Thursday, August 4, 2016

I Was Lost, and then Found! Life's Little Miracles

All my life and, indeed, one of my earliest memories, was suddenly being unable to find some object I had just had in my hand! As a small child, I still recall jumping up and down with great frustration having had some object, no doubt a toy, just "disappear" in front of me! I swore aloud that the "Devil must have taken it." (Naturally, being a good Catholic fellow, all such things were the work of the devil. When Cannery Row went up in flames on Thanksgiving Day in the 50's, a few blocks from our home in Pacific Grove, I was sure the devil had come up from the center of the earth--so great were the flames shooting high into the air and thick black smoke enveloping the town.)

I recount this story so you won't be tempted, when reading my account below, to think, "Ah, gee, the guy's gettin' old and forgetful!" (While that may, in fact, be true, it is not, by any means, the big picture here.)

Once, in my forties, Padma and I took a trip to Orcas Island. I think we gave a class on Education for Life at the Indralaya Retreat. While sitting outside and enjoying the beautiful ferry ride through the narrow San Juan straits, in and around its many islands, I had (as so many men do) taken the wallet out of my back pocket because sitting on it was uncomfortable. I placed it next to me on the bench and later just got up and walked away leaving the wallet where I had placed it. 

When I got to our hotel room at the famous and classic Rosario's Inn, I suddenly discovered I couldn't find my wallet. I called the Ferry dock (long before cell phones existed) and, sure enough, it had been reported found. They said, however, that I would need to come down to meet the next Ferry a few hours hence. Everything was there, intact--even a $100 bill that had been part of a birthday gift! 

Well, a month or so ago, we hosted visitors from the Ananda Center and Church in Palo Alto, CA. After picking them up from SeaTac on a Saturday afternoon, we stopped to visit the East West Bookshop in Roosevelt Square (corner of 12th and 65th, upper plaza). Afterwards, we sat outside at the adjacent Starbucks to enjoy a cool drink and chat some more. I had my usual blue shoulder bag with me, containing all my valuables, so to speak. In fact, let me digress....

The night before I had, for some unknown but intuitive reason, reorganized all my two-thousand credit cards and shopping cards, library card, etc. etc. etc. At the moment of completing this task, long overdue, I had the distinct thought: "I shouldn't carry all these things around with me all the time!" Well, I was in a hurry and too busy to know how to divide them all. So I simply put them all back into the shoulder bag.

Now, now you've guessed that upon leaving Starbucks I left my blue should bag right there in the open (outside seating) next to the table and chairs we had been sitting at. But, did I notice? No! I had this odd feeling a few hours later going to dinner that something was missing but amidst the chit-chat with our friends there was no time for reflection or listening to that funny feeling in my gut.

It wasn't until the next morning, Sunday morning, on the way to church, that I knew the bag was missing. There was, in my view, at least, nothing I could do. That afternoon we were scheduled to go up to Camano Island for an all afternoon gathering of core Ananda members for lunch, chanting, meditation and discussion. There wasn't a moment to do anything. It wasn't until evening that we got home. Again, nothing I could really do. In fact, I had a friend at East West check in at Starbucks but with a casual inquiry like that, well, why would I be surprised if none of the clerks knew anything about it?

Late that night I sat on the floor of my living room with my banking records in front of me ready to call all the credit card companies. Padma and I checked online: no activity anywhere: checking accounts or bank cards. She suggested that I wait until the morning and come to bed. I did just that.

By now many hours, a day and a half had passed. No phone call, nothing. Still I had this funny feeling: mostly of disbelief that I was going to have to go through this whole process related to two checkbooks and a fistful of cards, driver's license....the whole "nine yards!" Just couldn't believe it. Was I just in shock? Lazy? Frustrated? Or, was there some intuition here?

The next morning I was up early. I was NOT going to waste my time with a phone call to Starbucks during their busiest few hours. I drove back to East West and sat in Starbucks waiting for the line to thin out. But all I saw were the young and very busy clerks: oblivious to anything but waiting on customers. I was about to leave when suddenly out from the back (a door I hadn't noticed) came a woman of "authority!" Right away I knew SHE was the one to ask. But, she was in a hurry to get out of there. I hesitated, and then stepped in her path. "Sorry to bother you, but ...... " Right away before I could finish my sentence, she said, "Oh yeah, I was about to call East West about the blue bag." 

Puzzled, I asked, "Why East West?" She said I saw all the Ananda stuff and figured East West was the best bet! I said, "Well, you're in a hurry or I'd kiss your feet!" Needless to say, I bought an expensive hot coffee drink and sipped it contentedly all the way home in the car to join my friends at breakfast!

All my life I have found that I need to clasp my car keys to my pants (through a belt loop); clip my cell phone to my belt and hang on to that wallet....I've tried everything: shoulder pouch under my shirt; a tiny wallet with a leather or metal clasp.............let's not even talk about my glasses!!!! Maybe I just move too fast and clearly don't pay sufficient attention to putting things down. I am hardly alone in this.

On a trip to India with my daughter Gita (we did the pilgrimage known as the "Char Dham," visiting the holy headwaters in the Himalaya of the Ganges and other holy rivers), we were leaving the Himalayas driving downstream along the Ganges. We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant. There again, hung on the chair, I had again left my small day pack with everything I own in it! When I discovered it many miles downstream as we were racing to the Dehra Dun airport for a flight to Calcutta, our guide uses his cell phone to call the restaurant. He finds a cab driver to get the bag and drive in our direction as we drive back toward him: in hopes we'd see each other! OMG! Well, we did  see each other, and I got everything, and I mean everything (cash included) back!

Not sure when my "good" karma will run out but I try my best to stay present with my "things!"

My sense is not so much of "Thank God" for such favors, it is, rather, the quiet, calm, knowing smile that, though I do my best, somehow, at least for now, Divine Mother makes "good," as Krishna puts in the Bhagavad Gita, "my deficiencies." For me the blessing isn't a material one, it is that sense of divine play; the sense that the world we inhabit is far more than we think it is; that "magic" (divine magic) exists for those with eyes to see and ears to hear. It is the playful sense of God's presence in even the littlest of things.

Joy to you!

Swami Hrimananda