” he old avatar looked up, slowly waving his hand in front of my face. He gazed into me, deeper than anyone had ever been allowed. Not a word passed between us in those brief moments he read my soul as he read his own and knew a stranger as he knew himself. The unanimity this man felt with all life on earth mystified me.”
In 1972, the late sun streamed through large, bulletproof, street-side windows in a California military surplus store. I sold guns and ammunition by day and participated in a weapons smuggling ring by night. At that time, we called ourselves “revolutionaries” flying armaments from California through Honduras to the Sandinistas of Nicaragua who were attempting to overthrow a CIA backed Contra government. Both the Sandinistas and the Contras committed human rights violations aplenty; my job, as I saw it, was staying alive, and I took my cue from the CIA – my decision being coldly capitalistic and sadly apathetic towards humanity. I returned at the age of nineteen penniless from Israel – where I’d been running from the police on narcotics charges – to the United States, via New York’s Kennedy Airport – where I was clubbed twice in one night by a guard for the crime of not having a place to sleep. In my home state of California, the first job I found threw me in with a less than sterling group.
I tell this youth’s story because although, as a senior citizen, I am a long-time mystic and yogic priest, I do not wish to be sanitized by those who lend weight to my robes. The social satirist and activist, Dick Gregory, once offered, “I am a home grown boy, not dropped here from the moon.” I was born to walk the path, but not born a yogi. I wallowed in the same mud as the other barnyard animals. Staying alive is a baseball bat to the knees; it is a humbling experience.
Like all humanity, I am simultaneously a student and a teacher. I have seen something of this world and have somewhat to teach, yet, I have much more to learn. During those adolescent years, I met an aging yogic avatar and poet (composer of the world famous song Nature Boy), Eden Ahbez. He stepped lightly into our military storefront in search of campsite goods for his digs in Desert Hot Springs, and we undertook the first of almost two decades of life altering conversations, helping me survive youth and gather myself along the journey as a man. At that first meeting he, with his waist length white hair and long beard, blew his bamboo flute and recited his famous lyrics to me, and when he spoke the final stanza, “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return I stood in the middle of the store sobbing. I really did not know what else to do; I felt no love – only emptiness