Paths (Part 38: A New Direction)

All of our vehicles had been placed in my name at the time of purchase because I was in charge of all of the bills and finances for our community and my credit was spotless. As things slowly came to an end for our community over the coming year or so, and as everyone went their separate ways, these loans would end up being the cause of several defaults on the part of the others in the group, the repossession of a couple cars, and the complete destruction of my credit for many years until I could slowly rebuild it again. But before that happened, while our community was still together I found myself in Novato when the car I was driving gave up. I took it to a nearby dealership and discovered it would need thousands of dollars in repairs which weren’t worth doing and was convinced to buy a new one.

However, when MD learned that I had bought the minivan he told me to return it immediately. As I look back on this now, I wonder if he was protecting me from further damage to my credit, because I had already quite a few vehicles in my name which would prove to be albatrosses around my neck as I worked to start a life on my own. I returned the car and found myself stranded in San Rafael with no work, no money, and no vehicle. I slept on a grassy hillside just above town at night and looked for work during the day. For years I had walked neighborhoods, knocking on doors to market our landscaping work, as this was how we drummed up the majority of our business, so this is what I did. I was walking door to door in a neighborhood in Mill Valley and landed a job for a nice elderly couple. They hired me to clean and re-stain their deck. This was easy work and paid well and didn’t require heavy tools or a truck which I didn’t presently have at my disposal. Nevertheless, I also didn’t have any money to buy the cleaner or the stain or any of the tools I would need to do the work, I also had no way to get them, or bring them back to site.

I told the couple I could do the work that afternoon but would need to go get supplies and I asked if they could give me a small down payment to help with materials. I walked to the bank, cashed the check and then walked back into San Rafael where I had seen several small used car lots. As I walked back into town I came up with a good strategy.

I went into one of the dealerships and expressed interest in one of the cars on the lot and asked to test drive it. We went through the necessary motions, they gave me the key and I drove off the lot. I knew of a Home Depot not far away and made my way quickly there, purchased the materials and tools I would need to do the deck project, and then dropped them off at the jobsite. By the time I drove back onto the lot it had been a long test drive but the dealer was forgiving. I told him I wasn’t ready to buy the car but I would think about it, and then ran back to do my job in Mill Valley. That night after I had completed the work, I had $600 in my pocket, and I finally broke the fast that life had imposed on me the past day or two at a nice little Italian restaurant in town.

San Rafael was also the place where I met the young lady who I would marry the following year. Again, walking door to door looking for work, I knocked, she answered the door and we had a nice conversation. As I left, and as she closed the door behind me, I remember thinking that this was a very seminal moment in my life and I had a decision to make. I could keep walking down the path and then down the sidewalk, and continue with my life as I had been living it, or I could turn around and go back to her door, knock again, and I knew things would never be the same after that. After a moment contemplating this, I returned to her door, knocked again, and this began the process that would eventually lead me to leave the community and begin my new life with her.

I enjoyed this semblance of normalcy in my life again. Spending time with my future wife, V, was easy, relaxing and comforting. I also enjoyed the freedom to direct my life as I wished again, to have control over the decisions that impacted my life. Although I had to admit that directing my own life hadn’t always worked out that well for me in the past, and in many ways going my own way was seriously problematic, and this concept of ‘doing what I want’ was overrated. External freedoms had led me into bondage to inner enslavement.

What had appeared as freedom to choose, the right to live as I see fit, was merely a nice way of saying I was free to enter the spiritual prison of my choice. I had followed my physical lust where it would take me and ended up being responsible, in part, for the abortion of several lives. I had followed my pride, and my sense of superiority, and wound up breaking the law in a sort of vigilante justice which I rationalized away in my own mind. I had followed my anger and hurt others by the things I said or did, or the things I left undone and unsaid. I had traveled any or all of these various paths and wound up nowhere better than I had been before I left.

That was my life before living in the community, before I had willingly humbled myself and allowed myself to be taught and directed by another, by someone who I believed could take me further than I could take myself. In the end, I think that this is why anyone chooses to follow a spiritual guide, teacher, master, or father; because of a belief in what they are or in what they know, and a faith that through obedience to them one can achieve heights that they never could on their own without this other person’s direction.

In a sense, this is no different than an athlete following the direction of a coach or a trainer. They follow in order to get better at their sport. The relationship between the athlete and her coach, or the disciple and his master is one of mutual respect and trust. If it is a healthy relationship, it is a partnership, and there is no aspect of dominance or power over the other. To the outside observer my relationship with my spiritual master in this community could appear abusive, but that was never the goal, or the intent of the course, or of our relationship. There was a mutual understanding between us and common goals were always before us.  While I failed to reach many of these goals in my four years with MD, at least to the degree that was intended, I did attain many of them to some degree.

(to be continued)

~FS

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