Someone asked me last night when my spiritual quest began. In some sense, it started when I was born, just as it does with each of us. As early as I can remember, I tried to wrap my mind around infinity, eternity, life, death and where it all began. It would scare me and I remember bringing a small transistor radio to bed with me and listen to Ray Talliaferro on KGO to distract my mind from the horrible awe-filledness of contemplating the universe’s immensity and the puzzles of time.
Along with my natural tendency to contemplate, there have been seminal moments that accelerated my spiritual, physical and emotional journey.
When I was 14, my grandfather died, my parents divorced, my mom kidnapped my brother and me to hide us from our dad and, while hiding in a hotel room in Monterey, California, I slipped into unconsciousness. My mom thought I was just sleeping and decided to take my brother to the pool. There, she sat in a lounge chair and struck up a conversation with the woman next to her. The woman happened to be a nurse and my mom told her of some of the symptoms I had been having. The woman asked if she could look at me. My mom took her upstairs to our room and as soon as the woman saw me, she said, “Get this boy to a hospital, now!”
Less than an hour later, at the Monterey Community Hospital, Dr. Barry Gendelman was on his way out of the emergency room to tell my mom that they had tried everything, but her son was gone.
A nurse came running after him, “Doctor, doctor!” she yelled. “We got him. We got him back!”
I lived. I had been considered dead but they revived me with an intravenous solution of insulin, reviving my heart and brain enough to bring me back to this precious life. Three remarkable coincidences:
- The nurse that just happened to be at the pool. I didn’t know about her until years later when my mom recounted the story. I will never know her name. I will be grateful until my last breath that she was there.
- On the way to the hospital, driven by a man from the hotel staff, a policeman pulled him over for speeding. Seeing me in the back seat, writhing in pain, drifting in and out of consciousness, he said, “Follow me!”, hopped back on his motorcycle and gave us a high-speed escort to the doors of the emergency room.
- Barry Gendelman was on a visiting tour of the hospital. He was one of the leading endocrinologists in California and just happened to be there when I arrived. He diagnosed me immediately and, if not for him, valuable seconds would have been wasted. I remember him touching the middle of my rib cage and asking “Does this hurt?”. I screamed in pain and passed out.
When I awoke, I saw my mom at my bedside. “Thank god you made it!” she said. “I’ve been praying all night.”
“It wasn’t god who saved me,” I said. “I chose to come back.” I was never clearer about anything in my life, even if subsequent experiences may have lessened the egoic nature of that statement. After that awakening, I began to read anything I could to deepen my understanding of what happened and also come to terms with my disease: Carlos Casteneda, many science-fiction books, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Later, I became enthralled with the “new atheist” movement with the likes of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. They taught me that my intellect and scientific curiosity was a virtue. Harris went further to write “Waking Up”, where I came to understand that I don’t have to sacrifice my reasoning to pursue spirituality—or vica versa. I also read Ram Das, J. Krishnamurti, Rumi, Thoreau and so on.
Several activities and turning points have lit my path.
- Smoking marijuana in my teens.
- Taking psychedelic drugs in my 20’s.
- Completing the est training in the 1970’s and having an experience that all was as it is and could never be any other way, among many other enlightening moments over those two weekends.
- Completing “Actualizations” and working on staff with Stewart Emery, Carol Augustus, Carole Kammen, Barbara Hastings and many other human potential leaders.
- Going through a drunken, gambling, partying phase of “screw it”, as I saw that my career, relationships and the world were all just empty promises. And look at how fricking stupid people are! I have been ashamed of this time, and how constantly angry I was, but I also see this period as necessary for my development.
- One day, Randy McNamara wandered into our family art gallery, Chloe Gallery, looking for a painting or photograph for his home. Randy had been one of my est trainers about 30 years prior. I wasn’t there when he came in to shop but I ended up delivering a piece of art to his home. I didn’t recognize him at first although he seemed familiar. But when I saw the Landmark Forum brochures on his desk, I recalled immediately that he had been seminal in altering my life. And that indeed happened again, as he invited me to an evening introduction and I enrolled to “review” the Landmark Forum. I ended up taking their entire “Curriculum for Living”.
- Because of the above (directly from #6), I met Rachelle. During Landmark’s Advanced Course, the course leader, David Cunningham, had said, “Some of you believe you aren’t even worthy of being in a romantic relationship!” And then he broke out in that infectious laughter of his as my stomach dropped and I realized that he was talking about me, and that I indeed believed exactly that. I worked on and changed that thought. Or, more accurately, I let it be while also exploring new possibilities of being. Two weeks later, Rachelle’s friend Carol walked into the gallery (yes, the gallery has magic!) and ended up asking me if I wouldn’t mind if she introduced a friend to me. And shortly afterward, the love of my life walked into the gallery. I would call it recognition more than love at first sight, although it certainly felt like falling madly, deeply into blissful love.
- Rachelle is a Functional Nurse Practitioner and Guru Amma devotee, among a daily-widening-and-deepening list of other talents and loves. She helped me clean up my eating, exercising and just daily habits. She also showed me that loving a woman is more than “falling in love” and hoping it works out. It is a privilege, a creative act, a choice, an exercise in communication and a holy blessing and teaching. She and I learn more about love and relationship every day. Mostly, I have learned not to wait for love but to create it. And she introduced me to Amma.
- Amma’s embrace has brought a divine love and quickening energy into my heart. I have been able to intellectualize before how lucky I am, how privileged and how blessed. But, since Amma, I have a growing feeling just how precious life is. Not just my life but life at all. It was Amma that opened this in me. She held me and I felt the divine love of being alive.
- One night, after eating too many carbs and then over-bolusing on insulin, I went into insulin shock. My blood sugar dropped to 24 soon after falling asleep next to Rachelle. Fortunately, I was wearing a Continuous Glucose Monitor and the alarm went off, waking her up. She spoon fed me honey and saved me. Had I not been wearing the monitor, and had she not been there, I would have died. In the moments before returning to full awareness, I had no thoughts, no language. Only a kind of pure awareness. I wouldn’t recommend this method for everyone but I experienced a peace as never before or since. It was a feeling that, no matter what, everything was ok. The first word that came to mind as the sugar in my blood again allowed thinking was, “Rachelle”. I remember seeing the full moon that night, outside our home in Cloverdale, shining through the trees, the most beautiful moon I’d ever seen. The next morning, my Uncle Dennis called. My mom had passed away that same night. I couldn’t help but feel she had wanted me to go with her. But, once again, I had chosen to come back.
- FOLO Farms. I don’t know what it is yet, so new this experience is. Maybe it’s the soil, so rich in nutrients and microbes? Maybe it’s the people, so dedicated to “feeding our loved ones”? Maybe it’s just that Will, Lemuel, Justine, the moms, and the aunties and uncles have embraced me with such unconditional love. Maybe it’s that the salads I’ve been making with their vegetables are so damn good! But there is definite magic to the place. Their philosophy is based on food, environment, community and spirituality. Will Chua describes that spirituality as being “bigger than yourself and longer than your life.”
- I will be traveling to the Pachamama Alliance 2018 Global Gathering in two weeks in Petaluma, California. The Pachamama Alliance has given me the gift of being bigger than myself and longer than my life. I still fully embrace my “inner skeptic”, and I often listen to his diatribes about how hopeless the world is and why not just accept that reality is “just the way it is” and “what can I do?”. But Lynne Twist and the rest of the Pacha People are teaching me other stories too now. And, at the very least, I am so glad to be alive at this particular time in Earth’s history, where even the possibility of making a big difference now in the future of life is a real possibility. I have facilitated three “Awakening the Dreamer” symposiums now and will be trained to lead Project Drawdown workshops when I visit in San Francisco in late May. I used to be embarrassed by wanting to save the world. I was afraid to be judged as a “do-gooder”, a hippie, a snowflake. Who was I to think I could? I changed my thinking when I discovered I am not the only one. In fact, it may take each one of us to accomplish this task. I am going to set aside, for now, the obvious fact that the world does not need saving. It has been twirling along for about billions of years just fine without you or me to rescue it. I am writing here, about the condition and sustainability of biological life on this planet. And I am declaring that what I am up to is making sure that life, human, animal, plant and otherwise, persists for as long as the earth can support it, given the limits of the sun’s ability to maintain its current distance and temperature.
- A few weeks ago, I got a subscriber list email from Lynne Twist. It linked to the following video. Since then, I have been writing in my “Gratitude Journal”, three things I am grateful for every day. And practicing appreciating what I have, experiencing it as “sufficiency”. This has brought an unbelievable magic into my life. I can hardly believe it myself and my Inner Skeptic is continually composing strong arguments against it. But it is working. It is really, really working. Each day has become another miracle, a series of miracles. Even in mundane moments, I have begun to appreciate what I have, even if it is only my breath and a glass of water.
Now when I lie awake at night, contemplating how it all began, how it might end, my life, eternity and forever, my heart sings with joy at how blessed is my life. And all life on this beautiful planet.