Prior to leaving my old life and giving all of my possessions away I had already begun to follow MD as a disciple. Earlier in the year, as my graduation was approaching I was in a crisis; not knowing what to do next with my life and not liking any of my options. I woke from a dream one morning with a Latin sentence in my mind about being renewed and reborn. My Latin was not very good, even though I had taken four years of it in high school, and I’m guessing I completely botched the translation, but I interpreted it to be a message of encouragement to myself and others, that we can be reborn and made anew in a spiritual way. I no longer remember the beginning of the sentence, but the end I remember was ‘…sacra creationem geniti sunt’ or roughly, ‘…you are born of a sacred creation’. I felt inspired to hike to the top of Mt St Helena, not far from my home, carve this sentence into a rock somewhere near the top of the mountain, and spend time reflecting and deciding my next move in life.
I packed my sleeping bag, some food, and a large mallet and chisel into my backpack and drove to the trailhead. It is about a seven mile hike to the top and provides beautiful views into the Napa Valley, overlooking Calistoga and St Helena in the distance. It was a windy late afternoon when I made the summit and quickly found a good rock face for my carving. I began to carve as the sun was setting at my back; I cast a deep shadow onto the stone where I was working, while a warm reddish-golden glow illuminated the rock around my shadow. It was slow going, since I had brought an old wood chisel, not one made for stone; but it was heavy-duty, and solid, and up to the task, even if it wasn’t the right tool for the job.
I finished my carving late in the night, fairly close to midnight, and the wind had really picked up. It was a full moon, or nearly full, and the night was clear. I was joined at the top of the mountain by thousands, or perhaps millions of points of light in the night sky. The silver moonlight and the rising wind thrilled me as I stared out across the night sky. There is an observation tower at the top or the mountain, which I climbed, and from the platform high above everything, one imagines they are on top of the world. I slept here for the night, with the wind howling about me and the moon looking down upon me with a cool magnanimity.
I returned home with a sense of hope. Several days later MD appeared at my door and told me he had been sent by my “brothers from the inner planes” to help me. I didn’t know I had brothers on the inner planes, but I could believe it, and it sounded possible, plus I was happy to believe that these brothers, and MD, were looking out for me, and were responding to my need, and my hope which had been engendered on the mountain several days earlier.
Very early one morning, MD arrived at my home, perhaps a little before 4 am, and knocked on the front door, waking us from a sound sleep. We let him in and he made his way into our bedroom, he then asked my girlfriend and me to join him sitting on the bed. We sat there together in the dark and he explained to us that it was time for him to become our guru. If we accepted, we would become his disciples. I accepted, but my girlfriend did not. From this point our relationships changed; mine and MD‘s as well as my girlfriend’s and mine. He and I became teacher and student while she and I began to drift apart. It became clear that she was on a more conventional path and had goals that included a master’s degree, a career, children and all of those wonderful things, while I had chosen a different trajectory.
One afternoon he and I visited a local café and ordered a cinnamon roll and took our seats at an empty table near a window. A few moments later it was served to us on a plate with two forks. This was the setting for one of the earliest formal lessons that I remember as a disciple of MD. It was very basic and rudimentary but it has remained with me to this day. Essentially it was a game about giving and receiving, and the object was to pay attention to my inner emotional and mental state over the course of the game, and to draw conclusions about the nature of giving and receiving from these observations. These goals and objectives were not directly stated at the time, but were clearly intended, and I was to infer them and learn accordingly, internalizing them and making the conclusions my own.
MD pushed the plate with the cinnamon roll towards me and said something like, “Here, this is for you.” I took a bite. He then told me to offer it back to him. I actually wanted the whole cinnamon roll so I felt a little disappointed offering it back to him, but I did. He smiled and laughed and took a bite and said, “Thank you.” And then he pushed it back across the table to me and again said, “Here, for you.” I was much happier to receive it this time and I took another bite. “Now offer it back to me again,” he said. So I did and I felt happier this time as I offered it to him. We passed it back and forth several more times, saying, “this is for you” or something very close to that, each time with a smile. It became fun to receive the cinnamon roll and to give it again. “Do you see how giving and receiving are the same thing?” MD asked me as we ate. “There isn’t a difference between the two.” I understood what he was telling me, both giving and receiving were joyous actions made by two parties, and they both were the same; it made no difference whether one is the giver or the receiver in terms of the joy, fulfillment, or other good qualities one enjoys and participates in during the course of acting out generosity. This act of enjoying the gift of the good tasting cinnamon roll, and then of giving it away and letting another enjoy it, and then suddenly getting to taste it again, and then just as suddenly give it up again for the other person, made clear the joy of self-sacrifice, and the humble simplicity of receiving a gift very clear and understandable.
This was the nature of time spent with MD, he could take the commonplace and make it fun, and turn it into a life lesson of lasting value. Over the course of many months I visited him where he was living in a tent near the coast and my task was to bring him oranges when I came to visit. The goal of this task was to prepare the oranges and bring them to him with the purest intentions I could manage; without negative thoughts, or negative feelings, without any unloving inner motivation that would taint the gift of the oranges. The gift was the energy I put into the oranges rather than the oranges themselves. This was the essential basis for many, if not all of the subsequent lessons over the course of my next four years with MD; what was I doing internally, hidden from view, and was this loving or unloving. The fundamental question revolved around whether I was thinking and feeling with love; and on an even deeper level, was I moving on a spiritual level with love and in love, serving others with pure energy and intention, or was I being unloving.
The big question at this point would be, could MD really see into the depths of my being; the places hidden from view, which nobody else could see, and which in many cases I couldn’t see at first myself. My experience told me that I could trust this; though I couldn’t explain how he could do it, I became certain that he could do it, and that it would be to my benefit to listen and learn from him, and allow him to help me operate on myself and transform the parts of me that were truly unloving, turning them into something much closer to genuine love, and if I was able into love itself.
One time we were in my truck and MD was driving while I sat in the passenger seat. As we approached an intersection in town he let me know we were about to enter a simple scenario as a test for me. A scenario was a situation created to give an opportunity to grow and change. Scenarios were common tools MD used to teach his disciples; by creating a situation that would bring up some inner conflict or negative tendency, in which to be transformed by making a better choice in the heat of the moment; it was an opportunity for the person whose scenario it was, to begin a new response, start a new positive habit and to overcome old patterns that were destructive, or hurtful to themselves and others, or just an opportunity to overcome fear, or some other limitation.
This scenario was one of the first he created for me, and it took place in the main intersection of the small town I was living in at the time. When it was our turn to move through the intersection he drove to the middle of the crossing and stopped the truck. We sat there in the truck for a time while other cars began honking at us to move, and drivers angrily yelled at us. It helped that I was in the passenger seat and not driving, but at first it was still uncomfortable to be yelled at, and to be sitting stopped in the middle of the busy intersection. But I quickly understood that this situation was about maintaining my composure and my peace in the midst of anger being directed at me; it was set up for me, who never wants to make anyone upset, partly out of fear, to confront this fear and be unmoved in the face of other’s displeasure. MD told a joke which lightened my mood and I sat relatively untouched by the mood of the other drivers in the intersection. After a time he started the truck again and we continued on our way. He complimented my inner composure and said I did pretty well with that difficult situation. As we drove away I did feel lighter, as if a burden of some kind had been lifted and also I felt a little stronger and more able to face the inevitability of others displeasure towards me, justified or unjustified, and more able to maintain clarity in the midst of a difficult situation, which could allow me to ultimately act with kindness and compassion towards others who are angry at me rather than act in reaction to them.
(to be continued)