Upon returning from my first trip to India in 1990, I visited the spiritual counselor friend who recommended that I go. Others were there to hear about my journey, but I sat motionless on the couch in her living room staring off into space. "He doesn't know how to use his personality," my counselor friend explained. I had been away three months in an environment so strange, that the outer framework of my thinking had cracked. I had penetrated deeply into the void as a retreat and had returned ill-equipped to deal with the world. My personality might not have been totally defective, but its deficits were significant, and no amount of meditation was going to change that fact.
In the intervening years, I learned to make things work, but only minimally. I made two other trips to India with my wife at the time and had an easier time of it. I left the meditation community where I had resided for five years. I held a job for eight long years. In all of this, as if the particulars of my living didn’t matter, the inner space, the void, the unknown, has increased its presence in my life to unfathomable proportions, and now, thank God, I have a modicum of understanding of my spiritual situation. I am retired from the work world and have a wonderful life, which, however, does not include many friends or desires to accomplish anything. Regret about that is one of the lingering shadows I have learned to recognize and accept as part of my personal landscape.
The pull of the world includes people I love, a house, and a cat, and that’s it. The interior void, the monster reality of unknown existence, is pulling me with high drama. My being feels like a rubber band with the stretch being modulated enough so that the “snap” away from the world does not destroy my psyche, like it very nearly did that first trip to India. Only love can save that day. Such a jarring entry into spirit is not enlightenment; it’s insanity. I have felt waves of universes beyond and have also visualized myself sitting in a hospital room staring all my waking hours out the window. There is something to be said for that kind of hermitage. But not today.
Fortunately, I have learned that keeping all of this in balance is my responsibility; no teaching or guru can show the way. I have made progress in maintaining a steady walk from day to day, managing the waves of ecstasy and the trepidations that come when lingering in the beyond too long. Meditation as sadhana is off the agenda, as is recreational mind expansion. I have always been a hermit, I guess, a self-defined monk, if you will. Little in the world appeals to me, and the number of things that can draw my interest is declining rapidly. Even the past is fading as a frame of reference for who I am. The hermit lesson I have learned is this: to be a hermit in this context is to realize that even with the stretch between the earth walk and the infinitude of spirit, one is alone, driving through a landscape of one’s own creation, following guidance from such a vast beyond that there is no breath deep enough to take that will suffice for being this awake.