Sitting quietly in the Tao Garden some months later I noticed a young man giving me the keen interested glances of someone seeing someone he thought might be a highly evolved spiritual being. I was cultivating the long hair and dreamy countenance of one with his mind on higher things and accordingly bedecked with bracelets and bangles, ear-ring and beads, clothed in ethnic trousers, sandals and one of those guru-shirts that lend an aura of peace and serenity. I’d recently attended a Vipassana retreat too, so must have looked pretty holy, perhaps even halogenically enlightened.
His bow, almost a walking prostration, as the young man approached showed the immense measure of respect with which he had decided to endow the presentation of me that I was offering the world at the time. His first words, uttered as if in a cathedral or the presence of a cathedral spirit, caressed my ego.
‘May I speak with you?’ he said, sounding American. Graciously I inclined my head. He continued, ‘I feel I can learn many things from you.’
‘How can I help you?’ I said in a conversational tone and my normal English accent. His eyes, lowered until he heard my voice, looked up startled, ‘Where are you from?’ he asked.
‘London, England,’ I replied. His face fell as fast as he stood upright. ‘London? England?’ I tried the gracious nod again but it bounced off the wall of indignation forming around him as he stared angrily at my clothes, my hair, bracelets, beads and sandals, and took a step back.
‘I thought you might have been a…from…. I thought I might have learned something from you,’ he said like a child to a broken promise. I was curious. ‘Learned something like what?’
‘Something, oh I don’t know, wise stuff. Yeah, some wisdom.’
‘Maybe you have,’ I said after him, as he walked away under his disappointed cloud, seeking a distant truth.
You know what they say: nowadays the westerners wear the robes, the gurus drive the Mercedes. I got my hair cut, chucked the ornamentation. I bought cool gear in Waikiki boutiques, signed up for NLP with Richard Bandler. Nobody mistakes me for a medicine-man any more.
As I see it, there’s no Buddha, no living beings, no long ago, no now. If you want to get it, you’ve already got it–it’s not something that requires time. There’s no religious practice, no enlightenment, no getting anything, no missing out on anything. At no time is there any other Dharma than this. If anyone claims there is a Dharma superior to this, I say it must be a dream, a phantom. The Zen Teachings of Master Lin Chi, tr Burton Watson.
I had lived about half of the hundred years to which we are all entitled when I found myself sitting in that circle around an open fire in the mountains of Colorado, wondering how to live in a spirit of love, in this life, amid the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
The Rainbow Family’s answer was simple: each day do Three Good Things: Something for yourself, Something for another person, Something for your community.
I added my own Daily Reality Check: Am I doing what I want to do? Am I being where I want to be? Am I with who I want to be with?
Giving Shiatsu, expressing through my hands the unconditional love in my heart, was doing something for another person. By connecting with the universal love of Spirit, I was doing something for myself. By teaching Zen Shiatsu I was doing something for my community.
For me, that was a Yes, and I want to share that Yes with You. If an early seeker, you may find aspects of my practice of use. As a seasoned traveller you may have a little fun at my expense, thinking how much better your own practice or how superior your teacher. You will learn something, if only that you have nothing to learn. It doesn’t matter really: we dance the same spiral with different steps as we follow the trail that leads to Spirit, by temple, church or beach. Mine was beach. I had designed a life to travel in the light, a life that included a lot of beach, but a life I nearly lost, on a beach.
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Travelling Light, from Finding Spirit in Zen Shiatsu
Next time: Death and Birth