Sometime at about the age of 11, on a warm summer day in my neighborhood in southeast rural Michigan, I experienced what some have termed a virtual demolition of my sense of self. I was told by one of my neighborhood “friends” that I was not who I thought I was, my parents were not my real parents and not only have I been lied to but I was a nothing since I had no “real” (like what he had) parents or family. Crushed, hurt and traumatized by the possibility of what he said could be true, I immediately went to my 75 year old grandmother WHO ALWAYS TOLD ME THE TRUTH, and she could only say, “It’s time we have a family talk at dinnertime.”
That evening was the most painful experience in my conscious memory up to that point. As my parents finally confessed that I WAS adopted and they only knew bare tidbits about from whence I came, I felt an anger and a hurt that was off the charts in magnitude. With all trust-broken and my sense of self identity-broken, and amidst this rubble of a pretend story I had been living, the primal urge came to first leave and never come back and then to commit myself to finding the answer to what seemed obvious the day before, “Well, then who am I”? I ran away to a place of refuge in the hills and fields a couple of miles from home with my faithful black Retriever dog companion. Sleep was impossible, eating was impossible and the sense of despair and loss seemed insurmountable. In the faint hour just before sunset, laying in the high grass and reaching out to Something, anything, to assuage this sense of crushed self, a I kept repeating over and over the question ad infinitum, “So Who am I. Dear God, if there is a God Who am I? Without warning or expectation, a Voice welled up from somewhere inside that CLEARLY said, “You have always been, you are now and you will continue to be.” It was the most truthful thing that I ever heard. It resonated with a sense of reality I had never felt before. Maybe it was an angel, maybe the Voice of God, maybe it was just the Real me that had been made raw and exposed after the phony me was obliterated. It didn’t matter. The Truth of that statement was what seemed critical to bring a new world in view.
That was roughly 1959 and it took until 1982 when my wife, Jane, finally introduced me to Swami Aseshananda (I had heard of him in roughly 1971 but I was not ready to meet him then) when he asked me to come to lectures and Upanishads class. He also asked me to read the four yogas by Swami Vivekananda and it was then that the faintness of the spurious self and the indestructibility of the Real Self came into focus. I heard for the first time in my life more than an echo but actually a direct voice mirroring what I heard 23 years earlier in the fields of Michigan. I had come home…there was no place other than this for me…and the latent, potential attraction for “Eastern Wisdom” came to roost at the Portland Vedanta Society and at the feet of Swami Aseshananda. His kindness, infinite patience, deep understanding, and unconditional love sealed the deal. A child knows his Real Mother and the Mother know Her real child. What greater attraction could there be than that? I was initiated on Shodasi Puja day, 1983 by Swami Aseshananda
Getting a sense of Real family, Real identity, and True living on all levels impacts every aspect of one’s life. The wife ceases to be just the wife…she is a spiritual co-pilgrim and Divine Mother in another form. The child ceases to be a biological offspring…he/she is your Real Self in another form and you serve (seva) That. The people you serve at work cease to be clients…they are the Infinite Spirit giving you the privilege to offer something you may share. Even the adopted parents that deceived you on one level was the Lord Him/Herself giving you the opportunity to dive deeper into yourself to speed up the spiritual journey and renounce your fake view of superficial reality. Everything changes, twists, reconfigures around a new paradigm and the old one falls off like a worn out sweater. In short, once your view of your Self as Spirit gets connected and identified with the “Who am I?” it takes hold and dominates every relationship and every view and aspect of the world as it subsequently changes. But the spurious self dies a slow and painful death. It didn’t completely die in 1958…if it were so easy, so much running around testing the Truth would not have been necessary. With the grace of the Mother, with the protection of the Father, life’s painful lessons when one puts on certain masks and then rediscovers their frailty and how insubstantial they are, and it gets less painful. Through Mothers grace all this has happened and through Her grace I continue to learn on a daily basis.