Mind today is wandering among reasons I came to the mountains, reasons, it turns out, that have been my guiding light as well as my blinders. Often, I remind myself I did not move to the mountains to party or climb the social ladder or belong to any club. Primarily, I was believing I wanted solitude and hard labor for a period of time. A year before, I had entered the turning point of my life. Discovered chance as an interesting aesthetic. At lunch in a Charleston diner called Frida's with an artist friend I had lunch with on Tuesdays, we talked about chance quite a lot, experimented with it some. This one particular day, we decided to let go of decision making for awhile, see where chance takes us. Before long, he quit his job working in a lab. I quit my job working in a bookstore. At a certain point, I began to ride the chance wave like a surfer, loving it. Friend wasn't able to take the uncertainty that goes with allowing chance. He started really producing art, then went to too much drinking, lost confidence and found a job. I felt like what I took for chance had a consciousness behind it. Things started happening that spooked me somewhat. A friend did tarot readings. I didn't know about such things, but had a big question and thought I'd give tarot a go to see if there might be anything to it. If so, I might get insight into my questions.
The tarot showed my path over the next few weeks, between the time of the reading and the time I took a bus to Myrtle Beach to Meher Baba's Center, the 500 acres of virgin forest between Myrtle Beach Hilton and North Myrtle Beach, between Hwy 17 and the beach. It was told in symbols, not details, such that I could understand it in hindsight better than in foresight. A guy I'd met by chance at a party at a friend's place, I ran into by chance a few weeks later, David Berndt, told him what I was feeling inside, that I wanted to get away and be alone several days and nights, as long as it takes to catch on to what is happening inside that I had no clues about. I knew something was changing, but couldn't name it. He told me about Meher Baba's Center just 100 miles up Hwy 17, then $3 a night for a cabin. No dogma. No rules and regulations. I wanted to go someplace and stay until the $200 I had in cash ran out. Over a period of 10 days before going to the Center at Myrtle Beach, I received a number 10 with a kind of glow around it that said pay attention. Every day I saw a 10 that caught my eye. The first one was on the sidewalk, King St, Charleston's main street, walking to work, stores had boxes out front for trash pickup. Sitting on top of a box about waist high, I saw a yellow-gold square rug sample and in the center of it a coin from India with a 10 on it. I put the coin in my pocket.
At the height of my atheist period, after about 15 years of throwing off what I thought was everything I learned in church, I had come to see religion originated in the human mind, another way for the few to control the many. I still see it that way, except that I was not able then to see through the falseness in religion to what we call God on the other side. Religion was an opaque glass for me. I saw its falseness and that's where my investigation stopped. Could not see through it. Finally, after receiving nine 10s with the golden glow, when I was unlocking the chain at the Center's driveway, Ralph Hernandez came out the door of the Gateway cabin waving a ten dollar bill, asking if I had change for a ten. My first thought was no, because I never did. Upon reflection, I had a five and six ones in the billfold. Strange. I said, "I do." He gave me the ten for a five and five ones, exactly as he needed it. I thought: Uh-oh. Whatever it is, it's gonna happen here.
I wasn't interested in Meher Baba, Peter Townshend's guru. I didn't want any rock star gurus. I'd bought Townshend's Baba album, Who Came First, and hated it. Couldn't stand Tommy either. I liked the Who of the Live at Leeds album. I was wanting some uncut rocknroll. Saw pictures of Baba everywhere in the communal kitchen and dining areas at the Center, thought: ho-hum. I found copies of Meher Baba's discourses lying about, some other little books of his sayings. I picked one up, opened it by chance to whatever page my eye fell on first. Picked a paragraph by chance and read it. BOOM. It was a direct answer to one of my big questions. I picked another page and paragraph the same way. Every time I opened the book randomly, I found a direct answer to one of my big questions. For two days I spent a good bit of time looking through his discourses, finding answers to my big questions every time. After two days I felt like all the questions I had were answered, answered fully to my satisfaction, with understanding. Plus, I learned things I'd never imagined. At sunset, the second full day, I went to the meditation cabin and said, What can I do? You answered all my questions without me even voicing them.
I didn't want to on one level, but had to concede. He had explained to me very articulately everything I'd wondered about for as far back as recollection recalls. My satisfaction was complete. I had to give him that. Basically, once I saw for a certainty that God, indeed, Is, I had no choice, if I choose to live honestly with myself, live believing I knew for certainty that God actually is the only reality. That was thirty-six years ago. I can attest as the witness that my attitude toward life is radically different from what it was then. To the better. At once, I'm glad the atheist period is over and glad I went through it. I learned in that time what I might not have uncovered going to church like I was "s'posed to." I felt like I was a fish swimming about, looking for something to eat, sees a worm wiggling, yummy, the hook snags and the fisherman on the shore is reeling in the line and I'm taken from my life by surprise, against my will, reeled in, removed from the water, my home, by the Master himself. Ok. I have to go with you, because I believe you totally. It was the 10th of October.
I have learned over these years that everything I've seen that he said satisfies what I believe to be the case. I've learned by now, after more than 30 years, that the real deal is to let go of determining my direction, my anything. I've finally learned the let-go-let-God inspirational saying has immense meaning and very practical application. The Master decides far better for me than I'm able for myself. Most interesting in the days of discovery was finding that although I thought I didn't believe anything concering Christendom anymore, I was comparing the sayings of Meher Baba with those of Jesus and verifying what Baba said by what Jesus said. This told me I had thrown off all that was extraneous and actually did believe the truth in the sayings of Jesus. It took me by big surprise that I held Jesus as my spiritual authority. These many years later, I'm more convinced than ever in the truth of Meher Baba and the truth of Jesus Christ. Jesus without the church is quite an amazing Christ. I see Meher Baba as Jesus without the church. Surely a church will follow, but I feel fortunate this lifetime to know Baba without a church telling me what I better not do.
I came to the mountains, because in my mind that knew nothing about the mountains, they were the wilderness. I wanted to go to the "wilderness" and live as a monk with my house my monastery and Meher Baba my abbot. It's been that way since first day. It has not let up. It has become even moreso, because in the beginning it was merely intent. By now, it has become practice. I don't mean I'm meditating all the time. I don't meditate at all. Don't feel the need. I don't have rituals or rules and regulations. I go with my flow and attempt to avoid judging others and myself. By now I've condensed all the scriptures I've read along the way, and what I find it all comes to is treat other people right and love God. That's what it's about. The Way is about living a good life on this earth. I don't mean good with lots of jewelry and expensive cars, the biggest house on the highest hill overlooking town. When I treat other people right, they treat me right. When I love God, God loves me. What more do I want?
What more can I ask? I don't dare ask for anything more. All I ask for is to appreciate what I already have. I have good friends all around me. If I needed a meal, no money to buy anything, I could call just about anyone I know and ask. Then they'd ask if they could bring it to me. That's the kind of friends I have. When I think about it, I'm overwhelmed by the people I care about, who care about me. I've come to think a connection with God is something like being plugged in. It's being plugged into something even more interesting than the internet, something that actively makes my life better every year. It was Meher Baba who originally said 'Don't Worry - Be Happy.' That simple little formula Bobby McFerrin made a happy reggae song with is just the right spirit for those words. Many times I have settled myself down saying to myself, Don't worry, be happy. It works immediately. The song has the childlike simplicity of Thich Nhat Hahn's writings where little words have big meanings.