Prefer to listen? Click here:
Actually, I seemed to be the only one on edge. The other people in the room were milling around, chatting, laughing, greeting each other with warmth and easy smiles.
I was really scoping everyone out. I desperately needed to know this wasn’t a group of freaks or cultic zombies. Patty herself had passed muster. I’d spent time getting to know her lately, as we talked intently about what I was reading. I’d never been around anyone like that. What I’d labeled so certainly as a façade really wasn’t. She was simply a damned fine human being. Once I let myself see her with unprejudiced eyes, I found that she somehow tapped into a joy in her everyday life that I knew I wanted but had never tasted before.
As Patty greeted friends before we went into the lecture, I began to observe that there weren’t any space cadets here, no stoners. People looked… normal. Acted normal. And yet the range of people was kind of astounding. There was a black woman in dreadlocks, a number of old people who looked like I might have met them back home in the Baptist churches of my youth. There were organic types, young men and women full of life and energy. Some were dressed flamboyantly, others in jeans and t-shirts. There were all shapes, all colors, men and women, gay, straight. A few on crutches. A blind man. I couldn’t begin to make any assumptions about this group.
Except, as Patty introduced me to different ones, friends of hers, they looked me in the eye with such love, like they were genuinely excited for me, but in a way that wasn’t some creepy now-you’re-one-of-us thing. It was more the way they laughed as if we now shared some delightful secret, as if we shared some view of life as a Grand Adventure. Yes, that’s what I wanted all along, that’s what I felt like I’d stumbled into. Like being alive was a wondrous gift, the promise of infinite possibility.
Like a screw-up such as myself might actually be able to find redemption.
The podium was set up with an easel and flip chart, looking like any corporate conference, except for a simple floral arrangement on a table nearby. Other than the fact that we were asked to close our eyes and chant a simple syllable as we readied ourselves for the teacher’s entrance, there were no bells or gongs or incense or anything. I was kind of hoping this guy would levitate, or descend in clouds of glory or something.
And, yeah, I peeked while we were chanting. And saw what you could only call a pretty normal guy walking up the aisle like a regular human being, dressed in casual slacks and sweater that looked like he might shop at J.C. Penney’s. No Armani, here, no overfed, overblown pretense. Just a clean-cut all-American guy who mounted the two steps to the stage and stood smiling, looking for all the world like the Buddha himself, radiant and joyful. Again, I was peeking.
I was half waiting, too, for lightning to strike me for that little defiance.
He started to talk, simply, and with gentle, sometimes corny, humor. Hearing him discuss the themes I’d been reading about was somehow thrilling, and yet, too, as if he was pulling profundity down to a level where even someone like me could climb aboard.
He made it clear that “it” was not about him at all, but about the Truth. The Truth that’s always existed. The Truth that everyone is searching for, except few are really ready enough, hungry enough, to make this final leg of the journey to consciousness, a journey that we’ve all been on for uncountable lifetimes, whether we’re ready to realize it or not. Most people just live their ordinary lives that’s all they want, and that’s just fine. No evangelizing, no proselytizing. I felt a huge wave of relief, remembering the evangelical disasters of my childhood.
But, he went on, for those who are ready for more, the Call is imperative. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. I always wanted that to be true. And now, for this student anyway, it was.
Oh, yeah. This was it. For me, at least. I knew it. Completely, even if I still had so little idea what it was all about.
At the end of the lecture I felt so full, I thought I couldn’t get any more buzzed. I expected everyone would head for the door, but Patty touched my arm and whispered to me. The teacher was going to give darshan. I didn’t know what that was. To me, at first glance, it was a lot like when the congregation would file out of the church, greeting the preacher as they left after the sermon, on their way home to the pot roast in the oven.
It was so much more than that. Darshan is a Sanskrit word, and roughly refers to being in the presence, or receiving the gaze, of a holy person or a saint. Needless to say, I didn’t have a real conceptual framework for anything like that. I did note how everyone in line stood silently and respectfully, as if each person was in his own meditative state. No one pushed or elbowed their way in.
The line progressed in fits and starts. Sometimes the teacher would simply take someone’s hand and smile as they filed by. Other times, he would step forward and embrace someone, or whisper something privately. The closer I got, the more nervous I was. How would he greet me; me, this loser coming out of nowhere? Would he see that I didn’t deserve to be here? That I didn’t know what I was doing?
I tried to still my thoughts. All I could think was that I wanted, more than anything in the world at that moment, to feel the love that was almost physically emanating from him. I inched my way forward, and then there I was. He took my hands in his. His grip was strong, like someone who’d done manual labor; these weren’t soft office hands. His eyes, up close, twinkled and sparkled as if lit from within, and radiated such understanding and compassion I felt tears sting my own eyes. I would have kept moving along, not remotely considering that I might be worthy of special attention, but he held me there in front of him, his weathered face in an expression of love, almost a loving amusement. Even, I thought, a hint of surprise as he studied my face so briefly. “Welcome,” he said with a grin. “Welcome to your perfect path. You’re going to go places you could never dream of. It’s all within you. My love is always within you.”
Somehow, I nodded with a rapturous grin and moved on out, floating on some cloud of astonished bliss. What was that? What had I just experienced, that made my little glimpse of cosmic consciousness, from only weeks ago, look like a trip to the Piggly Wiggly? I didn’t know. But one thing I did know. It was real, and baby, you could count me in.
I felt myself begin to heal. Not overnight; one thing that rang true to me in all this was that the road to whatever… wholeness, consciousness… was vast and ever-deepening. If I wanted the quick fix, I could have bought that with a donation to the TV evangelists.
I began to see that I actually had earned my way into this, through all that I’d experienced, began to see myself not as a loser, but as someone who was just burning through a hell of a lot of karma in this lifetime. I began to see that there was a way out, even if my feeble brain couldn’t quite stretch to accommodate all the astounding insights that started bombarding me.
I began to see that when you view from a broader or deeper or higher perspective, things that seemed overwhelming from ground level just evaporate, or else solutions just come to you, almost laughably clear.
Even at that, I had no clue, in the beginning, just how big Truth really is, or the worlds it’s holding on store, patiently waiting for us to catch on, and catch up. When you think about it, it’s kind of a law of physics, isn’t it? When you find yourself running really fast, find life speeding up like crazy, it either means you’re going to get where you’re headed really quick, or else it means the Grand Adventure you’ve so blindly but emphatically signed on to is way bigger than you bargained for.
Six months later I met Bob.