New blog: The Last Revolution

Hey everybadah,

I wanted to let you all know that I’m stepping away from this blog for a while…(who am I kidding, I don’t need to tell you that, this blog hasn’t been updated in months) to work on a NEW blog that I’ve started called THE LAST REVOLUTION.

https://thelastrevolt.wordpress.com/

It’s about revolution, how our planet desperately needs it, and how if we don’t get it right, it’ll probably be the last revolution we ever have because there will be no more planet.

I’ll be posting articles every Tuesday, and some kind of audio/video link on Fridays.  I just posted the first article today. Check it out.

Madly yours,

The Mad Griot

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The Long Way ‘Round, Part 2

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From left to right: Free Bird, Daniel, Jake, Julia, a.ka. “Squirrel Girl”, somebody’s dog, me, and…Patrick, I think his name is?

Getting to Heber City would be no problem. It was the 20 + miles from there to Uinitas National Park that was worrying me. It was going to be hot, and I wasn’t sure if it made more sense to try to hitchhike or just hoof it.

I prayed about it, and the spirits told me that a ride was already being prepared for me, and that I needed to relax.

Once I got off the bus, I went to a dollar store to try to buy some extra water for my long hike.  An elderly woman parked in front of a pet food store called out to me and told me the dollar store was closed, and then asked if I was headed to the Rainbow Gathering. After we talked a bit, she said she’d like to give me a ride, but she couldn’t afford to use the gas. I told her I’d give her what money I had left (turned out to be $8) if that would cover the gas to get me up there. She said yes, and the next thing you know we were driving up to the Rainbow Gathering site.

She told me her name was Yvonne Divine; she was a Native American who had converted to Mornonism, and she told me a bunch of stories from her life – my favorite had to be about how when she was a little girl, she “rescued” two mountain lion cubs from a cave and brought them back to her house, only to be followed later by the mama mountain lion. Luckily no one was hurt, and the cubs were returned to their mother safe and sound.

After Ms. Divine dropped me off at the park, I found myself wandering through the bizarre world that is the Rainbow Gathering; the best way I can describe it is  if a bunch of hippies from all around the world decided to form their own country. People kept greeting me on the road saying to me, “Welcome home, brother,” and offering me hugs and drugs. I actually came across a “Hippie Roadblock” at which I was required to “Joke, Toke, or Smoke.”  I’ll let you guess which one I chose.

I finally found Daniel Suelo and Jake (another member of the moneyless tribe) later in the evening around dinner time – by that time, they’d been joined by an eccentric fellow named Daniel Divine who, among other things, said he was Alexander the Great’s court jester in a past life. Honestly, out of all the things he said during our week together, I found this claim to be the most believable.

The next day, I met Stephanie and Free Bird, and that, for the most part, was our group.  We spent our days sampling dishes  cooked by the various Rainbow kitchens, meeting and talking with random folks,  holding workshops of our own (hosted by Daniel) about moneyless living and gift economy, having dinner at the Main Circle, and spending our evenings either at drum circles or huddled around fires. It was a week of firsts for me: the first time I started walking around barefoot, the first time I wiped my ass with a rock, and the first time I ate live ants.

When it was all over, the moneyless tribe split ways: Steph and Free Bird went to California, Jake to Salt Lake City, leaving just Daniel and I. We hitched a ride back to Moab and within a couple days, I found myself in the cave I’d read so much about over the past year.

And that’s where I’ve been for nearly three months now.

We’ve been joined by others during these three months – some have stayed, some have left. There’s four of us right now (officially): Jake, who came back from Salt Lake, and Julia, who joined us a week after the Rainbow Gathering and has been with us ever since.  I’ll write about the others a little later.

And so what of my pilgrimage? What of the spirits? What of my quest for the Axis Mundi?

I still feel drawn to Mt. Shasta.  Whether it’s my ultimate destination or not, I feel drawn to it.  There’s a possibility that we’ll make for Shasta in the spring.  For now, it seems like I’m supposed to hunker down in Moab for the fall and winter with the moneyless tribe.  In this world – in this Middle-Earth that’s forgotten that it’s Middle-Earth – they’re the closest thing I have to a Fellowship of the Ring.  We’re still gathering companions, so in the meantime, I need to face whatever challenges need to be faced here in preparing for the winter,  learn as much as I can about the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and learn to walk with and communicate with the spirits more often and more readily., so that when the time comes to set off on the road again, I’ll be ready.

I also feel the urge to make a new mask.

And as I lie in my sleeping bag at night, reviewing all the paths I’ve tried to take and all the lives I could have lived, I know, for the time being, that all roads lead to this road. To the One Road.

To the Road that will eventually lead me to the Axis Mundi and beyond.

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The Long Way Round, Part 1

When I first started my pilgrimage trek/faith walk/walkabout, maintaining this blog was easy because I was alone all the time. The blog gave me something to do.

But once I arrived in Petaluma and then Sebastopol and then joined up with Daniel Suelo and the moneyless tribe in Utah, I started becoming a part of communities. And then life sorta just took over.

I had this idea that I’d give you all these ultra-detailed accounts of my journey, that it would read like a memoir or a novel or something like that. But so much time has passed, and now that I find myself with time to write about it, putting things down in that kind of detail doesn’t really interest me. And I’m realizing that if it doesn’t interest me to write it that way, it’s probably not going to interest you to read it.

So I’m going to paint broad strokes of some of the events over the past few months, and if I can go back and fill in some detail I will. Otherwise, I’ll keep going.

It’s hard for me to write about Sebastopol. About Andrew and Carina and Emmy and Lily. About Chloe their cat and Billy Bob their dog. About their chicken coop and vegetable garden. About how Carina showed me how to find and sample wild edibles, and also led me through some deep inner work using acupuncture and gazing meditation. How Andrew, a hospice doctor, took me into a couple trance states using guided imagery, so that I could finally make some solid contact with my spirit allies. About Emmy who taught me to love in a way I never thought possible, and who stood bravely at my side as we faced off against some pretty hostile spiritual forces.  About Lily, who though I only got to know her briefly, opened her arms and her heart to me, and who gave one of the best descriptions of Shabbat I’d ever heard.

I thought I was only going to stay with them for a weekend; it ended up being two months. The Wagners treated me like family; like one of their own.  They are some of the best people I’ve ever known.

It’s hard for me to write about the friends I made there: Ilana and Patrick and Naomi. How being with them made me feel like part of a wider community. The hikes we went on together, the shenanigans we got into, the tears we all shed.

It’s hard for me to write about falling in love while I was in Sebastopol.  Falling into a deep love that made it impossible to sleep sometimes. It’s hard for me to write about that love and then the terrible heartbreak that ensued. And then finding that when my heart was good and broken, a deeper, more profound love was able to finally come out.

Sebastopol haunts my dreams and calls to me still. I hope I make it back there. There may be more details to add later. Or maybe there won’t be. I don’t know; God knows.

At the end of June, my friend Colleen offered to take me up to stay with her at her friend’s place in Tahoe.  So to Tahoe we went, into a little apartment just off the great lake itself. Colleen and I met in Guatemala when I was studying at a Kabbalistic school in San Marcos. Colleen had just finished a three-month course at that school, and we spent the majority of the weekend discussing the Kabbalah and freaking each other out with our various contemplations and realizations.  Colleen was also kind enough to gift me with an old laptop she no longer needed and a copy of the Bible called “The Scriptures” which contains the original Hebrew names of God used throughout the Old Testament.

My plan, as you know, had been to head up to Mt. Shasta, and then possibly Portland. The search for the Axis Mundi and all. But after much thought and contemplation, I decided to finally meet up with Daniel Suelo (https://sites.google.com/site/livingwithoutmoney/) and the moneyless tribe.  I’d been in contact with Daniel for about year, after my last pilgrimage walk ended. I knew I wanted to meet up with him and the tribe, but I felt it would be better to do so during the warmer months. But I’d been following his blog (http://zerocurrency.blogspot.com/) throughout the year, wrestling with the notion of giving up money myself.

In my mind, I thought, “Okay, I’ll go to Shasta, then Portland, find the Axis Mundi, then meet up with the moneyless tribe. But I started to feel a prompting in my heart to meet with the tribe first. So with my last remaining bucks, I bought a ticket for a bus going out of Reno (Colleen drove me there) to Heber City, UT – which would put me about 20 miles away from the 2014 Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes.

That’s where the moneyless tribe would be, and where I’d meet Daniel and the gang for the first time.

 

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“Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out”

So…it’s been a while.

I know, I know.  I’m always saying that.  But then again, it’s always true.

Got lots to write, got lots to tell. No time for it now.

Real quick though.  In less than an hour, I’m going to be on Moab, Utah’s community radio station KZMU.  I’ll be guest starring on Daniel Suelo’s show “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out” (Sundays 9pm to 11pm MST/DST). Suelo has lived without money for 14 years and counting. I met up with him at the Rainbow Gathering at the beginning of July and haven’t used money since then. It’s been quite an adventure.

Tonight we’ll be discussing how our religious and secular philosophies are destroying the planet.  You know. Light stuff.  When we’re not busy yapping about the end of the world, Daniel will be playing an eclectic blend of music (blues, rock, classical, indie, world, etc) for your listening enjoyment.

For listening online, go to www.kzmu.org

If that doesn’t work, try

http://www.live365.com/stations/kzmu

 

 

Back At It

Hard to believe that my last blog post was at the end of April.  So much has happened since them. Honestly, I just got overwhelmed by all the events that were occurring. So I stopped writing.  I think I was also too attached to how the writing would sound, whether I’d be doing justice to the events that occurred.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m realizing that it just doesn’t really matter how the writing sounds, just so long as it gets done.

Easy for me to say; you’re the one that’s gotta sit through this and read it.

When I last left off, I was sleeping by the side of the road in San Rafael, CA. That turned out to be a good night’s sleep. I spent the next day walking in circles before I ended up sleeping outside of a United Methodist Church.  The next morning I made for Novato, Ca, and was put up at a Presbyterian Church.  The office administrator was really nice.  She shared some food with me, and we talked a good while about the Christian path, and what it means to walk in faith.

I woke up at about 2 in the morning, and I heard a voice in my head say, “Daryl, get up, it’s time.” I knew I had about a 17-mile hike ahead of me, and it was going to be hot that day, so I definitely saw the wisdom in beginning as early as possible, but 2 AM seemed impossibly early.  Still, the voice in my head insisted, and I obeyed.

I stumbled through the dark, arms wrapped around my body, trying to stay warm, unable to see but a few feet in front of me.  This got to be pretty dangerous on the back road I was walking down, as cars couldn’t see me. I had to jump off the road several times to avoid being hit, and there were times when I saw cars coming at me, and I felt myself being hypnotized by the lights.  It doesn’t just happen to deers.

I did my best to outrun the sun, but eventually, the sun got to be high over my head, long before I reached Petaluma.  It was getting hotter and hotter, and I was growing more and more tired. I started praying, chanting, whatever I could think of to keep myself going.  Around the time that I reached Mile 12, a car pulled up beside me and the woman driving it offered me a ride.  I gladly accepted. “God told me to pick you up,” she said to me.  She turned out to be a Christian who attended the church where I’d spent the night last night – she even knew the church office administrator who I’d met!  We had a good talk during those last five miles into Petaluma.
Once I got dropped off, I decided that I needed to find somewhere to just sit. I’d been on the road for a week now and felt like I was just going from place to place – that I wasn’t really taking the time to let things digest.  I wandered over to a Kadama Buddhist Center, and as I walked in, I was immediately greeted by Elizabeth, a Buddhist initiate who offered me soup and bread.  I ended up staying the whole day, talking with Elizabeth, napping on their couch, and attending meditation class that evening.  Elizabeth invited me to sleep in a tent in her backyard, which at this point for me, was like being offered a room at the Ritz. Then I met Charles and Francine, who owned the house, where Elizabeth was staying.  They were nice enough to offer me a shower and use of the laundry machine.  Later that day, Elizabeth’s brother John came to visit, so it was now the three of us hanging out together.

I’d only planned to stay a couple days.  Then came the car accident.

We were heading back from grocery store with food for a barbeque (rolls, melons, chips, etc). We were about a minute away from the house when a 17 year old ran a stop sign and flew into the intersection.  We hit him.  Smoke billowed from underneath the hood of our car. Elizabeth had been driving, and had suffered the worst injuries – lacerations on her arms and a concussion.  “Everybody out of the car,” she yelled.  We piled out in a daze. Elizabeth lay on her back on the sidewalk, arms spread out. I knelt beside her, holding her hand, wondering why my vision was blurry. John was taking pictures of the accident on his smart phone. The 17-year old ran over to us, hysterical, wailing, “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry! It was totally my fault! Are you okay? I know CPR!” I just stared at him, unable to make sense of his words. Elizabeth kept trying to calm him down while shouting at John, “Get the watermelon and the rolls out of the car!” I’d had enough presence of mind to grab my bag of groceries, but I finally realized that my vision was blurry because I wasn’t wearing my glasses.  I ran back to the car and got them.

What was going to be a 3-day stay in Petaluma turned into 2 weeks.  Elizabeth needed lots of bed rest, and since I’d sprained my shoulder and couldn’t continue on, I stayed with John to help Elizabeth out and recover myself.  I ended up volunteering at the Kadampa Buddhist Center and found that the more I did their meditations, the more my mind went to Yeshua (Jesus). In fact, his name just erupted involuntarily from my lips. I realized that for all my talk about not wanting to follow the Christian path and needing to follow my own path (the Mad Griot path), I had a connection to  Yeshua that was undeniable. No sense in fighting it. I needed all the help I could get.

A friend of Elizabeth’s visited us after hearing about the accident, and when she learned about my pilgrimage, she sent an email blast to all her friends about me. A couple days later, I got a call from a woman named Joan who lived in Sebastopol.  She’d gotten the email and offered me a place to stay once I arrived there.

About mid-May, two weeks after arriving in Petaluma, I woke up around 5 in the morning and heard a voice in my head say, “It’s time.”

So I stared walking again.  Sebastopol bound.

No Place to Lay My Head

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04/27/14

Mill Valley, CA

It was 6 AM.  Church didn’t start until 10:30. And it was still raining.

I waited under the church’s awning for about two hours until the idea of waiting in a coffee shop finally made its way into my addled brain.

I walked into a coffee shop and breathed a loud sigh of relief.  A man looked up from this paper and stared at me in annoyance. I bought a mint tea, sat down, an defrosted.

Closer to 10:30, I went back to the church.  It had stopped raining. The moment I walked in, everyone greeted me. They saw my bag and walking stick and asked me where I was going. When I told them about the walk, they immediately invited me to a community lunch after the service.

Once the music started, I began to weep. I tried to rise to my feet, but I couldn’t. I tried to sing, but my throat was too closed up. All I could do was clasp my hands together and sob.

It was a good service. It was Earth Day, and the sermon was about how God gave the earth to human beings so that we could take care of it. The pastor had a really great sense of humor. We were constantly laughing throughout the service.

Afterwards, I went to the church lunch. They have it every fourth Sunday. It’s for the homeless and anyone else who wants to come.

This meal was prepared and served by volunteers from the church and the local high school. There were pasta noodles, lasagna, dumplings, chicken, different types of rice, roasted vegetables, salads, fruit, different kinds of sandwiches, cookies, pie, ice cream…it was a feast and it was all delicious.

People kept encouraging me to eat and take food with me for the road. I had good conversation with several members of the congregation and with a recently retired pastor. Thought about asking for a place to stay that night, but it didn’t feel right. I’d already been given so much in terms of food and a general raising of my spirit – to ask for more would have been grasping.

Leonard offered to drive from Sausalito to Mill Valley, pick me up, and then take me to Corte Madera. So after lunch, I got a ride from him and his fiance Sarah.

“So Corte Madera, huh?” said Leonard.
“Yep!” I said.
“You sure that’s as far as you want me to take you? Because it’s literally the next exit.”
“Oh. Um…”
“You want me to take you to San Rafael?”
“Um..sure!”

Once we reached San Rafael, Sarah told Leonard to find a certain street where “all the young people hang out” in hopes that I could meet someone that would let me crash with them.

“Hey, why don’t I take him to the marshes!” said Leonard.  “He could meet some of the guys down there that I know!”
“You don’t know any guys at the marshes,” said Sarah.
“Yes, I do. I know a couple.”
“But those are all homeless people. He doesn’t want to hang out with them!”
“Yeah, but he’s homeless too!”
“No, he’s not. You know what I mean.”
“I’m houseless,” I offered.
“See?” said Leonard. “He’s houseless.”
“But it’s a marsh!” said Sarah. “It’s damp and wet. He doesn’t want to sleep in a damp and wet place.”
“Yeah, that’s true,” said Leonard. “Probably a bad idea.”

Leonard offered to help me out with some bus fare, but I felt I needed to keep walking for now. They dropped me off at the library. I checked my email, tried to find a cheap dive motel (no luck) and headed out to find shelter at a church.

I’m in downtown San Rafael; lots of cops and churches with “No Trespassing” signs. I walked into a Catholic mission (tourist site) and looked at a depiction of the 14 stages of the Cross. I take note of how people tried to ease Christ’s suffering on his way to Calvary – offering him water, wiping his face, carrying the cross part of the way for him.  But none of them could save him from his ultimate fate: crucifixion.  Of course, he does rise from the dead three days later, but to get there, he had to walk the Via Dolorosa.

I made my way to an Episcopal church and saw a bluebird on a gate near the entrance. I smiled. The official bird of my pilgrimage, a sign of hope and happiness.

The door to the church was unlocked. I walked into a huge waiting area, saw a set of stairs and a comfy couch.

“Hello?” I yelled.  No response.

I walked around the building. There was no one there. I sat on the couch, not sure what to do. Was this Providence?  A free place to crash? I prayed, but the only response I got was to rest.

I so sat there. Waiting. Resting. Hoping someone would show up.

After waiting about ten minutes, I decided I wasn’t comfortable being there without having permission.  Sleeping outside a church is one thing. Sleeping inside it without the go-ahead is something else.

I called the church to see if I could get a contact number from the office voicemail. I lucked out and got the pastor’s number.

“Hello?”
“Hi, is this the pastor?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
“My name is Daryl. I’m on a faith walk. I started in San Francisco and am on my way to Mt. Shasta. I was looking for sanctuary tonight, as I haven’t slept in a while and am pretty tired. But I saw that your church is totally unlocked, and I didn’t feel right about resting here or being inside without calling you first.”

Silence. Then…

Well, thank you, Daryl. That was very responsible of you to call me.”
“You’re welcome,” I said.
And then the call was disconnected.

I stared at my phone. Did he just hang up on me?

No. He wouldn’t do that. There’s no way he’d do that.

I tried calling him back. Busy signal. I tried him again. He answered this time.

“Hi,” I said. “We got disconnected and I wasn’t sure if it was by accident or if you were just done with the conversation.” (I said it much more politely than how it reads on paper/a computer screen)

“So Daryl,” he said, “Was the door WIDE OPEN?”
“Nope,” I said, “It was just unlocked.”
“That’s strange,” he said. “I was the last one there and I’m usually good about locking up. In any case, thank you for calling. As far as staying overnight though, that’s just not possible. We have pre-school here in the morning, and we just can’t have someone sleeping here overnight.”
“I see,” I said.
“Have you tried looking at shelters?” He started to list some.
“You know,” I said, “I based this walk on Matthew 6:33, and I only want to receive aid which is freely given. I make an exception when it comes to churches, because their stated mission is to help the weary. I have nothing against shelters. I believe they provide a necessary and valuable resource to people who need places to sleep, but the one time I went to one to try to find a bed, there was a sort of cold, ruthless efficiency to it all. I didn’t like it. I don’t want to receive help from someone because they’re being paid to help me. I want to receive help from people who feel a true motivation from their heart.”
“I understand,” he said, “and I wish we could accommodate a pilgrim as earnest as yourself, but with the kind of world we live in today, it’s just not possible. You’re more than welcome to stay for a while; there’s a retreat that’s happening at the church later, and I told the folks running it that you would be there for a bit. But you can’t stay the night.”

After we hung up, I sat back down on the couch and began to cry. I couldn’t believe it. It seemed so unfair. It wasn’t so much being told, “No.” It was the blanket, impersonal mistrust that went along with it.

“Why, God?” I prayed. “Why? I just want to sleep. Why can’t anyone trust me?” I felt the spirits wrap their arms around me, comforting me, lending me their strength and love.

I decided that this whole debacle had been a test of my integrity.  If I had just slept there without warning anyone – especially the people already on their way – the consequences might have been disastrous.

I was going to have to get used to this kind of mistrust, even if it was undeserved.

I looked at my map and saw that there was a cemetery in north San Rafael. I heard that Peace Pilgrim used to sleep in cemeteries. She said they were very peaceful.

That’s what I’d do. I’d sleep in a cemetery.

I was no longer sad. Now I was angry. But my anger fueled my determination to continue. I made use of the bathroom, washing my face and some clothes, putting on some deodorant, and brushing my teeth.  As I laced up my boots, I looked at myself in the mirror.  It’d been a bad night, but I didn’t look too worse for wear. I’d be okay. I put on my hat and smiled at myself.

You’re the Mad Griot, remember?

I left the church right as the retreat people arrived.  They were on the phone with the pastor, and when I told them who I was, they informed the pastor that I was leaving now.

On my way to the cemetery, I passed a Thai-Laos Christian congregation. At this point, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Everyone was really friendly; they were finishing up dinner, so they offered me fish, rice, and vegetables. They called the pastor who ran the space to see if I could sleep there, but I was denied because people have vandalized the place in the past. I was disappointed, but was still very grateful for the food and fellowship.  One of the men I was talking with asked me if I had a Bible.  I said, “No,” and within minutes, they presented me with a small one called “The Backpacker’s Bible”, which was kind of perfect.

A couple of kids asked why I was walking. I considered my answer, and then said, “I’m seeking the kingdom of God.”
“How does walking help with that?” one of them asked.
“Well, I meet people and have experiences – some good, some challenging – and each interaction I have teaches me a little bit more about how to be in the kingdom. What the kingdom really means.”
Silence. Then one of them said, “So basically you’re like a modern-day Jonah.”
The guy I was sitting with and I exchanged looks, then stared back at the kid.
“What?” I said.
“I said that you’re basically like a modern-day Jonah.”
“Why Jonah in particular?” I said.
The kid just shrugged.
“I hope I’m not Jonah,” I said. “I don’t want to get swallowed by a whale. But I guess we’re all called to have the faith of Jonah, right?”
The kid nodded and ran off.

I kept heading north, passed two churches, but decided to keep walking.

A guy on a bike asked me how I was doing and if I needed any money.  I was really touched.  Honestly, he looked like he was in worse shape than I was, but I was biased. Maybe we looked the same. Anyways, I thanked him for his offer but told him I was all right. He smiled at me and pedaled off.

I finally reached the cemetery, but it was all locked up. No way in but to scale the fence, and I wasn’t feeling that adventurous.

I wandered around a mall complex and scoped out places to sleep. I saw two cop cars roll by me though I tried my best to remain unseen. I was sure they spotted me and would drive back around and question me. I steeled myself for a confrontation (can you tell I’m frightened by cops?). A minute passed, and I walked away, trying to stay close to buildings and out of sight.  I felt like Frodo fleeing the Ring-wraiths.

I finally came upon a ziggurat-shaped structure with trees and vegetation on every level and some weird building complex at the top. I climbed up onto the first level, found a tree and set up camp underneath it.  I didn’t bother with a tarp, because I thought it would make me more visible, so I just threw down my mattress pad and sleeping bag. I was pretty close to the road and was afraid that the sound of the cars driving by would keep me up, but I ended up sleeping without much trouble, and I woke up in the morning feeling fairly rested.

All’s well that ends well.

The Circle

04/26/14

Mill Valley, CA

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A morning view of Mt. Tam from Leonard’s boat.

The walk to Mill Valley was serene and majestic.  Rolling green hills, covered with trees.  Mount Tam off in the distance – silent, tall, and welcoming.

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Maybe I should just go to Mount Tam, I thought. Forget all about Shasta. Then this will all be over.

But it won’t be over. Even when I make it to Shasta, it won’t be over.

The road was easy. The sun was shining, and I was in good spirits. I started to sing hymns (not sure if “The Lord is Good to Me” from the Johnny Appleseed Disney movie counts as a hymn, but I sang that one). “Sweet Hour of Prayer”, “I’ll Fly Away,” and some songs in Hebrew and Arabic that I learned from the spirits.

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I entered a dog park and met a woman who was kneeling down, smelling patches of fennel.  She had a great big smile on her face. I stopped and spoke to her for a bit. She was currently living in her car, and she couldn’t have been happier about it. She told me she used to live in Alaska but left when living there became too much for her. She said that the thing about life is that no matter what obstacles come your way, you can always find a way to deal with them. There’s always a way.

Sound advice to get during the calm before the storm.

The first church I arrived at was empty, so I went to a Buddhist temple down the street.  I spoke with a woman who worked there.  We had a good conversation about Buddhism and its relationship to the question of God.

“I think Jesus and Buddha had a lot in common – except for the God thing,” I said.

“Yeah, they definitely differed there, ” she said.

“Yes, but Buddha didn’t say that God doesn’t exist. He merely remained silent when he was asked about God; he neither confirmed nor denied.”

“That is true,” she said, “but since then most Buddhists see belief in God as an obstacle to enlightenment.”

I told her I could see that, depending on what image a person holds of God. If you imagine an old man with a white beard in the sky, throwing thunderbolts at you if you tell lies or masturbate, then yeah, that could be a hindrance on your quest for enlightenment. But if you hold a panentheistic view of God, seeing God in everything but also transcending everything, that seems a little closer to what Buddha said about the nature of reality.

She seemed to agree with that. Then she told me some of the history of Buddhism in the Bay Area and why she thought Ronald Reagan ruined California and the whole country.

Eventually, I got around to asking if I could do some work for the temple in exchange for being able to crash there to avoid the rain that was to come later that night.  Things got awkward immediately.  She said that the temple certainly couldn’t accommodate me and that her own house was full of guests. I could see her mentally struggling over how to help me. I started to feel bad.

“Look,” I said. “I only asked if it’s easy.  If it’s easy, great. If not, no worries.”

She told me my best bet was to camp out in the trees near the mountain.

I cleaned my clothes at a nearby laundromat and had an interesting conversation with a woman who was reading a book in which human emotions and feelings  (anger, fear, joy, jealousy, love, suffering) were all personified. We started passing the book back and forth and reading various entries to each other. The one about fear struck me – fear was depicted as a storyteller whose stories you shouldn’t always listen to.

While I was digging through my bag, I found three stones of power that I’d brought with me. That meant I had three more objects to give away. That plus a special object to give away once I reached Mt. Shasta meant a total of seven. I gave the woman in the laundromat one of these stones. She thanked me and said that she actually had a healing practice where she worked with stones, and that she would put it to good use.

I left the laundromat, looking for the next church.  On the way there, I was passed by a police car. Twice.  I didn’t think it was a coincidence and I figured that the sooner I got out of sight, the better.

Got to the church, but it was empty.  But it had a garden area in the back, which was situated right in front of the church’s reading room (which you could see into because of the glass doors) and a wooden bridge ran overhead. A perfect shelter from the storm.

As I stood in this little garden area in front of that glass door, I got the sense that even though it was only about 5 pm, I should not leave this area for any reason until morning.  Something was rising up in me, some fear(s) that needed to be faced, and it was here that I felt that I need to make my stand.

So I sat down, I prayed. I meditated. I stood for long stretches of time. I walked back and forth, hand clasped together, murmuring softly to myself. I imagined a circle of protection around me.

Don’t leave this circle tonight!

My fears intensified. Fears of being discovered. Fear that the church I was going to the next day wouldn’t offer me shelter.  I started to rehearse what I was going to say to them, then stopped myself. This wasn’t living in the moment. This was not trusting in God to provide.

This was grasping mind.

I wanted night to come quickly, so it would be morning already.  “Come night!” I prayed. “Come, night! Come, night!”

And then the lights came on.

The lamps in the garden suddenly became luminous. The lights inside the reading room switched on as well. I froze, panicking.  Someone’s hereI thought. They’re here and they’re going to see me. My impulse was to flee, but the voice in my head said, Remain inside the circle!

But what if someone comes?

Remain inside the circle!

What if someone comes and drags me out?

Well then, obviously, if that that happens, you’ll need to leave, but until it does, remain inside the circle.

I stayed in the circle. No one came to drag me away.

I put down my sleeping bag and mat and tried to sleep, but I didn’t have much luck.

Then at about 3 AM, it started to rain.

I thought the bridge running over me would protect me but I was wrong. The rain was leaking through, forming puddles around me, landing on me and my belongings. I tried to adjust my position but was relentlessly pursued by the water.

5:30 AM rolled around, and it was still dark. I got the sense it was okay to leave the circle.  Cold, hungry, and tired, I made way to a United Methodist church for Sunday service.