Category Archives: blog – 5: DIARY

Sold Out Performance!

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Well, what a thrill that was. For the first time in my life I got to perform before a sold out house! The pic. of me on the poster was originally taken especially for a failed romance (I sent it to the presumed long-distance lover… who arrived and went down like a mouthful of sour milk). Needless to say, after investing so much emotional energy in what turned out to be a depressing disaster rather than a sweeping romance, I have not been happy lately, but rather depressed and hurting. Frankly, a bit in despair.

Christmas was a bitch. Humbug indeed.

The good news is I have begun to feel better, and seeing that same picture on the poster for an event that was as grand as this one turned out to be not only revitalized my tired body and mind, but changed the way I view the photo. I no longer see it as a pic. I took for some loser, but as a pic. that was used to promote a sold-out and standout event!

Tonight was it, the Gainesville Story Summit in which the three storytelling communities in Gainesville picked their best 2 storytellers each for a one-night only performance. I was initially honored to be invited to be part of it, and it was indeed an honor. Not merely because I was picked among the dozens of possible storytellers, it was also an honer because the performance was held at Gainesville’s Heartwood Stage, which is a very professional and upscale venue in Gainesville… and the show was being professionally recorded and edited. For the same reasons, for the past few months, whenever I thought about the night I was nervous as hell.

Horribly enough, I wondered if I would be able to go through with it once the time came. To tell the truth, it was not lack of talent or total and absolute public indifference to my music that caused me to set my guitar aside all those years ago, but a ten-year losing battle with that most formidable of dragons… stage fright! Stage fright… the great thief, no amount of practice or talent or preparation can slay that dragon, no numerous shots of whiskey will loosen it’s claws from our skulls. I’ve won many battles against it, but as a musician I lost the war… I wondered if I would win or lose as a storyteller.

As the big night came, I spent the day relaxing, working out my outfit, and trying not to prepare my story. This sounds like madness, but being a veteran speaker and performer, one thing I know for certain is that preparation would have changed the process, but not the performance, so I went in thinking I’d wing it. The part I really needed to work out prior to the show was the beginning of my story, or rather my entrance, but often my entrance is dictated by whimsy and circumstance. I had decided at the last minute to tell a story that was wholly different from the one I had been contemplating for months. I chose to tell the story of my experiences with the Fey in and around the stone circles and megaliths of Ireland. That story dealt with how my faith in God was entirely replaced with experience of the divine and the mystical.

I chose to wear one of my long formal Indian dresses and tights, the long red dress and gold leggings. In the Indian style, I topped it with bangles, ankle bells, a scarf, and my trademark bare feet. It’s been cold here lately, and it was only one degree above freezing by the end of the night. At least it was warm at the venue. As we all hung and paced around backstage I began to dread that I had made a terrible mistake. For a start, news was coming in that the show had been sold out, people were lined up outside, and most of the storytellers were, quite sensibly, studying their notes and rehearsing their well-prepared stories. All I knew, at long last, was how to start the story, beyond that I was placing my faith in Shiva, my center, and faith that I would vibe off the crowd and improvise. Truth be told, I was figuring I didn’t have to rehearse something I lived, something that changed me. Seemingly being the only one so recklessly unprepared, It was starting to seem like a really bad idea.

At one point as I was pacing and breathing deeply in the greenroom I began to panic, but thanks to my dedication to meditation, my understanding of the nature of reality being that which we make it, and my recollection of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit, I had a genuine understanding that I had a choice. Like Bilbo walking down the cavernous hall before his first encounter with Smaug, the dragon, I too walked down the hall between the backstage door and greenroom before facing my own dragon. Like Bilbo I realized, as I felt a fever of panic swelling up in me, envisioning myself freezing up and panicking, unable to go out onto the state or speak once I was in the spotlight, that such an outcome was only one option. “Here, Justine, is where you fight your real battle,” I told myself. Like Bilbo, like Arjuna, like Justine, I chose. The choice was between the reality in which I sunk into a nervous and incompetent panic, or the one where I catwalked with ankle bells jingling across the stage barefoot and in control. I chose the story I preferred. I chose to stop the rising panic and face down the dragon with confidence. After all, I am a barefoot wild woman, a panther woman, not a quivering coward.

Ha! There was a reason I was the one on stage and not among the peasants in the audience (she says with a cocky toss of the head).

I was to go on second, the first storyteller, Gail Johnson, told the kind of story that could not have been more suited to a progressive Gainesville audience as her tale took place during the election and inauguration of Barack Obama. What I didn’t know was that her story had a mystical ending. This, of course was a perfect setup for my story. I chose the mysticism of Ireland over the political anxiety of my escape from Chile as an illegal immigrant because that story was my story, as now more than ever, to me… mysticism matters.

From the greenroom I watched her deservedly leave the stage triumphant, and on the monitor watched the MC give me a brilliant introduction. It was surreal. This was like real showbiz, an elegant auditorium, a sold out show, a monitor, a green room, lights… camera… action.

I stood at the door, stage left, and felt a surge of energy as my turn to take the stage occurred. Stepping out onto the stage with a bottle of water and a shot of whiskey, and a surprising amount of confidence, I chose to fulfill the promise of her introduction, of their confidence in having chosen me to perform. The smiles and eager eyes of the audience set me at ease, and to me they looked like a crowd of happy little Ganesha’s full of wide-eyed anticipation and warm blessings.

From my first words, they were with me.

“I didn’t do any preparation for this show… as I realized that preparation would affect the process but not the performance… we’re about to find out if that was a mistake.” I took a shot of whiskey, they laughed… “This is the story of how I lost my faith…”

and I killed ’em!

Yeah, sometimes it feels good, real real good.

But I won’t tell the story here, you had to be there, I’m glad I was, and I’m glad they all were too. But I will tell the moral of the story, and that his how my faith had been replaced with experience of the mystical. Faith can be easily toppled by the words of atheists, but no words from any atheist can put a dent in a standing stone.

They applauded, and I returned to the dwarves in the greenroom victorious and with a small golden treasure stashed away inside the folds of my dress. And Smaug… he was dead!

Titiksa

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Titiksa
by Justine Mara Andersen

How well do I wish him?
Now I wish him well away,
Yet it’s his mad infection,
in my skin like a splinter.

I want nothing from him,
Not even his sad failing,
Nor any further falling,
Other than from my mind.

I wish him well but only,
If he be gone and done,
Silent to me as old bones,
Done to me as any scar.

How well do I wish him?
I wish him nothing less,
Than I wish for myself,
Peace and all forgetting.

Peace and all forgetting.

Titiksa.

The Monstrous Has Become Mundane (a ramble in the key of A minor)

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“The scouts report that you’ve been seen down the river,
They say you sleep with one eye open, one eye dreaming,
Did they tell you madness passes? Did they tell you?
There’s no such thing as passing madness,
The monstrous has become mundane,
Routine takes the place of pain,
Voici le temps des assassins,
You’re addicted to revolution,
Addiction is no revolution.”

Paul Kelly “The Execution” 1987

And nothing’s changed. Well it has, these lyrics now seem more like personal and political prophecy than a warm voice from the past. What do you do when the monstrous has become mundane?

I do lots of things, for one I go down to the river as often as possible, and always (always) keep one eye dreaming. Mainly I try and make it warmer and wiser within my sphere of influence, but personally, I try to let it go. If this is the reality everyone wants going into 2018, welcome to it. No one consulted me, so I guess it’s time to go deeper within. Yeah.

Om Shivoham.

” I remember I remember,
I go leaps and bounds,
I remember everything.”

Paul Kelly “I Remember”

I first heard Paul Kelly in 1987. Paul Kelly, shoulda been a household name… but in 1987, at 21 I thought I was gonna be a household name.

What a dumb ambition. It was bondage… and not the fun kind.

When I was 21, man, there were so many things pushing and pulling on me. I was dizzy, spinning, and hadn’t yet attained the courage or wisdom to know I could blow it all away in a puff of sweet smoke, let alone go deeper into letting go through meditation. With fire in the belly I wanted this and that, but whatever this or that I wanted, my family wanted anything but that and no part of this. This wasn’t their collective fault, it was just the way of things. I was headed off their path, hell, was already way out and way off their path, but I hadn’t beaten any of my own paths through the underbrush and thorns yet. Lost in the woods, like a fairy tale with stupid-looking cars and MTV. Whatever path I was on, I was the only one who thought I could make it, even lost as I was. I had teachers telling me I didn’t have what it took. Well, neither did they, but what they lacked was something I had in spades…. vision!

For all the people who told me “no,” and for all the confusion, I had a fire in the belly that drove me on. Maybe I wasn’t as lost as many, I don’t know, but knew what I wanted. If I was lost it wasn’t for ambition or dreams that had to be fulfilled, I was lost in knowing how to go about making anything happen. I mean, adults had it all figured out, right? That was what I thought as a kid, if I could just grow up it would all make sense.

It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense. Trump, progressives, “reality” television, Facebook, extremism, superhero movies, relentless war, still poor, painfully lonely, barefoot and walking the same tightrope. I was wrong, adults never had it figured out. In some ways I wish I could sit that young skinny Justine down in the grass and tell her that. Might have saved her a lot of suffering. But that’s just it, I’ve realized, she wasn’t after the answers, she was in mid-adventure. Think about it, is “The Hobbit” all about how Bilbo got home and put his ring on the mantle, knowing deep in his heart who he was, or is that story about the fucking journey!

The journey, damn straight! Being changed and bigger is grand, but how you get there is where the stories lie.

I bought a turntable this week. You know, I’ve always been passionate about music, but I prefer Country over Rock, McCartney over Lennon, and Nat King Cole over almost anyone else, but I’ve forgotten how much fun music is. Fucking CD’s and Youtube… oh and Amazon. Yep, there it is, most anything you want. But who cares? This turntable has changed my life. ALBUMS! VINYL! Fucking albums. CD’s are a bummer. I haven’t enjoyed buying music since all the people “in the know” (you know the same guys that think they’re too hip for McCartney), peer pressured me into giving up on albums to buy CD’s. But this whole thing, a return to flipping through records, checking for scratches, finding stuff from the DEEP catalog rather than the surface of the top ten, the size, the heft, the art, is bringing me back to what fun it used to be to shop for music. When you hold an album in your hand, 12 inches of glorious vinyl and cardboard, you know you’re really holding a THING, an object worthy of your time!

Funny story, McCartney knew what was worthy of his time. Back in ’67 at the time “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was about to come out it was decided that the time had come to use cheaper thinner cardboard for the record covers. It wasn’t “spokesman” Lennon or “cool” Harrison that took on that, it was McCartney. He went to the top, arguing with record company executives for the thicker cardboard. McCartney knew, always did, still does, what was worth his time. Holding that album in his and in our hands was worthy of his time.

I’m holding Paul Kelly and the Messengers, “Gossip” in my hands!

As the needle hit the vinyl I laid back on the bed, the album beside me, feet up, feeling herbally “groovy,” and listening to Paul Kelly and the Messengers, it got me to thinking, thinking back, and ultimately churning the sea of milk for the nectar of life. Back in 1987 I was handed that album at Kent State, and I thought, “What the hell is this?” I wasn’t that into the lousy crap that passed for music in the eighties, and the good stuff that was out there I recognized as good, but it just didn’t grab me. God damn that wretched brittle mechanistic eighties drum snap, those grating keyboards, to say nothing of the eighties metal guitar sound. Shit. So here I was handed this album by some eighties guy I’d never heard of because I answered a trivia question at some event I was unintentionally passing through between classes, hell, I was probably skipping classes back then, and definitely barefoot.

Once upon a time I was a lousy student, but I became a brilliant one once I grew up a little. Actually, funnily enough, I did less homework, study and class attending when I consistently made the Dean’s list than I had when I was getting C’s and D’s. See, THAT I’d figured out, go to class and take as much of an active interest in the subject as possible and I’d remember it all since I had been so interested. A genuine interest in a thing will earn better grades than suffering long anxious study sessions. I soared through college… but never could apply that active interest wisdom to Algebra, I guess some things are just to evil to be conquered with wisdom.

I still don’t give a shit what X plus Y equals, and I have NEVER needed to know, either. They tried to con me into thinking that in some abstract way I’d need to know algebra… well I didn’t! What a waste of time and anxiety, all that mathematics.

Take that math!

So there I was earlier today, bringing it all back around. In the bliss of flipping through albums, of all things, there was the album I least expected to see, hell an album I hadn’t even thought of in ages. Yeah, there it was, Paul Kelly and the Messengers, “Gossip.” Funny, though that first copy was free, I had to buy this one. The difference is, now I know what that albums all about. Back in ’87, with low expectations, I put the record on and it fucking blew my mind! Christ… how come no one I knew knew how good this guy, these guys, were!

Today, fucking 30 years later, and the album held more surprises for me… for one, it sounds as fresh and stunning in 2017 as it did in 1987. In fact, it sounds BETTER now than it did then.

And I ask again… how come no one seems to know how good these guys were… or are? I mean, I’ve never really heard anyone talking about him around these parts. But looking him up, it seems he’s quite beloved and famous after all.

Is it just me? I hope so, I’d like to think he’s wildly famous and I somehow missed it.

It’s New Year today, gonna be 2018 when I wake up, how ironic that I would discover Paul Kelly again on the 30th anniversary of the album. Synchronicity is Shiva… there are NO coincidences.

And now, it doesn’t just sound good in this moment… it takes me back and forth through a single 30 year continuity, and I can see it all so much more clearly now. Paul Kelly, the message is, THAT young Justine had a lot of bad karma to create, she had a lot of anger and confusion to work through, and she had a lot of life, adventures, dreams, breakdowns, blood and gore, drawings, friends, drinking, surprises and a life of barefoot ecstasies ahead of her. Though that little Justine eventually conquered most of her fears and accomplished all her dreams, not a damn one of them turned out the way she’d expected.

Not a damn one!

It was perverse how not a bit of anything came out anything like she’d thought it would, but it was always far more crappy and far more sensational than any of her fantasies about how everything would turn out. Did I think one day I’d be performing Carter Music songs before Buddhist monks in the mountains of South Korea, or the same songs in a bar full of johns and prostitutes in the Philippines?–And by the way, is “johns” capitalized in that usage? But I digress. Did I think one day I’d be talked about by Paul McCartney, running barefoot through the swamps, or bowing before Lord Shiv? No, she couldn’t have imagined a bit of it, but she had imagined changing the world with her art. Christ, how absurd!

I may not have changed the world, but I’ve done alright in mine. Paul Kelly’s done alright too.

Here and now “Darling It Hurts” is snarling through the speakers, heavy fucking guitar, raw and perfect. As I sat there with my feet up I felt a sudden end to all the suffering I had been allowing myself to fall into the past few weeks. It just drained down from my toes and out the top of my head to stream across the bed to the floor and out the window into the swamp. It came to me… I was still that young 21 year-old Justine, and if I could just drop the neurotic bullshit, I could be in bliss. A few weeks ago I had realized how since the physiological symptoms of stress and delighted excitement are the same, and it’s me who decides which to feel, that all I had to do was stop choosing compulsively and start choosing consciously how to feel in reaction to such sensations.

Flip the switch. Bliss!

My toes tingled as they bounced to the music, below or above them (as my feet were up, which is which?) and I sunk into that 21 year-old Justine. That which is really me was there then, is here now, and will be here later. That which never changes is all that is. I am that Justine… if I am Justine at all, which I am not, but I am having a “Barefoot Justine” experience. Not bad, someone’s gotta do it.

And you know what, young Justine, it was all worth it, the hard hard work, had knocks, hard times in Korea, the poverty, the mugging, the cancer, nearly drowning SCUBA diving in Thailand, the bankruptcy, the foreclosure, the divorce, the loss of faith and family, the disillusionment, because it all led to Shiva, and because it’s not about sitting at home with my ring on the mantlepiece, it is and was about surviving the revelation that nothing is ever like it seems. But everything is alright just as it is. I was and will always be about realization… even when I didn’t know that. I’ve been working off vasanas, conquering fears, seeing the patterns, and am ever seeking.

And that, is Shiva! That is Brahman, yeah? At the very least, it is Satvic thought, and baby I need it now.

“Baby I look so fine but I feel so low,” sings Paul Kelly as I type. Now, I’m not feeling so low.

But that’s it, I think I know now that if I had the chance to talk to young Justine, I think I’d just smile and give her a thumbs up and a wink. On your way, babe, live it out, that’s your dharma.

Would I trade places with young Justine? No, because I know what she really was looking for. I know through all the shit, the adventures, the boredom, the madness, joys and disappointment, the ecstasy, stoned or sober, she was looking for liberation!

“Listening to these stories of me,” sings Paul Kelly.

Well, Paul, let me tell you some stories of me.

Cancer Scare

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I realized today that cancer can be cured, but once you’ve had it it never goes away. not that I think about it much, for the most part I don’t, but sometimes in the dark of night, sometimes when you are suffering some new health problem… whatever the physical problem is, the real problem is always cancer. Having cancer teaches you one thing for certain, and that is that it can most definitely happen to you. Cancer isn’t just something other people suffer. Perhaps it is… but who knows who the other people are, and who knows whether or not you are one of the other people?

I have always been one of the other people. I belong to that tribe, the Tribe Of the Other People.

People die, people around me have both beaten and been taken by cancer. Once you’ve had it, cancer becomes the little devil of existential possibility in even the most unfounded and anxious worries over health. Cancer can turn an ulcer, cyst or ache into a tumor, at least in the mind, and what we think is our reality. if that ulcer is cancer, it’s cancer, and when it’s proven to be an ulcer and treated and healed… it just becomes the one that wasn’t cancer… but what about the next time? Once you’ve had cancer you know that not all of them always turn out to be ulcers, cysts or aches. Man, it’s brutal KNOWING that as an existential certainty.

No, I do not think about cancer all that much, but I had a long week and a miserable day to think about it again, and I learned a lot of things.

I looked around and learned that my life really would go on without me. Everything that was my material reality will still be going on. The sun will still be shining on all the people I love in Gainesville.

I know I am going to die. Not abstractly either, I know I am going to die. I can see it on the horizon, the only question is… who will I be when it comes for me? Will I greet death with grace or hysteria, with confidence or terror? Will I meet death at peace or in a panic? Will I meet death with a smile of contentment knowing that everything is perfect? That is my biggest fear, you know, it has changed. My biggest fear is no longer death, it is that I will not be ready to meet death with a smile, that I will not have mastered the art of dying. Will I greet death having attained Shiva?

I thought about Shiva a lot.

But I fear I failed this test. I panicked, I was not at peace. It feels like I have a lot of work to do before I will be able to stand back as the watcher and go at peace. But at least I had a plan, and I realized where I am. Panicky or not, my thoughts all turned spiritual. Whether or not I learn to die with grace, I know now that I will at least die a seeker with Shiva on her mind.

I thought a lot about Varanasi. Today, as I sat in the emergency room, I knew that I wasn’t going through it again. If it was cancer, I was going to Varanasi. I was going to let go of my body there. I saw myself on the cremation grounds well before passing. I saw myself learning to let go. I saw myself surrendering to Smashan Tara, to Shiva, to my own true SELF.

Yeah, a cancer scare is a helluva thing.

I suspect this will change me. I am hoping this has come to bring about a new clarity. I have a lot to sort through, but I know something has changed.

Perhaps what has changed is, from this point on, maybe, just maybe… the ghost of cancer has finally left me.

Still Fighting The Battle 3 of 3

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Third-Eye McCartney

Sunday morning, and Brother Shankara’s talk was on the very subject we had covered in our conversation. My heart further leapt when, during his service, Brother Shankara quoted not Lennon, not Harrison, but Paul McCartney. I knew at that moment that here was an experience I could call my home! And I do not mean that lightly. To my mind it takes a very wise person to witness the oft-overlooked and subtle wisdom that flows from Sir Paul McCartney.

“And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right
Where I belong I’m right
Where I belong.”

Again, my heart leapt when a fellow seeker in the back raised his hand to talk and asked how he was to resolve the battle in him where he goes from great engagements in his spiritual practices to fearing and thinking it was all nonsense and that he was nothing more than skin and bones here to eat, die, and rot in the material world. Needless to say we had one helluva talk in the library after the talk was over.

I feel less lonely. I feel less frightened. I feel less foolish. I feel more loved and understood… and I feel closer, again, to Lord Shiva.

Manharji and I (after the Sunday service) went to the Indian mall here in Atlanta (The Global Mall), where we had a very good, if not humble, Indian dinner, and where I had the chance to visit the Shiva Mandir and the Vinayaka (Ganesh) srhine, as well as the chance to shop through the fantastic Indian boutiques.

Then I came back to the ashram and volunteered to clean the guest house, which I did in all love, and with a great sense of gratitude.

And come Monday, I shared dinner with Brother Shankara between Arati and his “Bhagavad Gita” class. We talked for a moment more on the Beatles, and I was delighted to hear Brother Shankara, in his own words, state something I had dared not speak for fear of people just not being willing to get it. Essentially, it was the Beatles that made it possible for me to understand Eastern spirituality once I came into it. Brother Shankara agreed that they were here to do a job, that job being helping immensely in opening the West to Indian wisdom, and he felt they did their job very well. They were not merely a band, The Stones were merely a pop band, the Beatles, as Brother Shankara pointed out, manifested different Yogic principles, though, to be honest, I don’t recall exactly how he said it, but it was well thought out. With me, the Beatles got in far deeper than anything else had up until Shiva revealed himself to me.

Shortly, we dug in deeper through many of the struggles I have been having, which partly has to do with my very unconservative views of the truths of Shiva. We talked about how I came to Sanatana Dharma, and of how what finally compelled me to seek a temple was that I had a vision of Shiva after partaking in some of “Shiva’s gift,” and while having, let’s say, an ecstatic physical pleasure. This, for me, was the moment of truth, if he could handle that with real insight rather than by regurgitating some “company policy,” then I knew I could trust him with the unorthodoxed truth of my journey, and with anything else I would ever need to share with him. There is a movement in Hinduism that seems to want to sanitize Shiva, but as I understand it at this time (and perhaps further study will clarify this one way or the other), this movement seems to do the same outrageous somersaults certain Christians do to prove that Jesus did not turn water into wine, but Grape Nehi. In other words, there are a number of conservative Hindus who want to pretend that plant teachers and medicines were not part of the story of Sanatana Dharma in general or Shiva in particular, or that if they were part of the story, they have elaborate “logical” reasons that it’s OK for Shiva, but nor for us. To me, this reeks of colonialism and an unconscious submission to American moral tyranny, and people who buy into that with authority, I cannot yet entirely trust. Not all of us follow the common conservative paths. To those people, Shiva calls, after all, he kept company with dogs, demons and ghosts as well as Devas. Brother Shankara proved to be a man of insight and honesty.

Yet, I must say, as I have been reading the “Shiva Purana” I have found no textual evidence to support Shiva as a user of ganja or soma. I have read and heard numerous versions of stories where Lord Shiva does at least consume ganja, and I mean numerous stories from reliable sources, but as of yet not a single mention in the Purana. Of course the Aghori and Sadhus are known to use ganja (“Shiva’s Gift”) as a meditation aid, but there doesn’t yet appear to be much evidence for this in the scriptures. Ultimately, this begs the question… is there any such thing as a, or the, authoritative version of Shiva? That I can answer from a Puranic perspective, and the answer is that he is sportive and takes whatever form he pleases, as forms are irrelevant to the ultimate realized being, Lord Shiva.

Regardless, Brother Shankara’s warm understanding nature and nonjudgmental approach brought me to being able to trust him enough to share that there is a part of me that is intrigued by, and agrees with, the Aghori. I don’t know that the Aghoric part of me is a very large percentage, but it is large enough to complicate matters as I seek a spiritual home.

Humans are complicated, and the truths of our selves requires understanding more than hard and fast rules, and as the books of wisdom repeat, even if most people cannot see this truth, each seeker will have to find their own way, and some seekers need to walk through the forests rather than along the well-lit and fully maintained roads. I won’t go into details, let’s just say Brother Shankara handled all these topics with insight, grace, wisdom, and essentially won me over entirely in that he did not regurgitate absolutes or rush to judge me, he listened, and he understood that I was on the path I was on, and he saw me as a serious seeker even if my path would not be acceptable to many.

Everything is complicated and nothing within the constructed framework of democratically deemed ordinary reality and the ensuing ordinary points of view work, not once certain experiences and knowledge has been had and gained. “Reality,” for me, has been wholly upended. I can no longer see things in the way other people do, and most do not, can not, and will not see things as I do. This puts me on the outside with my family, but on the inside with Brother Shankara, Siva, Manharji, Swamiji, Durga and Ganesh. But this new reality exists on a level beyond the reach of language. We talked about this very topic, about how between DMT, meditation and Shiva, my concept of “reality” has been utterly shattered. When I told him how frightening this was, he nodded knowingly, saying: “Of course it’s frightening.”

And I guess that’s that. And that was all I needed to hear. He essentially helped me to feel and understand that it is perfectly natural to be frightened at this point… but in no way led me to believe that this was a bad thing, it simply is what is, and is not an uncommon experience. It’s hard enough to find your way in the world… let alone if you have seen and experienced things that bring everything we all take for granted about the world into question. Simply put, Shiva The Destroyer… has destroyed me, but, as challenging, at times frightening and overwhelming as such destruction can be, I wouldn’t have it any other way, which is good, ’cause there’s no going back now. And I would like to add that this destruction is wholly constructive, and I am willing to endure the trials.

Nope, this isn’t going to be easy, but you know what? It’s worth it, and these struggles are a lot better than lying in bed under the smothering inertia of anxiety and depression, and these struggles and this reality is a lot better than hanging around talking about Duck Dynasty.

By the end of the week, on the very day that I was headed home, I made one last stop at the Hindu Temple Of Atlanta. I was satisfied with all I had learned, and with all the new people and places in my life, but I felt bothered that there still seemed to be some Asuras lurking in my shadows. I had not had that release, that mother-of-all blissful experiences that so often had come to me on temple visits. I resigned myself to the wisdom of having to accept that though that hadn’t happened, I had learned and gained a lot. But then, quite unexpectedly, as if I had finally let go of all that darkness I had carried to and through Atlanta with me, within about an hour, the inner-demons I had struggled with and shared with Brother Shankara, left me. I left the temple, got in my car clean, and drove home in peace, and today, I am still at peace.

I have found my center, and it was right where I left it, inside.

I, for one, will accept battles with depression and anxiety, but I will not feed those demons.

And, you know, for all the ups and downs, on whatever road I’ve travelled, it always comes back to that pivotal choice I was given by the fundamentalist youth minister at the suburban evangelical church of my youth, “You know… one day you’re going to have to choose between Jesus and the Beatles.”

I made my choice…

“And it really doesn’t matter if I’m wrong I’m right
Where I belong I’m right
Where I belong.”