Years and years ago in the 1970's, in the S.F. Bay area where all sorts of religions and cults were recruiting members and believers. Psychics and occultists ruled the radio talkshows and the lecture circuit. I was tempted to join Scientologists and Krishna consciousness groups. I thought that maybe they could help me to forget my past and launch me into a new arcane world of spiritual exploration...an LSD trip without the acid, so to speak. The trouble was, for me, the Scientologists, Krishna Kids, Moonies, etc. seemed to be ubiquitous, especially in airport terminals. In other words, they weren't arcane enough for my exotic imagination, hungering for a true escape from reality.
Then, I was introduced to Zen. Here was something that seemed very secretive and very arcane. Priests and monks and nuns and zendos plus rites of initiation. Initiates wearing really cool robes, making a real difference in the peace and human rights movements. I was hooked.
What was ironic, though, was that I had to encounter the reality of myself and the truth of what was taking place in real time in the real world. I realized that this was the opposite of what I thought I had wanted to do with religion and belief systems. I wanted to explore past lives, communicate with deceased historical figures (dead pharoes and Egyptian priests would have been extra cool). A UFO encounter would have been the best. I was already committed to this Zen idea though, my pride wouldn't let me back out...especially since I'd been talking it up to my friends and family. The reality path did win out in the long run. I found through Buddhist meditation, the present moment is all we have. All the other belief systems I'd earlier considered, were just that. Belief Systems. The meditations awakened a hunger for truth and gave a distaste for illusion and delusion. Most of all, the meditations helped to guide me to more of a sense of mindfulness.
I have far to travel on this path, but I am now mindful that it is the right path. It still seems amazing that in my efforts to escape reality and to explore the most arcane subjects, that I did indeed discover the most arcane subject...and that I have no desire to escape reality again. This very moment in this very life is the trippiest thing that could ever be for me.
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