My wife returned from the recreation center with a solution to my problem. The ladies at the recreation center were like an all-knowing Jedi council. They didn’t gather just to improve their strength and flexibility—no, they gathered to find out and share the latest happenings around town. There was seemingly nothing they didn’t know. I would hear of some shocking event that happened with a prominent member of our town and breathlessly tell me wife about it. She would listen and say, “Yeah, that happened last week” as she yawned and went back to her downward dog. Occasionally, my wife would grace me with some of the group’s omniscient power that pertained to my life. This was one of those moments.
It just so happened that there was a man that lived in the area who could possibly help me. His story seemed shrouded in legend, but what I was able to glean was that he had, only a few years previous, been in a very similar situation to me. He had been stressed out, angry, and trapped in a bad lease with a dishonest landlord. Now, he appeared to be well off financially. (My finances were a mess.) He was in good health. (I had just gotten out of the hospital because of my bad health.) And he was knowledgeable about meditation and eastern philosophies. (I had been curious to learn meditation.)
Somehow, this man already knew about me, and my recent misadventures. He gave my wife his phone number and said I could call “when I was ready.” I didn’t really want to call a stranger and tell him my problems, but I was curious to meet this mysterious man and I did want to learn to meditate. I was in such a bad place, that I was willing to try anything that might bring peace and meaning back into my life.
After a few days of hesitation, I locked myself in the bathroom and called him. I don’t remember much of the conversation except that he said it was up to me if I wanted to keep suffering or not. We arranged a time and decided that his house would be the best place to meet. I scribbled his address down on a scrap of paper.
When the day arrived—it was a Saturday morning—I got in my car and headed out to find this man’s house. I felt like I was on my way to meet Yoda on his swamp planet or to meet Morpheus and have to choose which color pill to take. I was surprised when the address led me to a subdivision with modest sized houses, children playing in the streets, and people mowing their lawns. I double-checked the address as I pulled up in front of a house. It was in the middle of the block, and looked no different from the rest of the homes. As I walked to the porch and stood there looking at the doorbell, I felt stupid. This was just some guy living in a subdivision that didn’t know me—and I was here to get council from him. He had told me on the phone that I didn’t have to believe everything he told me and that if I wanted to tell him to “Go to hell” that he would be fine with that. I imagined him with long hair pulled back into a ponytail and wondered if he would be sporting some kind of guru robe or something.
I suddenly realized that I had been standing there for a long time and that the neighbors might be wondering what I was doing or worse he might be watching me through the window. I decided to push the button.
It took a few minutes before the door opened and there he was—a normal looking guy with short hair, wearing normal clothes. In fact, I was pretty sure I had seen him around town before. He welcomed me in and showed me to the front room. There was a TV and a sectional, a couple of plants, and a view of a regular looking kitchen. He said I could lie down if I wanted to—it was up to me. I sat down. I sat in the far corner of the sectional and he sat across from me. He shared some of his life and I shared some of mine. As I described my problems, frustrations, and doubts, he seemed pleased. We talked about how we talk about things and we thought about how we think about things. I was there for three hours, and it seemed like one. I could have stayed longer.
In the end, he told me that I was “very Buddhist”. He seemed to think that was a good thing—I wasn’t so sure. I got in my car and only drove about a block before I pulled over and wrote down everything I could remember from our conversation. In another post I will focus more on the details of that conversation. Just know that I left with very mixed feelings——I felt a hatred for the man for helping me further question the beliefs that I was already questioning, but also a feeling of gratitude and respect for making me think about things in a way that I had never thought of. It was really quite surreal and I still have mixed feelings about it.
One thing is for sure: it led me to several books and a period of contemplation that has made me a stronger and a more peaceful person. I feel as though I was released from all of my beliefs so that I could analyze each piece from all sides and then embrace anew each truth and discard any fear and lies that were poisoning me. I may be “very Buddhist” but my Buddhist ways have made me a stronger Christian. I feel closer to God than I have in years. I have wiped away the corrosion and embraced the truth of who I am. I now more fully understand why I understand and believe why I believe.
I don’t know that I would recommend it to anyone, but… perhaps… if the wise women of your recreation center deem it necessary for you to have a turn on the sectional of your local suburban guru. You might consider it.
Just don’t lie down.