Chapter Two “My spiritual journey” continued…
Even though I hadn’t lived at home since I was 16, my mother initially attempted to keep me from going by using her “parental authority” – refusing to let me go and threatening me with the police, or putting me in an institution, because I was underage. Then when she realized that wouldn’t work, she pulled one of the oldest “mother tricks” in the book – the famous “I’m sick, you can’t leave me now” routine. Most people are capable of making themselves sick, psychosomatically, or accidentally, but she was beyond that. She had been studying hypnosis, the power of the mind and such, for as long as I could remember. So she made herself sick. And while it was nothing serious at all, it was a somewhat painful temporary illness (an outbreak of sores that was more painful if she didn’t stay in bed). So she was using that, along with saying I was being selfish for leaving, as a “guilt-trip” in an attempt to manipulate my life and free will choices. But she had already kicked me out of the house a year prior, because of her jealousy towards my girlfriend. So I wasn’t living with her anyway, and there were dozens of other relatives looking after her. But even if it were more serious, I would have still had to leave (I found out why later). I was internally compelled to go, regardless of any obstacles, let alone ones she was deliberately creating to manipulate me and keep me there. My internal drive and feelings were so strong, I felt like I would die if I didn’t change my life (which was probably true). There was truly no choice. [For those of you who might feel sorry for my mother, ask yourself if she was serving the light, or just her self, and subsequently the dark.]
Then there were my so-called friends, who turned out to be “fair weather friends” as most turn out to be one day when the “chips are down”. Most of them never liked my spiritual pursuits, and my new goal was “the worst” as far as they were concerned. All but one tried to talk me out of it. They told me I was crazy to go, crazy to give up “everything”, and like my mother, they tried to make me feel guilty about “abandoning” them. They didn’t want to get out of the hole they were in, and I did. And they wanted me to stay in mine. I didn’t know it at the time, but my old friends, without knowing it, were also being unconscious pawns of the dark side. But considering my momentum and strong desire, they could not avert me from my goal either. The urge to go felt almost biological – like a salmon needing to swim upstream to return to its spawning ground.
My friend John was the only person I knew who didn’t try to talk me out of going. While he wasn’t really supportive, he wasn’t resistive either. He said, “You gotta do what you gotta do.” We actually had a lot in common at the time. He and I were always able to have spiritual conversations, and agreed on many things, unless they threatened his life choices. As we said our goodbyes and talked about life, he felt more and more like joining me. All of a sudden, he decided to “go for it”. But when he called his girlfriend and told her about his decision, she gave him some news that stopped him dead in his tracks – she said she was pregnant. And it wasn’t the usual “accidental” story. She admitted she had deliberately stopped using birth control (which John had assumed she was still using), “Because she loved him so much and wanted to have his baby”. Whether it was true at the time, or not, she deliberately got pregnant in a scheme to entrap him. She knew he was the kind of guy who would do “the honorable thing” and marry her. And he did. But what is “the honorable thing” when you have been deliberately entrapped so dishonorably? It’s one thing to take responsibility for an unexpected, but legitimate event, but quite another to play victim to such a treacherous scheme. A family that starts with that kind of severe and serious deception, can only end badly (which it did). The dark side at work again, only against him this time. I advised him against it, but he insisted on doing the “right thing” anyway. I saw John again many years later. He and his wife had an ugly divorce after having two children. He was miserable, and had become an alcoholic with numerous D.U.I.’s. John had irrevocably missed a significant fork in his path that I now know would have changed his life, and those of others, for the good. For me, it was back to the road, alone, and with a new sadness.
[Author’s Note: Everyone who starts on a true spiritual path encounters multiple obstacles and attempts to “derail” them. It just happens in different ways for each individual. Keep this in mind if you are taking your first steps. It can happen in so many ways – a great new job offer, an old lover you’d never gotten over finally calls to say they want to get back together, your car breaks down – you name it, it can happen. People may also “twist” things. You may be told you are being “selfish” by making your spiritual pursuits a priority, when the fact is, you are actually starting a path towards becoming unselfish for the first time in your life. Anything that can possibly deter you from what you really want to do, and the goals you’ve set for yourself, may come up.]
Home at Last
To make a very long story very short, I headed to Tibet using any means that would get me there, from hitch-hiking, to freighters, to camels, (a story in and of itself). When I got to the outskirts of Tibet, guides associated with our order, snuck me across the border and led me to the monastery. Communist China had already invaded, and troops had to be avoided at all costs.
The monastery was in an isolated area of the Himalayas that was considered “forbidden”, even to Tibetans. Other than those of our order, no human had ever even stepped foot there, until recently when some daring and hardy explorers finally “discovered” the area.
As we got closer to our destination, I was shocked to find that we were entering a warmer, wetter area. Most of the Himalayas are stark, frigid, and barren. And here I was in the midst of these great frozen giants, surrounded by thriving “warm region” plant life! And how beautiful it was.
Finally, the day arrived when my quest would come to an end. All of a sudden there it was – the place my heart and soul had dreamed of. It was beautiful, and strikingly unique. The pyramids, domes, and cubic structures created such unique artistic and other-worldly symmetry. I’d never seen anything like it. Seeing it from a distance, I was stunned, thrilled, scared, awe-inspired – hundreds of feelings rushed through me like the waters of the powerful falls nearby.
As I approached the monastery, I noticed many small buildings all around the outside of its walls. I found it interesting that the people inhabiting them, and working around them, were not all dressed in Tibetan fashion, but rather they wore the garb of various cultures. Most noticeably, they were all very warm and friendly, welcoming me with their smiles.
Immediately upon reaching the entrance to the monastery, I was greeted by a bright, friendly female monk. I discovered she was to be my liaison, and initially, a kind of “orientation tour guide”.
“Come in,” she said. “My name is [something unintelligible to me].” She saw the perplexed look in my eyes, and grinned. “That means ‘Eastern Star…’ in English”. I must have looked how I felt – which was “that’s one heck of a handle to call someone by”. She looked at my eyes kindly, and said, “Just call me Anastasia. That’s my old name. My parents were from Russia.”
I was in such a state of awe about finally finding what I had hoped for all my life, that I was speechless. So while I thought to answer her, I remained silent.
“As you know, we have been expecting you,” she said. “I’ll show you around, and initially answer any questions you might have.”
“Questions,” I thought to myself. “I have more questions than I can probably even ask in my lifetime.”
She took me by the hand, and began to show me the “grounds”.
“Thank you…,” I finally managed to find part of my tongue.
Like she said, they were expecting me. And it was obvious from the guides and others who met me along the way that they also knew the timing and path of my journey. I didn’t understanding exactly how they knew it all, but I figured I’d find out later. For now though, I was more interested in the reactions I was getting, or not getting, from the other monks on the grounds. Some were obviously working, some doing yoga-like techniques, and others appeared to be just sitting and “hanging out”. Many of them stopped and stared, while others seemed to be ignoring me. It just seemed sort of odd to me at the time, so I asked her about it – and about the people who were living just outside the monastery.