For me, as the years advance sailing on life’s river seems to have become ever more smooth. I don’t think it has anything to do with me really. I just can’t escape the notion that we’ve passed through some dark times in recent years and that an inevitable new dawn is seeping through the veneer of everyday life. That’s just my take on it. Starting out as a spiritual seeker was quite a trying time. The changes I went through in that initial stage were often sudden and rapid. The people around me hardly had time to adjust, but I had become a different person practically overnight. Or had I? There is a famous Zen saying that says that before you study Zen mountains are mountains and oceans are oceans, while studying Zen you realize that mountains are not mountains and oceans are not oceans, but when you complete the study (attaining enlightenment) mountains are mountains again and oceans are oceans. – I find that very beautiful. We change, but at the same time we remain the same. My values, my view of the world and my role in it, that all changed when I accepted the spiritual life. But I’ve never felt that the real me, that core truth in me which I carry with me since my birth, has ever changed. Like Nayak writes in his post on the “Sri Chinmoy Inspiration Group” on Yahoo, I also still feel the same twenty year old boy when I look in the mirror. (Although for me the memory perhaps is fresher.)
Studying acting didn’t really make things much easier. The theatre is a world that also plays with consciousness, but it’s not necessarily the same game I was learning at the time. In a miniature version of that Zen koan I also had to realize that the world I lived in, in the end, was still my world. But there was definitely a period when my inner and outer lives clashed and I was caught in the midst of the collision. That lasted perhaps a few months. Then the two pictures overlapped again as I finally got things sorted out within.
Social acceptance has never really been a problem. Like Tejvan from England I have mainly experienced sincere interest and respect. I did go through the short, frantic phase where you wonder why everyone else cannot see that beautiful light even when you’re repeatedly telling them about it, but fortunately I quickly mended my ways and learned to be quiet when I had to. Still people came with questions, but by then I had learned to differentiate between mere curiosity or politeness and sincere interest. When the latter was in play, speaking about my inner life became a revelation, a blessing and a joy. In the acting school some of my classmates were quite interested and we had a few spiritual conversations that I still remember with fondness. To the others I was perhaps a bit different, and there were times when the opposites were sharply emphasized, but underneath I always felt loved for who I was. Mountains became mountains again.
It’s fun being a little different sometimes. Not in a vainglorious way, but because it can create valuable moments. This past weekend I went on a training weekend with people from my running club and we spent two days together in a hotel. In between training, eating and sleeping (and for me, meditating) there was ample time to talk and play games. Although I still go by my old name there, they also know that I have a spiritual name. While playing a board game in the evening some athletes asked me about the name, what it meant and why I have it. I said the name represents my soul’s quality. As soon as I mentioned the word ‘soul’ a person sitting across the table from me grew wide-eyed and said ‘Oh, I feel a lot of questions coming. Can I ask you some other time?’ And I felt that little ant Nayak spoke about in his post, the stirrings of the soul. The moment passed again and although it was short it was somehow very precious. A little awakening occurred. I love these little miracles. They make all the temporary challenges worth facing. – Abhinabha