16- Following the Invisible into the Unknown
I decided to ask Self-Realization Fellowship for early initiation into the practice of Kriya yoga.
I had absolutely no interest in teaching at Santa Fe Community College or any other institution. My only intention was to just keep increasing my spiritual practices.
I tried to tell Alan this, but he didn’t want to listen. Finally, he said, “I am not asking you, I’m telling you.” My mouth became dry as I uttered the words my heart did not want to say: “Yes, sir. I will teach there on a part-time basis. What do I need to do?”
Surrender—what an amazingly powerful word. It often engenders the thought of weakness and cowardice. In my case, it required all the strength I had to be brave enough to follow the invisible into the unknown.
But surrender did give me clarity in one essential area: my personal preferences of like and dislike were not going to guide my life. By surrendering the hold those powerful forces had on me, I was allowing my life to be guided by a much more powerful force, life itself.
first, you let go of the personal reactions of like and dislike that form inside your mind and heart; and second, with the resultant sense of clarity, you simply look to see what is being asked of you by the situation unfolding in front of you.
Following that deeper guidance will take your life in a very different direction from where your preferences would have led you.
17- My First Job Interview
I told her I would like to teach what I had been learning about that voice inside your head. I wanted students to understand that they don’t have to listen to that incessant chatter; they have the freedom to come from a much deeper place inside themselves.
I had never taught what I’d been learning to anyone, let alone a whole class.
I laid down the ground rules: there would not be a single thought about the classes or what would be taught in them until it was time to enter the classroom. I intended to walk into the first class with a completely empty mind. I wanted it to be like the time I wrote that paper completely by inspiration. We’ll just go into the class and see what comes out.
I had no interest in meeting people or making new friends—that would just be a distraction to my inner work.
I would remain in total silence during my visit.
The closer I got to the source of the light, the thinner the air became. I could hardly breathe. But I kept on going. The experience was similar to what had been happening in my practices. In my meditations, the deeper I went, the more my breath would slow down.
I felt as though I would collapse from the lack of oxygen, but I found the will to take that final step into the light. In an instant, I was completely bathed in a flood of blinding light. I turned upward to climb into the light, but my hands hit a metal grate on the roof of the cave. There was no way out from here.
I would have to find another way.
18- Letting Go of the Rope
I awoke from that dream a changed person. My way of thinking had been transformed at a very profound level. For the first time, I questioned whether more and more discipline was going to take me where I so desperately wanted to go. Sitting alone in my van that morning, I knew the answer was no.
Something much wiser than me had reached into my psyche that night and rearranged my entire relationship with myself. I no longer saw the lower aspect of myself, with all his personal issues and melodramas, as the enemy that had to be destroyed. I looked at him now with a new understanding. I needed to use all these disturbed personal energies for my ascent. It was perfectly clear to me that since he was the problem, he was also the solution. I actually felt a tinge of compassion toward that struggling person within me. I would later come to learn that the Bhagavad Gita says that one should raise the self with Self, not trample down the self. I had been trampling down my personal self in the name of getting free from his humanness. I now needed to learn how to raise those energies up to assist me on the journey.
As I approached him, he became more disciplined and focused. In drastic contrast to how strict I had been in the past, I reached my hand out to him in a kind and caring manner and said, “You can come out now.” What followed that utterance makes me ashamed to this day for thinking this practice was some sort of an innocent mind game. The moment I said those words, I experienced an emotional release the intensity of which I had never imagined possible. Tears poured from my eyes, and my legs completely buckled beneath me. My heart broke open as though some major event had taken place that allowed for a lifetime’s worth of relief.
Once this cathartic release had run its course, I realized something I will never forget: that scared, troubled person in there whom I had been watching and judging was indeed a person. The psyche is a person with feelings and thoughts, hopes, fears, and dreams. He is not to be locked in a room and constantly told to shut up. There are much more constructive ways to deal with these disturbed, self-centered energies. Unfortunately, I had to learn this the hard way—through experience.
I had already determined to surrender to life’s flow, even if I couldn’t understand where it was taking me. I had to do the same thing inwardly. I needed to learn to just relax inside instead of fighting with my mind so much. Just because the voice talks doesn’t mean I have to listen to it or let it affect the direction of my life. It has nothing to do with me—I can just relax regardless of what it’s saying. I was back to the basics: I am the one who notices the voice talking.
I had built a mental concept of absolute discipline that was actually holding me back.
It took some time, but I eventually began to realize the true purpose of yoga. Done properly, yoga is the science of channeling all energies upward until they merge together at the highest point—Oneness.
19- Acceptance, Acceptance, and More Acceptance
Imagine what that voice in my head was saying: Oh my God! How dare she make a decision like that without even asking me? I don’t want another house on my land. I don’t want anyone else staying out here, so why would I want another house? How in the world does someone make a decision to build a house on someone else’s property without ever asking them? On and on it went, but by then I was well trained to just calmly observe all these thoughts being created by the preference-driven mind. After all, if I had wanted another house on the property that voice would be saying, What a miracle! God stepped in and started building me a second house without my having to do a single thing. To me, it didn’t matter what that voice was saying. I knew to the core of my being that I was not going to give him the time of day, not to mention the run of my life. If I had a choice between using this real-life situation to get my way or to free myself from being bound to my way, I would choose freedom every time. That was the essence of my experiment with life: if it’s down to a matter of preference—life wins. So I went back up the hill, strapped on an apron, and helped them build Sandy’s house.
I had been true to my commitment of not allowing a single thought to enter my mind about what I was going to teach. How would I ever know what life was capable of doing if I was always in control? I walked into my first class at Santa Fe completely open to whatever would unfold. As the students filed in, I simply quieted my mind and asked myself, Do you have something worthwhile to teach these students? In my heart I knew that I had a wealth of knowledge that would be both interesting and beneficial to their lives. So I took a breath, stood up, and just started speaking. I couldn’t have known it at the time, but that exact moment was laying the groundwork for the next phase of my spiritual journey: becoming a teacher.
The words just flowed out. There was no prior thinking involved. The first session laid out the road map of what we were going to do in the class, just as though a curriculum had been decided beforehand. It was similar to when I was writing that economics paper in my van in the woods. Except this time, I was watching a continuous stream of inspiration turning into a powerful lecture. I was not doing any of this—I was just aware of it.
As the semester progressed, this kept happening class after class. I was amazed by what was being taught in these classes. It was as though all the knowledge from my schooling, plus all that I had learned through introspective meditation and the relentless watching of the voice, was being woven together into a cohesive whole.
How could each class come out so perfectly without my doing it?
The success of the classes was overwhelming. I would start the semester with twenty students in the room, and by the end the count had doubled. I remember one class where I literally had trouble entering the classroom. Twenty students were registered and another forty or so were either sitting in class or listening from the hallway.
I had no intention of writing a dissertation. Nonetheless, one day he made me promise, as a personal favor to him, that I would turn in something, anything, for him to read. I had great love and respect for Dr. Goffman, and I saw it as an act of surrender to acquiesce to his wishes. That very night, I sat down on the floor of my house, lit my kerosene lamp, and asked myself if I had something to write that was worth such an enormous undertaking. It only took a moment to realize that I did have something very important to write, and I would love for Dr. Goffman to read it. It seems that life had just given me the perfect opportunity to write about that voice in your head.
As it turned out, the finished document had an unexpected destiny of its own. A professor on my doctoral committee had a publisher contact me, and within a year, my dissertation was published under the title The Search for Truth. Thirty-five years later, that book still sells copies every month on Amazon—a fitting tribute to the acts of surrender that brought it into this world.
What is important from all this is that if I had listened to my own mind, none of this would have happened. By following the flow of life, instead of my own preferences, I was now a carpenter, a teacher, and a published author.
The energy I experienced while teaching my classes at Santa Fe was the same energy I was dealing with in my yoga and meditations.
When I stood in front of a class, the very same energy would explode into a passionate, heartfelt lecture.
I was becoming surrounded by a life that had been built for me, not by me.