Archive for the ‘Works In Progress (Non Fiction)’ Category

My Part of the Intro to a Book I’m Helping to Write

October 4, 2008

I’ve been working with my friend Patricia Sage on a book of what I’d describe as, for lack of a better term, “spiritual direction.”  It has a couple of working titles.  One is “Good, God & the Universe.”  One is “Conversations with Patricia.”

The material below is from my half of the intro.

Feedback, anybody?  

Why I’m Helping to Write This, by Neal

There are really two things that have caused me to want to be involved in creating this book:  lime-flavored sand and a wet bird.


Lime Flavored Sand


About a year ago I referred a client who was dealing with a challenging illness to Patricia.  The client was certainly open to alternative (complementary, integrative or whatever they’re being called this week) practices as part of her arsenal of self-healing options; after all, she had entrusted me to work with her, using shamanic interventions, for a couple of years.  Even so, she asked whether I thought Patricia was “good” and “pretty clean” in her work.


The implication of her question was, first, was Patricia accurate in her intuitive assessment of what was going on and what would be helpful?  And second, would Patricia keep her ego out of the way, so there wouldn’t be any forcing of my client’s condition into a box that would fit Patricia’s training or offerings or (as some do) hot button technique of the month; and would Patricia be straight if she found that her interventions wouldn’t be much help?


My answer was simple and direct.  I said, “I’ve known Pat for twenty years.  I’ve seen her in all kinds of situations.  I’ve seen her provide advice, insight, help to all kinds of people.  And based on that, if I went to her for help with an illness or some spiritual direction, and she said, ‘Drink a glass of lime flavored sand first thing in the morning every day for a week,’ I’d certainly think about it, and I’d probably try it.  At least twice.”


I find that Patricia’s spiritual direction, intuitive insights and alternative practices have integrity and power, always.


A Wet Bird   


However, I find that spiritual direction can be an, um.. uh… interesting thing.


I’m reminded of an old joke that I first heard when I was at most ten years old.  It’s a joke that has been associated with the comedian Jackie Vernon, although I swear the theater of my mind always sees and hears  a young Jackie Mason telling it.  It goes something like this:


A man had become obsessed with learning the true meaning of life.  He had heard from others of a Guru, one who lived on a mountaintop high in the Himalayas, who had The Answer. The guy decided to make the long, difficult trek to see this wise and amazing Master. 


He went by plane to Nepal, and then took an old rickety bus to the base of the mountain where the Guru lived.  Once there, alone, loaded down with all his gear and supplies, he set foot up the mountain.


The trip up the mountain took many days. He had to struggle to overcome many hardships.  But he never lost faith.  He knew that he would reach the top and meet the great Master.


Finally, after traveling halfway around the world and struggling almost beyond endurance, the man reached the top.  There sat the Guru, crossed-legged, deep in meditation.


The exhausted man waited quietly, humbly for over an hour, until the Guru opened his eyes, smiled and said, “Welcome my son.  How may I help you?”


The man bowed low and said to the Guru, “Honored Master, I have come from halfway ’round the world, and I have but one question I would ask you.” 


The Guru smiled and asked, “What is your question, my son?”


The man bowed low again, barely controlling sobs of joy and hope, and said, “Master, please tell me; I must know; what is the true meaning of life?”


The Guru looked far out, far and far across the mountains.  He seemed to ponder for a moment, looking to the sky as if for higher confirmation.  Then he nodded his head, braced himself, stood and spread his arms wide.  Beaming, he intoned in a voice that bounced across the mountains, “A wet bird never flies at night.”


The seeker fell to his knees. He was dumbfounded. Shocked.  Recovering, rage filling his eyes, he threw his pack from his back, tore his hair out in clumps and threw them to the wind.  He screamed, “I’ve come halfway around the world, spent two hundred thousand dollars, crawled and scraped and bled and climbed up this freaking mountain to find the true meaning of life, and all you tell me is, ‘A wet bird never flies at night’!!!!! Are! You! Freaking! Kidding Me!?!”


Upon which the Guru, with a look of infinite love and compassion on his wizened old face, sat back down upon his mountain peak, thought for a moment and said, “You mean… a wet bird does fly at night?”


Spiritual direction is like that. 


Even the greatest spiritual teachers can offer insights that are simultaneously beautiful, simple, obvious to the point of Duh!, and completely unhelpful in the moment unless you are capable of making what would probably seem to you to be a huge leap in consciousness right this very moment godammit! to get you to the place of serenity, hope and freedom the teaching offers.  I’m reminded of a story that the beloved teacher Ram Das tells about his own Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaji.  Maharaji sat, tears pouring down his face in response to something of which he had just learned, and yet saying, “Don’t you see, Ram Das?  It’s all so perfect.”


I understand that.  The beauty and the truth and the wisdom.  Still, I find it in me to say, “Are you freaking kidding me?”


So I’ll be the one saying things like, “Patricia, can you explain that?  Okay.  Uh, can you give it to me another way?  Well, can you give an example.  Oh.  Okey dokey.”


So there it is.  A wet bird.  And lime flavored sand.  Hope they help.