Paths of Desire (part 19)

I’d now like to share the period in my life that is the most seminal, and life-changing; but also the most unusual, and in some respects difficult to understand. I say that it was seminal and life-changing because, through this period, I was brought fully and clearly back into the Christian faith, from out of the spiritual confusion that I had traveled for many years; the pleasant, but vacuous new-age spiritual buffet I had indulged myself was replaced, and I was given instead the simple bread of life—a less flashy and less trendy meal, but a much more fulfilling one.

However, the path taken to reach this goal was not common, and I expect some readers will find some parts of my story misguided, and baffling, or maybe even delusional at times. But, hopefully, at the very least, you will agree that the ends justify the means. I certainly feel this way. Becoming firmly and forever Christian because of this journey; any difficulty, trouble or suffering I endured along the way is a small price to pay.

It may help you, as you read these next chapters, to not take things too seriously, and even if things do take serious turns, to take these with a grain of salt; since this is exactly how I approached it while living it. It helped me to trust God every step of the way, to hold to faith and hope, and to refrain from quick judgements. By keeping open to each step, and each experience I allowed myself to glean the truth in the midst of the challenge and to find the pearls of wisdom and transformation where they could be found. By staying with the process and not running away from it—though it would push every button I had, would require laying down my pride and many other things to which I was attached—I was able to confront my fears and overcome them, and choose love in place of fear, faith in place of doubt, and light in the face of darkness.

After graduating from university in June 1993, I sold or gave everything I owned away and joined a spiritual community. My possessions were not very great, so it wasn’t as difficult as it might have been for someone with more wealth. Still, it was very liberating as I gave away my prized leather jacket and racing bicycle as well as an extensive personal library, and an admirable record collection. Perhaps the most difficult to part with however, were all of my journals, and every photograph or sentimental attachment. With the exception of some clothing, my sleeping bag and a toothbrush, I shed every other possession. My trusty Toyota pickup I gave for the collective use of our community.

I remember hearing a story as a child, of a family friend who had given all his possessions away. I admired and was inspired by him, so when this opportunity presented itself I was excited to follow in his footsteps. Pulling ‘my’ truck up to the landfill, and tossing all of my trophies and ribbons from soccer and track out the back was a strange thrill; and when I swept the last remnants of my childhood possessions off the tailgate, I felt renewed.

Our community was never large, though a large number of people came and went for brief stays with us over the years, but when we first began it was extremely small. There were myself, another young man, R., a young lady, K. and our spiritual master, MD.

I had met MD four years prior to becoming his disciple and joining his fledgling community. We met at my mother’s new home. She had recently remarried and they hired MD to design and install the new landscaping for their home. We immediately became friends, and occasionally, over subsequent years I worked for him part-time doing landscaping. He was about twelve years older than me and had a quick wit and intelligence unlike anyone I had met before. He also shared my love for travel and adventure; and he had a wealth of experiences that intrigued me. During the first couple years of our friendship he often discussed a plan to form a company that would create Sacred Gardens for clients around the world; these would be healing gardens that would tap into the natural power centers of the earth using crystals arranged in rings, pyramids that enhance plant growth and promote healing and other structures of this nature. I didn’t know anything about this sort of thing but it was fascinating, and the idea of traveling around the world together building such interesting projects excited me tremendously. Of the projects I had already see him design and build it didn’t seem that far-fetched that he could make this happen; he had a great eye for design, and he was good at business and marketing.

As the years went by he began to teach a form of kinesiology to me. It was intended to enable a person to achieve freedom within themselves by clearing away mental or emotional issues that were causing the individual problems. The idea was that it could help a person make spiritual advances and achieve greater spiritual health and wholeness. From my experience it seemed to do just that, and it was fun. I had a great time working on this with him and feeling like I was making progress.

In addition to his other abilities and gifts, MD was a lot of fun to be around. He was hilarious, and there was never a dull moment around him. So whatever we were doing it was almost always guaranteed to be interesting, and funny as well. In the early 1990s I lost track of him for about a year but then one day I ran into him at a café in Sebastopol, CA. He was different, something seemed more detached and aloof about him and he was more intense in some way. I had touched his shoulder to say hello and he turned quickly and warned me not to touch him because he was in the midst of a spiritual transformation. His sharp clear blue eyes seemed to penetrate through me and I took a step back. We spoke again later and he gave me a book to read, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda.

Hinduism was the context of my early explorations into the spiritual life with MD. He had studied with Master Subramuniya in Hawaii and was knowledgeable about yogic philosophies and practices. The book he gave me was a primer into this world of yogis, to help me understand devotion, higher spiritual practices, and the master-disciple relationship, among other things. I never would have imagined at the time that some four years later, after beginning on this path so solidly enmeshed in a Hindu context that I would emerge solidly Christian.

Enantiodromia is a Greek word that literally means: opposite running course, and is used to describe a phenomena of going in one direction and ending up with its opposite; that when we pursue a course of action, or a mental or emotional goal with devotion and extreme focus there is a tendency to end up with its opposite. While Hinduism and Christianity are not opposites, they are very far apart, and as I look back on this period in my life, either consciously, as MD intended, or unconsciously, by a God-guided plan, he met me where I was in my life, walked alongside me, and slowly but inexorably guided me one hundred and eighty degrees about face, into a completely different direction, an opposite path to the one I believed that I was on.

(to be continued)

~FS

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