and as my love continued to expand into ever-deepening territories, this tragedy began to unfold.

Just as it’s hard for someone to really understand pain or sickness when they are not experiencing it, it’s hard for me to convey my true experiences during this period. I was taken into realms of existence that I didn’t know were possible. I was tapped into forces of nature that are not commonly encountered. It felt literally as if the Gods were manipulating me like a puppet – my body being smashed and slammed against the oceans of sensation. It became humanly impossible for my limited self to contain the profound love that I was feeling and it began ripping and tearing me apart. Although the pain was exquisite, I was in direct contact with the very essence of Life, and this pain was felt as unimaginable bliss.

There were times when I would go and stand outside of her home at night and quietly scream with reckless abandon, completely immersed in the infinite depth of the passion. My surrender was nearly total. During the screams, I noticed a tiny spark, or part of myself that remained as just a witness. I hated this part of myself for being so cold and for not disappearing with me into the immersion.

A part of me so desperately wanted to see this love realized, and despite my own objections, I forced myself to talk with her on several occasions. The moments leading up to these approaches were some of the most wonderfully nervous and difficult moments ever. There was even a time I braved asking her to the prom. Caught off guard, she quickly lied and said that someone else had already asked her.

At a certain point, it became evident that this could never be. Because of my chest and my refusal to attend gym class, it was already determined that I would be unable to graduate high school. With my future prospects crumbling, there wasn’t a compelling case for me to stay in school.

Compared to my profound love for Lina, nothing else had much value or meaning. When everything you want in the world can be concentrated into just one thing, and that one thing is wholly unattainable, then there is really nothing left to live for. With nothing left to live for, it was time for me to go away and die.

At the time, my only spiritual reference was Jesus. Because my experiences did not fit into anything I could comprehend, I thought that perhaps this is who I was. I offered myself to God, vowing to live my life in service to the world.

It was now time to tell my friends and parents I was going away.

My friends were easy. They either didn’t believe me, or thought it was cool. I was able to make them realize the beauty in waking up and grabbing hold of life while young.

I was in the 11th grade and I had made my decision. Though in many ways tragic, I was fulfilling my romantic dreams – to go away and die – perhaps in a ditch somewhere, I didn’t know. Though difficult for anyone to understand, my decision was one with the pulse of life. I was tapped into something extraordinary, and there were no other options. I was in an infinitely pure place.

My relationship with my family was good. I gathered the courage and told my mother of my plans to leave and gave them a two week time period to prepare. Where I was going, I really didn’t know. Intuitively, I felt that the “west winds were calling,” and that I would probably just follow any signs saying “west.”

My parents understood my utter conviction, and felt that it was time for some urgent intervention.  They asked me to see a psychologist three times before leaving. I knew it was pointless, but with respect to them, I agreed to meet their request. I met with the psychologist of their choice and I got the sense in my three sessions with him that he yearned to be in my shoes, following his heart and walking out into the unknown.

sunset01The sessions failed to make a difference and my parents pleaded for one last option. They found a specialist and asked me to just meet with him once. Again, I loved them and knew this was a big deal – it was the least I could do, so I grudgingly agreed. Unfortunately, this man was horrible – a Sigmund Freud cookie cutter quack, who quickly went to work trying to dismantle and categorize my psyche into his pre-defined columns of neuroses. He assumed that I was somehow diseased and went to work with a hammer drill trying to find it. It was a pretty pathetic ending to a beautiful departure.

He found nothing. I was surrendering to love. And it was exquisite.

I packed my belongings into my ’78 Honda Civic, said my goodbyes, and drove away, heading westward.

>> This is a special poem I wrote about Lina during this time.

>> This story continues here.

In 1991, I entered The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington as a freshman. I was 21. There was a buzz around the college about two great bands – one from LA called Jane’s Addiction and another local band called Nirvana. For me, these two bands breathed the life back into contemporary music.

The members of Nirvana had actually attended Evergreen and played occasionally at parties on campus. I hoped to catch one of their shows.

nirvana_1At first, I didn’t like that they had used the name Nirvana, because I felt like it reduced and branded such a special word to something so mundane. But when I heard their music, this concern quickly seemed irrelevant. The album Bleach was amazing and had topped the charts of the Seattle underground papers for a record number of weeks. When I saw a flyer on campus saying that Nirvana was going to play, I came with some friends to see them.

They were playing at a small event by the school library with a bunch of other local bands. When I walked in, my eyes caught sight of a guy unlike anyone I had probably ever seen before. He looked so real and raw and beaten down, an obvious heroine junkie – someone who looked like they belonged strung out on the streets of Tacoma, and completely out of place in this modern academic building. I figured that Nirvana obviously had some pretty hardcore fans and it was startling to see these very different worlds mingle. I felt great compassion for him and pointed him out to my friends.

The other bands played and then it was Nirvana’s time. Amazingly, it was that same weathered guy who took the stage as the singer. The band started up and immediately brought everything into another dimension. It was heavy and hard, fearless and fierce, and I immediately understood for the first time the true meaning of “underground.” Kurt screamed out with a depth of passion that I had known for many years – the same passion I had carried around secretly and quietly within myself. Here was another person who felt the world as I did – but here he was exposing this torture for all to see.

The music was extraordinary. The band was tight and the quality of drumming was at a level I had never seen before in a local show. Nirvana was no ordinary band. Krist Novoselic talked liberal politics midway through the show and then it came back into full scale assault and agony. I watched as Kurt unleashed his pain for all to see and toward the end of the show he smashed his guitar into pieces. I don’t know if they got paid for this show, but if so, I’m sure very little, and I wished them success as his guitar had been demolished in the process.

cobainAt the end of the show, Kurt collapsed on stage, beaten and exhausted, having given every drop of himself. I was so moved by him and by his pain that I felt compelled to reach out to him – to somehow offer some kind of strength and support. If it had not been for my own internal barriers saying “You cannot go up to him; he is the singer of Nirvana,” or “Your interest in him is only because you want to associate yourself with someone cool,” I would have gone up to him in an instant. Had he been a homeless man, or a wounded animal, I would have reached out to him without pause, but because of invisible, and probably make-believe walls, I stopped myself. This decision wasn’t a simple one; I stood locked in position for probably 15 minutes, with the compassionate side of myself saying that I must do something, and with my mind telling me that it was not appropriate.

Finally, I ended up walking away from him, playing it culturally safe.

It wasn’t too long before Nirvana was discovered and became the phenomenon that they did. I always felt a deep connection to Kurt – I felt that we would probably have connected as friends on a deep level of soul and I felt bad that I had failed to make the effort.

When he took his life, I felt it as a mortal blow. To this day, I feel partially responsible for his death. Many people will say that this is a foolish and perhaps even arrogant thing to think. Clearly, he was on a path of destruction irregardless of me. And clearly, even had I done something to reach out, it is not likely to have changed his fate. But the point is that our paths did cross and that I was presented with an opportunity to reach out to a human being in pain. Because of my ego, I failed to rise to the occasion. Regardless of what anyone may think, despite the uncomfortable circumstances, I am partly to blame for his death, just as we are all partly to blame for everything that is happening in the world.

Each of us is a magnitude of power that not only can, but must always influence and change the world around us. When we fail to realize this, the power simply goes as it may, generally working to sustain the status quo. Kurt Cobain took a step toward exposing to the world the treasure that lay within. Unfortunately for him, that treasure lay buried in a sea of abandonment and neglect. His steps were bold and it’s critical we keep trotting until each of us unveils the truth underying who we are. Nirvana.

Kurt Cobain painting by Jonathan Mason (a.k.a.Bhuvanesh)

Continued from Into the Light – Part I

My commitment was pure. The first night in Rishikesh, I meditated for hours in the cold by the river. Any sight of light became intoxicating, particularly the morning shimmers on the surface of the pristine Ganga.

sriramakrishnaI had been reading The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, and he said to avoid “women” and “gold.” I was less interested in what to avoid and more interested in positively identifying life’s genuine treasures. I concluded that both innocence and love were two of these treasures. Intuitively, I also began to feel that ananda, or pure spiritual bliss, was a third, and that I had been so used to suffering in my life that I had to prepare myself to allow this happiness to enter.

diwaliI left Rishikesh for Benares as I had decided I wanted to be in Benaras for Diwali, and was a little disappointed to find that all the candles and diyas that I imagined would be lighting up all the homes were now replaced by electric lights and unsubtle fireworks.

Benaras, or Varanasi, was a special place to me – a place I had visited on my first trip to India at age 18 – a place so diverse with spiritual devotion that it made me stop and stay. This time, I sat on the ghats in meditation and prayer. I didn’t know much about meditation, but quickly and intuitively developed a process.

I came to India to get rid of the old me. And so I worked on letting go of the old with force and deliberation. I tried to gather myself and exhale it all away. Conceptually, I was able to give up most everything, but hesitated giving up my care for other beings and my responsibilities to Loveleen.

In trying to gather all of me, I quickly found myself in touch with my body and all the knots and blockages that I had within. I felt as though it was necessary to clear away all of these impurities and so went at it with a vengeance. This whole process was highly intuitive, but I felt as if my lowest chakra was completely clogged up. I psychically worked to break through these blockages with concentrated attention, love, and through the use of reiki. I imagined this space to be like a tunnel that traveled down for a long distance and then out of the body into infinite space. Once the blockage was unclogged, this tunnel then seemed to be covered with filth and neglect. I spent a lot of time working to clean this whole passage and after much work, the vision had changed into a pristine tunnel lined with candles.

Traveling through this tunnel enabled me to connect with my own innocence. I consciously worked to regress further and further to a point of purer and purer states of me. Anytime I felt any trace of identity, it meant that I hadn’t gone far enough. I was looking for the me that exists without me – that existed before I was born – the me without any ego whatsoever.

Finding this was hard, but eventually I tapped into a very pure state of being.

At the same time, my love and compassion for all living beings in the universe was extraordinary. In all honesty, the real motivation for my trip was to surrender myself for the good of all. I prayed for all forms of life, whether near or far, past, present, or future, and wished great happiness and enlightenment for us all.

sarnath02One morning, I went to the ghats and prayed. This prayer was deeply sincere and I was able to connect with an extreme purity within. Later that day, I took a bus to Sarnath nearby, where the Buddha gave his first teaching after attaining enlightenment. Though I had been there before, this time I was very moved by the solidness of the monument that had been built for him. It was as if the massiveness of his teachings could be felt by the weight of this structure. There was a tree nearby and I felt that this was my time to sit and awaken.

I smiled at the children nearby for a while and then closed my eyes and went inward. A fly landed right on my “third eye” chakra and stayed there. I tapped into the innocence within. I then connected with my love and felt that the pathway from the lowest chakra to my heart was fully opened. I worked on clearing the energy through my neck and up in my head. I remembered a prayer from Meister Eckhart that said:

“If the only prayer you say in your whole life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”

With the same focus I had placed on breaking up the blockages in my lower chakra, I worked on clearing the channels to allow the ananda to flow from Above, through my head, through my neck, to my heart, and through the rest of my body. I prayed for all living beings and concentrated.

I could feel the light start to enter and I repeated to myself: “Thank You. Thank You. Thank You.” The purity and intensity started to build up and in an unexpected moment, a complete calm took over. Everything came into complete alignment as the Ananda, the heart, and the innocence all merged together as one. People often think of Enlightenment as a great thing, and that is the great mistake. It is a very humble thing.

buddha02_2I sat in a space of profound truth and sincerity, where the “I” had now been successfully let go and all that was left was something universal and perfect. After just a few moments with everything in perfect alignment, something happened. Somehow I saw a white light spirit figure leave my body and unlock each chakra one by one. I felt my crown chakra open and felt a wide ring encircle the top of my head like a halo. An enormous flow of light, the size of a great and powerful waterfall, poured from the Heavens through a now fully opened crown chakra, through my whole body and out into the infinite. I knew that my prayers for everyone were being answered.

Later, as I walked away from that spot, I knew that something extraordinary had just happened.  I left behind an earring I had found that looked like a perfect gem on top of a leaf along with a flower. Before this day, I never really knew whether the Dalai Lama was indeed an Ocean of Wisdom or just a figurehead. For some reason, at this moment, I was left with the specific and powerful impression that ‘now I know what it’s like to be the Dalai Lama.’

Here in Ahmedabad, Loveleen was recently initiated into Reiki. Several years ago, I too was initiated into Reiki, and it helped jolt my life in radical ways.

Before that point, I had spent years in a general mystical state of being, continually deepening my understanding of myself. I always called this process religious and not spiritual, even though it was never associated with any religion, probably because it took place in the realm of the sacred and symbolic. I was cultivating the ground of my being, tilling the soil. It was heavy work; spirituality seemed light.

Eventually, I reached a point where I was ready for the light. I knew it intuitively, but was not sure how to get started. As far as I was aware, there were all kinds of spiritually-based worlds ready to explore: Reiki, rolfing, meditation, acupuncture, etc. I had very little understanding of any of them. My mother had been initiated into Reiki and raved about it, so it seemed like a good enough place to begin.

reikiAs was recommended to me, I received four treatments myself before my initiation. During the treatments, the sparks of spiritual fascination began to shoot all around.

Several days after my initiation, some people were over at my house. I smoked a little pot with them, which was fairly unusual for me. Then I was left home alone, which was also fairly unusual. I walked into the bathroom, and looked in the mirror and had a powerful vision. Fierce beams of light were shooting either out of or into my outstretched palms. I could see a light calling me from Benaras in India. I knew without question that I was being called and that I had to leave immediately.

Before this, I had been struggling for a long time trying to push forward with some web-based charitable solutions that I really believed could help bring incredible changes to the world. I had been pushing so hard and realized that as extraordinary and genuine as my efforts were, the pushing was grounded in ego, and I had to learn to let things flow on their own with love. I had to develop a “third-eye” awareness – an ability to see myself with wisdom and not get so attached to everything I was doing.

This insight hit me like a ton of bricks because it made me doubt everything I had been working so hard on.

I knew I needed to gain this wisdom. I wouldn’t be able to continue working until I gained it, and my work was my life. I was stopped, and it became clear to me that I had to find the wisdom at any cost – at all costs.

As I planned my trip to India, I knew inside that I would not come back without finding what I was looking for and that I would either find it quickly or die trying, as I was putting my whole life on the line. Loveleen found the perfect jacket for me at an amazing price, but I told her not to buy it. Though I didn’t say it directly, I was not planning on returning. I had single point focus on the work I had in front of me. It was all or nothing.

I told no one but Loveleen that I was leaving. The call was too soft and gentle. Words would disrupt it. I left a letter to Loveleen which I filed away, as an attempt to enable her financially in the case that I died.

Within five days after the vision, I was in India, and headed straight to Rishikesh, where I received a level II Reiki initiation.

Continue to “Into the Light – Part II”

ecstasy_1The topic of drugs is a sensitive one – one that is likely to get me in a little trouble – but that’s life.

I was raised with a very cautious and conservative view of drugs. I think my parents did a phenomenal job. My father used to smoke cigarettes and eventually quit cold turkey. Realizing how harmful they were, he did not want us to take the same road he did. He offered my sisters and I each $500 if we did not smoke cigarettes up to the age of 18. His logic was that up until this age was the time of peer pressure, and if we could make it past this, then we could make a more mature decision about whether or not to smoke.

Somehow, this strategy worked wonders, as I developed an aversion to the idea of smoking that was strong and lasting. My parents never really mentioned drugs, but somehow this same attitude covered the entire span of drugs as well, alcohol excluded.

marijuanaleaf-21In school, I hung out with the trouble-makers, and I was a strong one myself. Pretty much every one of my friends in high school smoked pot, but I never did. I was around just about everyone the first time they ever tried it, but not me. My ear was pierced, my hair was long-ish, I was mellow, and hung with the partying crowd. When I told people that I had never tried pot, no one believed me. It just didn’t seem possible to anyone, but it was true.

Eventually, when I was out of high school and a little older, I went on to experiment with various drugs.

Obviously, drugs can be addictive and very dangerous, some more than others. That being said, I have experienced the miraculous wisdom they have to offer, and am a strong advocate of their place and value in our society.

I feel that drugs like LSD, marijuana, mushrooms, and MDMA can help open windows into the possibilities that life has to offer. Some of these possibilities are beautiful and extraordinary, and too many people make the mistake of attributing these states to the drugs, and rely on the drugs to get back to these states. Knowing that these states exist, however, can provide the needed insight to help one break out of the spiritually deadening social constructs that we have been expected to adopt.

This is the spirit in which I have used drugs. I glean from the experience what I may, and then realize that to get from where I am to this heightened state just takes a tremendous amount of hard work – striving to connect with myself in deeper and truer ways, and working to overcome my developed limitations. This process is no day at the beach. It is the hardest of work to cultivate your own being to where you are able to experience these highs as your natural state, but it is possible.

magicmushroomI think that in a society with more spiritual wisdom, there would be guidance present to help people develop into their own true potential. In such a society, there is no real need for drugs as the tendency to cultivate is already present. But in a society that lacks wisdom, I feel that drugs can offer a gateway into what is possible. Although they can be used as an escape – and too often are – they can also provide a key to unlock the gems within. And for this, I feel they are a precious, priceless, and invaluable tool.

Please don’t ever mistake what I say as an endorsement for anyone to try drugs, and please don’t mistakenly think of me as one who uses them often. I have used them cautiously and carefully and my motivation has only been to grow in wisdom and compassion and love for all. To me, drugs are clearly both dangerous and sacred.

Our society, I feel, lacks a balanced view of drugs. This lack of balance is part of our problem. I do not endorse drugs, I endorse spirit. Drugs have played a critical role in my own spiritual development and the development of many spiritual people that I know. For this I must stand up and offer a cautious but genuine voice of gratitude.

Continued from Making of a Martyr – Part I

Something happened to me in high school.

It probably showed its first signs in jr. high as my crush on Tara M. was just way stronger and deeper than normal.

At a certain point, all the pain and isolation I had been feeling for so long began to blossom. Before this, I seemed like a pretty normal kid. I hung out mostly with the semi-jock, party crowd, and also with some of the Dead Heads and Metal Heads. My best friend during these years was a super amazing guitar player, Chaz Vegas/Chazaray. With Charlie, I was myself, but with most people, I just tried to pretend to belong without really belonging at all.

As I was busy passing away the time, something unexpected was born in me that was far different than anything I had known or anyone else that I knew.

I remember feeling it when I wrote my first poem at age 16. I tapped into a very deep dimension within myself. It was a place of Truth, of Inner Connection, of Infinite Freedom. I continued to write poetry and continued to develop my deeper sense of Self.

poeI began to love the color black – the pitcher the black the better, and also a deep, blood red. In school, we were studying Edgar Allen Poe, and my fascination with the romance of suffering began to erupt. I was in love with the idea of dying in a ditch or any form of martyrdom. The ultimate to me was in being true to oneself, one’s passion, one’s genius – and paying the ultimate price for it.

Other qualities of an expanding consciousness were also born at this time. In school we were studying wars, taking for granted their necessity. I popped my head out of the sand and saw that wars and countries were all illusions of the mind. I saw with crystal clarity how everyone around me was asleep, caught up in a collective dream. Everyone at the time was talking about which college they should go to. College, career, family, death. They were all just going through the motions and would probably live and die without ever even realizing there was something more.

In English class, we had to write short stories. My teacher helped empower my confidence as she became infatuated with a disturbing tale I had written of pyschologically twisted jealously, reading it aloud in amazement and sending it off on her own to New Yorker and other magazines.

I also began to sketch, developing my confidence as an artist.

starrynight_1Overall, a shift began to take place. The passion in me began to grow at an alarming rate. I was tapping into some serious shakti. To any observer, watching the outer me, very little was revealed, but within, I was entering another dimension of being.

I remember seeing a picture of Starry Night by Van Gogh on the wall in school and was startled to discover that there was actually someone else who must have seen the world like I did.

But these are all just the details surrounding a more profound set of high school experiences which would forever change my life.

This story continues with “Lina“…

rickshaw01_1Thank you, Loveleen, for being the most understanding and selfless partner one can imagine. Loveleen is, literally, my dream girl come true. She is so caring and giving and genuine, so totally connected with the natural world around her, so fun and happy and funny and cool. So artistic and graceful and beautiful. My luck is pretty extreme to have found her and it is even more so now that she is finally here with me in India!!!

bushkalunaThank you, Babushka and Luna, for letting me go for so long. I love you two immensely.

Thank you, Mr. Yaniv for giving me this blog space that falls under its mother silentswan.blogs.com. If it weren’t for you, blogging wouldn’t be half as fun. Thank you also for helping to push me into a laptop before heading off and for doing all the many things you do to make life more consistently spectacular.

Thank you, Ashvin, for getting me to India. Ash is my soul mate in knowing life as a journey of deep ups and downs. Ash is an amazing poet and the breaking news here is that his book of poetry, The Seeker and the Sought, is currently being printed in Ahmedabad and will be available shortly!

Thank you, Aaron-bhai, not only for watching over our precious Babushka while we are away, but for letting us know without doubt that she is in extraordinary hands. Aaron may become part of the story here at some point.

ammachiThank you, Bhuvanesh. When the hugging saint Ammachi greets people, she gives them a hug, a little chant, and a piece of chocolate. When she saw Bhuvanesh, she was overjoyed at seeing such a spiritual cultivator that she reached into her bag and threw handfuls of chocolates out to the crowds. She later gave him his name which means Lord of the Universe. Now he is filling our home with his good blessings and taking care of our precious cat, Luna.

Thank you, Lalitha for setting us up with Annalakshmi in Singapore.  Thank you Sri Vathsan and Ganesh for hosting us so generously. Thank you, Nipun for setting us up in Bombay. And thank you Shilpa, Kokila, and Balakrishna for your incredibly generous hosting.

Thanks to my parents, Bev and LD, for being so extraordinarily understanding and caring and saintly. Thank you to Loveleen’s parents, Paramjit and Bhagwant, and whole family for being so understanding and accepting of our life choices that are probably very difficult to comprehend. And thank you, Nippy. You are solid and giving, and have been an awesome brother over the years.

The list of thank yous to people back in the US goes on and on. Thank you Shiva and Anamika for all that you do. Thank you Mark and Yoo-mi. Thanks to our good neighbor, Bill. Thank you, Viral and Guri. Thank you, Suman. I could literally go on and on. Thank you.

And I haven’t even touched on those here in Ahmedabad I am so deeply thankful to. If possible, I would like to just shout out here at the top of my lungs THANK YOU!!!!! And hope that it reaches out to everyone, and I’m sure that includes you.

Thank you.

telling_the_truth_1When the name of your blog is “To Be True”, then there is no escaping it – “truth” becomes an important element. I learned right from the start that truth, for me, is something that is very challenging to express in a blog. For one, a blog is an open forum, put out indiscriminately for any and all eyes to find. Some of the most essential thoughts and stories to me are ones that might be offensive or inappropriate to some, hurt other’s feelings, or cause later difficulties in my own life. To state the complete truth, as genuine as possible, without hiding or disguising certain critical elements is a really difficult and dangerous thing to do.

Secondly, a personal blog can be a blatant extension of ego. Everything that is written is processed and filtered through one’s own narrow and often self-serving perspective. The filters may vary, but there are almost certainly filters, and the truth when filtered is never really the truth.

I just recently got back from a Vipassana course. During this course, one observes oneself and attempts to be equanimous with the reality of nature as it is. There, I found that my equanimity was off. There was an intense passion brewing inside, and interestingly, it happened to be blog-centric. My ego was raging out of control. In my mind I was writing entry after entry of some pretty damned hot stuff, but it felt like it was something that, overall, made me look good and gave me power. Power is a very dangerous thing – something that eclipses love.

ego_1The most tricky element of all is when I talk about my own story. Like I mentioned before, this is a blatant act of ego. The ego is basically a bundle of desires, and unfulfilled desires are the things that tend to make us miserable. There are two ways to let go of desires: 1) by dropping them, and 2) by fulfilling them.

Most spiritual teachers will speak in favor of option 1. Trying to fulfill desires can easily lead down a seemingly never-ending path of seeking. In my life, I’ve generally favored option 2 and in many cases, I’ve found that it actually leads to letting go.

I’ve never been afraid of suffering. I’ve always generally felt that life is for living fully: take it to its sweetest, take it to its hardest, but live it fully. Gather experience. Feel like you have truly tasted all that life has to offer… and then you KNOW. You absolutely know from experience what is real and what’s false, what works and what doesn’t. There is no doubt. There is no lingering, unfulfilled itches or what-ifs. Perhaps it might take longer this way, but enjoy the ride. Enjoy the dream. In time, we will all wake up. But while the dream is alive, let it be a rich one and savor it.

So here I stand knowing that I have unfulfilled desires. I want to tell my story because I feel it is unusual and interesting and too good to keep inside. But in telling it, I have to tap into all sorts of passions and temptations that throw me off balance and have the tendency to steer me off track, eclipsing my love.

And furthermore, independent of their possible entertainment
value, I really don’t know if these stories offer anything valuable to the world, or might just possibly be forces that work to perpetuate ego, adding their little push toward throwing everyone off course. Is this stuff just plain bad and should I drop it, or should I work it in with care, trying to fulfill it, so ultimately I can let it go?

I don’t know. And that’s the truth. :)

For some reason, whenever I imagined writing my story, it always begins in my room, upstairs in Old Greenwich, CT. It was the summer between 9th grade and 10th and I spent it almost completely in isolation.

yankees2I grew up a pretty cool kid. I loved sports and I truly believed I’d grow up to be a professional baseball player. In elementary school, I also had an incredible magnetism with the little ladies. I remember in 5th grade, literally every girl in my entire class had a major crush on me, and the same was true in 6th grade. I was a pioneer in my school. My friend and I were the first to kiss girls and we innocently pushed the limits forward for everyone else.

In sixth grade, my best friend was Tom Y (brother of soon to be SF 49er Steve Young). At the time I was ‘dating’ Jenn M, the cutest girl in our school. Tom told me about a girl that went to another school named Tara M and said that she was even prettier than Jenn. I didn’t believe him.

When we began jr. high, I soon found out that Tom had been right. Tara was out of this world. She was going out with the legendary Chris S – by far the most popular guy in the entire school. I developed a major crush on Tara which would soon evolve into my first real feeling of love.

Tara had seemed like she was in an altogether different league. What was most amazing is that she and her friends started asking about me and they started telling me that Tara liked me. Tara even broke up with Chris and started flirting heavily with me. It just seemed impossible and I was pretty unprepared to step up to the big leagues.

I don’t mean to boast about my glory days in grade school, but just want to show how quickly they evaporated into something altogether different.

gynecomastia03You see, I started going through puberty. One thing that happens to a small percentage of boys as their bodies start changing is that they develop lumps under their nipples that make their chest look much like a pre-pubescent girl’s. I imagine that this is pretty humiliating to any boy this happens to, but as a very shy, self-conscious guy, the enormity of the embarrassment I felt is just hard to convey.

I can talk about this now because there is so much distance between now and then, but at the time, my shame was total and I kept this secret guarded under the heaviest of security.

This condition is known as gynecomastia – the result of a hormonal imbalance – and I was told by a doctor during a physical exam at age 13 that it would last about 6 months and then would disappear.

At the time, I was on the basketball team and so much wanted to be hip and cool and integrated, but with this shameful condition, any time I had to change my shirt, I would have to do it with precision, and learned to slouch my shoulders at all times to hide the embarrassing lumps. Any time there was a chance that any event may lead to having to remove my shirt, I would do whatever I could to avoid the event.

This condition lasted, basically, forever. The secret haunted me and its weight became heavier and heavier as time went on. My life started to be seriously altered by this. The hope of having a steady girlfriend disappeared as I could not even imagine having to cross this bridge of shame with her.

Even my closest of friends had no idea of the ponderous secret I was forever carrying around.

I had a great family, but one with no communication at all. As far as they were concerned, I never had any interest in girls, I never took a sip of alcohol, I never said swear words (I’m sure they’ll attest the swear words came soon enough). I kept any truth that was even remotely controversial completely locked away from them. Sharing this burden would just never ever happen.

I suppose these teenage years are awkward for most kids. I made the best of them – had some incredible times, but ultimately ended up pretty all alone.

kinksWhich brings me back to that room upstairs at age 15. I had a set of barbells which I bench pressed over and over to the Kinks album, “Give the People What They Want” Side II. For each of the six songs on that side, I would bench press the weights 20 times. And I would play the album repeatedly throughout the day. I guess I was trying to burn off the lumps with muscle.

I’m not sure why I liked that album. I think in it I found a certain melancholy that matched my growing depression, a certain rawness, as well as a developing eccentricity. The final song, “Better Days,” also left things off with real hope that things would one day be better – perhaps I wouldn’t always be without friends in isolation.

That summer I got huge. Since I only bench pressed and did nothing else, I must have had some serious chicken legs, but I became very, very strong. Still, I couldn’t shake the awkward chest.

I would love to end this story soon, but unfortunately, it just wouldn’t end. These lumps went on to drive me further and further into total isolation in high school. When it was time to take swimming class, I had no choice but to refuse. I was a top student, but unfortunately, skipping gym meant that I would not be able to graduate high school and would therefore not be able to go to college or have much of a hopeful future at all.

I became pretty idealistic during this period and even wrote an article for the school paper saying how gym was created by the government as a way to keep the nation fit in case of war (which I strongly opposed), that it had little to do with education, and that it should be an elective and not something that graduation itself depended upon. In protest I said that I would take a stand and refuse to go to gym and encouraged others to join me. If everyone joined me, we could all skip gym on principle and get away with it. But who else would be willing to sacrifice their whole future to defend a questionable rule in the system? No one. But at least my inevitable martyrdom would now be justified by an ideal to defend.

This story continues with “A Making of a Martyr – Part II

The US had been hit hard on 9/11. Like never before in history, the world immediately came together as one. America had its many problems, but all in all, America was a beloved presence throughout the world. It had taken a stand for freedom, for liberty, for human rights, for dreams. A beacon of light, it offered so much hope to so many.

A great deal of its strength, prosperity, and glory were the direct byproducts of incredibly noble efforts (though American history is of course also deeply scarred).

America had an extraordinary opportunity to respond to the situation in a way that would capitalize on the collective good will and redefine its idealism and excellence, but instead was opting for a path of exclusion, power, and self-interest.

nudepeaceYou may or may not agree with this perspective, but many of the world’s citizens did, as peace rallies flared up across the globe like never before. The majority of the people on this planet felt they knew better than the small group of leaders in control, and we were trying everything we could to get them to change course… there was still time.

My friends and I went to the demonstrations in San Francisco. They were largely fun and celebratory, but also sometimes angry. Everyone cried out
for peace and it made me reflect on “peace” and what it really means.

There were times in my life where I – or the egoless self – had experienced a genuine sense of peace. The severity of this situation felt like it couldn’t be ignored or watched from the sidelines. I felt that perhaps the greatest gift that I could possibly give was to “Be the change” – to offer genuine peace to this situation and to America. Real peace was not something I could pull out of my pocket at will. It was something that would have to be delicately discovered.

At the time I was doing website design for the Circle of Life Foundation. Its founder, Julia Butterfly Hill, was putting together an event called We The Planet, that would take place in about 6 weeks. The event would be a great demonstration of a better world to come – a completely eco-friendly festival celebrating the coming together of all. In these dark days where the riot-armed police guarded the San Francisco streets, this event seemed like a beacon of hope in the storm. The symbolism of the event was striking. It was taking place on Earth Day, which also happened to fall on the Spring equinox, symbolic of renewal, and also on Easter Sunday, symbolic of resurrection. And butterflies, naturally, are also symbols of transformation.

civic07Throughout the world, the peace movement was ablaze. The strongest fire was in the US itself. Within the US, the energy was greatest in the Bay Area, and within the Bay Area, the focal point of it all was in the Civic Center Plaza, where most of the peace marches terminated and demonstrations were held. If ever there was a tantric center to this situation, this seemed to be it.

I decided that I would start a meditation circle at the Civic Center Plaza – one genuinely aimed at finding and offering real peace.  It would start on April 1st 2003 and end at the We The Planet Festival on April 20th. I understood that this could potentially catch fire. If it were to grow strong in San Francisco, it would be likely be replicated throughout the world, and a genuine feeling of peace would make its mark during this troubled time.

Since I couldn’t pursue any deep inner peace and work effectively to promote the event, I decided simply to go within and let it unfold as it would.

Friends came together to support the effort. It was something genuine and something that we all felt like we wanted or needed to be a part of. Still, I had walked away from my job at Woodshanti to do this. Everyone else was busy and could only commit what they were able. Though I had extraordinary support, it was a long stretch and the real weight of the effort was almost entirely on me.

Though in my mind, the potential of this effort was extraordinary, as soon as the US attacked Iraq on March 20th, it deflated the collective energy and hope that had been building and building. My efforts and intentions were still as appropriate as ever in a time of madness and destruction, but the public support that could have emerged simply wouldn’t.

Now, I faced a horribly difficult situation. In my soul, I knew that I had only one choice. This path for me was life itself. To engage in this was to engage in everything I believed was important and to step away from it was to fall asleep, to give up on being awake, vital, and alive. I had to keep walking forward. I felt a vitality in my veins as I had only several times before. I knew with certainty that where I was in the universe is exactly where I needed to be. I stood on the very cutting edge of change – one so subtle that very few could see it. Knowing this might have been plenty, but I was way too human and way too delicate.

As a shy person, I had put myself up front and center. Though I was now engaged in an action that was true and needed, it was one that would not catch on, thus all reason made it feel like I was engaged in something off the mark. I felt embarrassed and humiliated on a daily basis, but I sat in this space and continued on, knowing it was alive. During this time, I wrote daily journal entries, which expressed both the hope and difficulties I experienced.

firstcircle1There came times when my self-doubts began to overpower my resolve, but with the encouragement of many extraordinary friends such as Scott, Gavi, and Karmeshwar, and particularly through the support of Loveleen, ShantiDeva, and Bhuvanesh, I made it through.

Probably what this taught me above all else was the power of my fear of social rejection.  Having gone through this experience, I am now so much more aware of my capacity to handle being up front and center.

Though the event may have not made much of an impact on the world, it was something that made a difference to those of us who participated in it – a very special and bright gathering of friends during a very ugly time in history.

This is a story I’ve told a few times, but I’ve never really put it in writing. Hopefully someone somewhere might get something from it. The lessons here have helped me beyond measure.

I had gone out with my girlfriend, Angie, for 2 ½ years, and she was now ready to go solo. Being a pretty passionate guy, my understanding of love was that it was something eternal – something you didn’t just turn on and off like a light switch. To me, the strength with which I tried to hold our love together was no different than the degree of faith I had in love itself – which was infinite. So I held on. For dear life, I held on, making it very difficult for her to follow her chosen way.

Eventually, the walls of my world literally started crumbling in from all directions. Not only was I losing her, but I was being kicked out of college, brought into court, turned against by most everyone – people who had never met me and others who should have known better. It was as if the whole world had turned against me. For years, I had been working to understand myself in deeper and deeper ways and had finally reached a point of pure innocence where I was at my most vulnerable. I was literally like a child and the world around me was filled with venom. In this process I had become wounded. I could trust no one. Every moment was sheer agony.

At a certain point, it came down to survival. I was either going to get through this or I wasn’t.

When I was just about at my lowest, I spoke with my mother on the phone. She told me that when she did things to help others, it made her feel better. That sounded like the worst advice I could imagine hearing. I was barely able to breathe my life was so miserable and she was suggesting I help others? How could there possibly be worse timing?

In an attempt to understand my situation, I started doing a series of drawings with my left hand (I’m right handed), which looked very much like a child’s drawings. I drew Angie and all the love that radiated from her to me. As the series continued, eventually, I saw that the source of this light was behind her and that I was actually dying from the lack of light getting to me because of her position. I saw that the real problem was that I didn’t love myself and depended on her as my source of love.

Before meeting Angie, I had known love in the deepest of ways, but through Angie I had first truly learned what it meant to be loved back. This kind of love was nourishing and good. It was life itself and my fear in her leaving was that my source of love itself was going away.

As I understood that what I really wanted was love and not so much Angie, it gave me the perspective to try something different.

On the walls of my apartment, I created a large sign that said, “I Love Myself!” I didn’t mean it, but I wrote it anyway. I repeated the phrase “I Love Myself, I Love Myself, I Love Myself, …” over and over again. Hundreds of times. Thousands of times. Tens of thousands of times. Still, I didn’t really mean it, but I wanted to mean it, and so I kept saying it. It took a while, but eventually I started to believe it.

blueskies_2Taking my mother’s suggestion to heart, I formed something I called “The Love Club.” I told no one about it and invited no one to join. It was a group with one member only, and my purpose was to go out into the world and do one act of love completely anonymously each day. So I started. One day, I would take a plastic bag, walk down the street and fill it with trash. The next day, I might write a letter to my grandfather, or leave a little money for someone to find. Every day, I would pick something.

As I continued to repeat “I Love Myself” and perform daily acts of anonymous kindness, something within began to radically shift. I was quickly transformed from a depressed, wounded soul, to a radiant, energetic being at the top of his game. The world around me turned golden, and my karma just seemed to shoot through the roof.

Anyway, as with all stories, they continue on and on as life is an endless thread. This recipe is still there and it still works. Anytime I start feeling bad, I just remind myself that I indeed love myself. And now I really mean it. After all, at the core we are all as sacred as anything that ever was. As soon as you learn to understand that this sacredness indeed is who you are, you have no choice but to love yourself. You are the purity of the Heavens. You are the Light itself. You are the Infinite.

And do those anonymous acts of kindness! Perhaps there is no better, quicker way to grow in spirit.

Wishing you blue skies…

It was on September 26, 1993 (she doesn’t remember the date, but I do – and yes, that means I’m older than you thought). I rode my motorcycle to the Berkeley Marina for the fun of exploring a new area. I believe it was the first time I had ever been there.

I parked my bike and walked with helmet in hand and ripped clothing. I passed a girl sitting down with her head in her arms, and kept going. I walked to the very end of the pier, turned around, and started walking back. Again, I saw the same girl.

This time, she was standing up against the railing and an old man was talking to her. She looked really uncomfortable like he was kind of creepy or something and I wondered if I should do anything to help out. I figured I’d probably just be adding to her problems, so should probably just keep going. But what if she was actually being bothered? I looked at her and she gave me a friendly look, telling me in a glance that the guy indeed was unwanted. Without thought, I simply went and stood next to her, making it seem as if I had been away and had just come back. The old man picked this up and soon walked away.

She thanked me and not wanting to have my motivations be misunderstood, I quickly walked on.

Soon I realized that this too might be a little foolish, so I slowed down a little, and a little more. Her two friends who I had seen at the end of the pier had now caught up to her and they all caught up to me. She again thanked me and introduced me to her friends. We started talking and eventually the subject of my motorcycle came up. I asked her if she wanted to see it. It was a pretty new bike for me, so I was proud showing it off.

We got to the bike (Goldy – a 1976 Honda CB360T, painted yellow – long story here as well) and I asked her if she wanted to honk the horn. She declined. We talked a little longer and I asked her if I could get her number.

johnslove_1We didn’t have any pens, so we scratched each other’s numbers on some torn paper with a key. She went to write her name: L.o.v.e… I wondered what the heck she was writing, then she finished it off with l.e.e.n. What a cool name, I thought. We said goodbye and I told her I would call her.

After leaving the pier, I went to the Berkeley flea market and walked around. I was so happy that I had met her and just wanted to look at the piece of paper as a dream ‘reality check.’ I searched my pockets and couldn’t find it anywhere. My jeans had tears all over and I had actually lost it.

In my life, I had already experienced tremendous loss on several occasions – the kind of loss one might feel upon losing a child, or a parent, or someone adored completely. After having met Loveleen for such a short period, I already felt that the loss of her number fit into this category. But there was nothing I could do about it. I had to accept it as yet another great life tragedy.

She had my number also, but she was a nice Indian girl and I figured there was no chance she would ever call me. I remember going to work the next day and telling my carpenter friends about my great loss.

A couple weeks later, I checked the phone messages and there was a message from Loveleen. I picked up the phone and dialed her back in a nanosecond. Apparently, a good friend of hers liked this guy and Loveleen had mentioned me and they dared one another to call. I was so happy and still am.

If it were not for that ‘chance’ encounter, our lives would be so totally different. To me it never felt like chance at all. Even to this day, I feel that the old man on the pier wasn’t just a creepy old man like he appeared, but was actually an angel, playing a role in beautiful disguise.

"When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be."   -Lao Tzu

I have been given an amazing life to live – so many deep and extraordinary twists and turns.  In many ways, I feel that "I" no longer exists and felt its dissolution many years back.  Ever since I was 17 or so, I stopped capitalizing the word "I", as it was too loaded with severe, habituated limitations.  It’s probably the same reason I stopped calling my parents "mom" and "dad" – these powerful words kept me locked in emotional ignorance that would never allow me to see them as who they really are.  In a similar way, only rarely will I use the full name of John Silliphant, and instead generally use only a "j" or a "js."  And very seldom take credit for things.  Using the full name here is a rare exception.

The reason is that I don’t believe in John Silliphant.  Like the I of the past, it is just too loaded with mediocre assumptions – of a known personality and its structure – a type of a prison built of limited identity.  I am a brilliant rising sun, a dark cry of anguish, a subtle bliss within the universe.  Somehow it’s very difficult to capture that in a Western name.

One thing I have now felt for a long time is that I would like to share my story before I let it go.  I’m sure this interest comes largely from an ego desire to be credited with something I feel is special.  But  much more than that, there is a genuine sense of tragedy in failing to share my life story.  In a final act of ego, at some point I may indulge this.   Possibly then I will be more ready to let go of the limited container.  This may take place here, or may not.  I don’t know.