Okay, so imagine that you might be wondering what kinds of things happened. I feel compelled to list the most dramatic of them:
A Yugoslavian customs agent comes into my train compartment to check my passport while I am sleeping. He grabs my breast and I scream and kick him. He simply leaves.
I hitchhike in India and get into a truck with 3 men. They start talking in ways that make me suspicious. When I demand that they let me out, and they refuse, I raise my voice and maybe even use some physical force. They let me out.
I go into a forest in Swat Valley, Pakistan with a friend I had known for only a day in one of the remotest parts of this beautiful area where I was warned repeatedly not to go into the forest because of the danger of being raped. 3 men came at us with guns, gesturing to a small shack nearby. My friend stood in front of me, raised his hands up in a gesture of protection, and said in English, “You need to take me before you hurt her.” This was a man I had only known for a day, mind you, and he was not my lover. The men came up, shook his hand, and left without a word.
I was on a galloping, out of control horse that somehow miraculously stopped before I was hurt.
A vicious dog charged at me and I felt certain I would be bitten, but something happened to keep the dog at bay.
Hitchhiking in Austria, I got into a car with an Italian man who didn’t speak English. He started going down backroads and I demanded that he let me out. At first he didn’t but finally he did. It was getting dark, but somehow I found a safe ride to my next destination.
I got severely ill in Sri Lanka. I was able to travel the length of India all the way to Iran where the hospitals were free, and there were Americans who could help me.
If I wrote down all the risks I took, the illnesses I had, the sexual encounters that could have easily resulted in disease or pregnancy, and the dangers of simply riding in buses where drivers took so many risks on narrow mountain passages or crowded city streets, I could fill a very long blog post. Why did I avoid any permanent injury? Again…a mystery.
My first spiritual experience came when I was at Amritsar at the Golden Temple. The purpose of this beautiful temple, which was the site of a horrendous massacre during the time of Gandhi’s non-violent which helped people realize how barbaric the English were, was to both be a shrive to the one God of the Sikh’s as well as a place to house and feed the hungry. I stayed about 3 days in the dormitory, and ate the twice daily delicious, simple fare of dahl and chapatti. I still love the taste of curried yellow split peas along with rice or chapattis. I was deeply touched by the kindness of the women who selflessly served in the kitchen, and the men who served the nutritious meal on banana leaves.
It wasn’t until I saw Sai Baba perform magic tricks that I opened up to the possibility of there being a non-material life. I had been on the road for about 5 months, and I was feeling sad because I didn’t feel much closer to finding my niche. But after witnessing, in person, this famed guru pour ashes out of a vase and do some other miraculous actions, I felt open to other possibilities. When I interviewed people who had had miraculous out of the body experience with Sai Baba, I felt encouraged that he was the real deal. But his fancy clothes, fat body, and the way people seemed to worship him turned me off. I also did not appreciate that even though I waited for hours to see him, his closer followers got to be in the front seats with fans cooling them, while I was relegated to the far reaches of the auditorium where it was sweltering hot.
Still, a crack was opening. But when I got to Sri Lanka, I hit bottom. I had journeyed as far as I could without spending a lot of money that I did not have on transportation to such places as Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. For nine months, I had traveled where ever I wanted, when I wanted. Native people, especially Muslim, invited me to their homes where I got to enjoy free room and board as well as a taste of the real culture. I spent time at the most delicious of beaches, Goa, where I rented half of a duplex on the beach for almost nothing, spent hours on the beach and ate tropical fruit to my heart’s content. I had visited the best tourist attractions like the Taj Mahal and spiritual places like the home of Krishna, and the Bodhi Tree where Buddha was supposed to have experienced enlightenment. And so much more! Finally, after a life of structure where I was often working or going to school, I had no obligations. Yet I was not happy.
In fact, I was deeply depressed and almost suicidal. Reading a book by Krishnamurti (I read extensively during my travels, focusing especially on very wordy and depressing novels by Russian authors including Dostoyevsky), I found words that were supposed to be reassuring but which left me wanting just to die. I am guessing his words http://www.jkrishnamurti.org/about-krishnamurti/the-core-of-the-teachings.php shattered my dream that I was completely free and that someday I would find the truth.
On a beautiful morning, arising from my bed in a home where I was staying with a family outside of Colombo, looking out at the luscious blue river and abundantly green trees and colorful flowers, I just wanted to die. I had no reason to live. I had no hope. I was above all, lonely. I was convinced that my journey had been a waste of time. In fact, my whole life was meaningless.
I decided to try to shake myself out of these black thoughts by taking the bus into Colombo, where I noticed a movie theatre with the words, “Godspell” on the marquis. Curious and hoping for some distraction, I bought my ticket and watched what was to be a life-changing movie. The melody, music, visuals, story-line, and the characters all combined brought hope to my soul. I felt the darkness leaving, but still some heaviness remained. For the next seven days I entered the theatre to experience, literally, God’s spell over me. I felt hopeful and I didn’t even know why. There were no Christians around to invite me to know more, so I did the logical thing. I went to the Buddhists for help.