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Encinitas. This sleepy little sea town near San Diego housed the Self-Realization Fellowship ashram founded by the late great Paramahamsa Yogananda....
My Dad had this nasty rectal cancer and he refused to have the needed operation, so I took him to here to this holy place so that he could quiet his mind and think through this vicious dilemma now facing him. It was a new kind of thing for my workaholic Dad. To just sit still and do nothing. To go deeply inside and find out what was really wrong.
The fellowship had nice, quiet, simple rooms and there were daily meals as well as intriguing sermons. We also visited Yogananda's powerful bedroom where he wrote The Autobiography of a Yogi.
The dreamy beach cliffs and punchy ocean spray were right next door and these physical settings could not have been more dramatic, really.
I felt strong protective energies here....
It would be the start of this long, unfolding relationship not only with Paramahansa Yogananda, but also with his visionary lineage starting with the mysterious Maha-avatar, Babaji and then on down to Yogananda's personal gurus Sri Yukteswar and Lahiri Mahasaya....
There was persistent talk about this luminous thing called Kriya Yoga. But what was it, really?
At the time I was not quite sure. But it seemed to have something to do with meditation and certain mind energies that could suddenly be released....
My Dad was afraid and confused about his looming future struggles...
....and I was now studying technical analysis for all kinds of financial markets and I was juggling many crazy, crazy balls and not handling these new challenges particularly well either.
I asked the elusive Babaji for some badly needed help, but wasn't quite sure how to go about doing this, really.
A long, difficult journey was now beginning and I had no clue just how hard it would ultimately get.
San Bernardino 1987:
After the ashram retreat, I drove into the southern Califronia desert. My anxious step-mother was outraged by my Dad's outing to Yogananda's ashram and it was really good to get clear of her....
I decided to go see Brugh Joy. A holistic doctor interested in subtle energies. Perhaps he would give me some clear advice....
I was out near San Bernardino in the hot desert with a group listening to Brugh's talk. It was just what I needed. A regular doctor dropping his old views to look at the deeper reasons of physical illness which were always mental, emotional and karmic....
We had these subtle bodies that extended outward beyong our physical body and also these whirling psychic centers called chakras and it was there where illness first really started...my Mom had been a conventional doctor and did not study this stuff, but my Dad had always been interested in psychic phenomena...he was an avid follower of Edgar Cayce, the great American psychic, you see.
Brugh made us listen to loud music and he also skillfully analyzed our dreams. Dreams held deep and symbolic information about ourselves and you needed to probe them carefully.
We fasted and I spent quite some time in the bathtub reading and pondering the dilemma about having this undisciplined mind.
I had a private session with Brugh and he told me my Dad had to operate now without delay. Healing himself with his mind would be far too difficult an endeavor for him. He lacked the necessary faith and concentration....
I countered that my Dad's illness was the bumpy start of a spiritual journey for him. Brugh swiftly countered that whatever my Dad decided to do would soon force him to marshall all the available energies that he had and then some.
The hot desert air blew into my frustrated face as I quietly pondered my diminishing options.
I sent a short letter to my Dad pleading with him to quickly do surgery before it was too late...
I had made my views clear to him.
I could do no more....
I was listening to Suzzane Vega's whiskey voice belting out these provocative and thoughtful songs as I sped through the smoky desert and up towards pristine Sonoma county in the northern Bay Area.
It was time to plunge into my second Vipassana retreat. It was time for a little more intense psychic excavation.
This time the teacher was S.N. Goenka, a tough Burmese Indian who found Vipassana the hard way. He had been in serious mental and emotional danger. A big tent city was erected in an open field and for ten days this tough psychic bootcamp dominated my anxious life.
We started with Anapana. We paid close attention to the triangle that made up our nose and nostrils and as time went by our concentration sharpened as we restricted the range of our focus to only the soft air coming in and out of our warm nostrils.
By the third day this sharp concentration was then unleashed as we swept our entire bodies with our very intense sharp minds.
Soon you would start to hit the samskaras or psychic tendencies embedded in your body on a cellular level. These tough blocks were highlighted by serious physical pain.
That's when powerful emotions started getting released. Small tiny chunks and then massively huge torrents. I quickly realized I was now undergoing this tremendous psychic surgery.
The road to sainthood was based on skillful psychic waste mangement and the Buddhists had created a powerful and precise science out of it.
Soon the entire tent city became this psychic battlefield as people started getting hyper-sensitive and vulnerable.
The annoying mental tape recorders and movies projectors were now coming out. Also all these chatty and persistent mind radios. People were in danger of having bloody mind collisions, but they also had the glorious privilege of seeing these deeply grooved emotional patterns for the very first time.
No walking was allowed like in Utah. It was just difficult sitting. You had to sit with noble determination which meant that you couldn't move a single muscle....
I started to see that my ancestors had programmed me for this eternal struggle....did I really want this tedious drama?
We ate only one full meal a day and Goenka would give evening lectures and then audiences in the afternoon which did not go well with me. I was challenging his authority. I didn't like being told what to do, really.
What can I say?
People were also becoming severely spaced out. I kept a private journal and even took a few photos despite the strict regulations. To me, this was too important an event to not document.
The deeper you went into those pesky samskaras the more you had glimpses of the Bhavanga state where you saw your own subatomic structure and the ghostly impermanence of all physical reality.
This powerful illusion kept us going, but seeing this grand illusion gave death much more meaning to me at this crucial stage of my life. Death meant only a slight reprieve from coming back for another round of those trying samskaras.
The mind surgery ended with a soft balm for our still healing mind wounds. We did a metta meditation and sent loving-kindness to all struggling beings in all realms of this tedious existence. Even to people we were indifferent to....and to people we hated intensely.
This powerful practice told me that climbing up the chakra mountain was no easy feat....
El Toro 1987:
The meaningless gloom and anxiety over my Dad's accelerating medical crisis continued unabated. He was sneaking over the big sprawling border for dubious treatments in the sleazy Mexican clinics even as the American doctors were screaming at him that he was running out of precious time.
It was at this mad moment that I finally met Sunyata Saraswati. He was my first real Tantric teacher. I drove through the smoggy congested freeways of conservative Orange County to El Torro to meet this secretive guy.
Now I knew a lot about tantra in theory after reading quite a few interesting books, but I had as yet no real practical experience.
Tantra was very different from Vipassana. Tantra allowed the bold practioner to harness the subtle energies found inside one's physical and subtle bodies.
Indeed, Sunyata showed how they were closely linked. The nadis or subtle capillaries where the eternal prana flowed were directly connected to various physical glands inside the body. These holy glands secreted critical chemicals that influenced our mental and physical health in truly profound ways.
Tapping these gross and subtle energies allowed one to develop turbocharged siddhis, strong psychic powers, that were useful in staving off illness and also circulating sexual energies with one's tantric partner to make sex a more profound psychic experience.
Sunyata's plump female consort greeted me at the door to their small apartment and told me to wait a few minutes. Sunyata was a queer nomad who kept moving from one city to another and it was often pretty hard to keep up with him.
Sunyata's books and videos clearly showed why it was critical not ot come to climax too early and to instead furiously pump the subtle energies up the sacred chakra ladder mutually with your consort through the breath.
This was pretty crucial.
Indeed the breath was the eternal key. It was the critical link between the mind and the body. In order to start this secret practise you needed quick initiation into the Cobra Breath.
I can't talk about this too much, but it was through the powerful Cobra Breath that I established my link with not only Sunyata, but also his entire lineage. It was kind of like plugging into the guru powerline with his sacred permission and thus with their compassionate protection.
When Sunyata came out to greet me he told me not to discuss this secret ritual with anyone, not to leak precious energy and dissipate my firm flow. I understood intuitively what he meant by this. I then got completely blasted. Sunyata quietly touched my warm forehead and I saw a dazzling white cobra inside my shocked mind's eye. I was a bit freaked-out for a moment, but got over it quickly.
I was now a budding tantric apprentice, but with a jazzy teacher who was not fully realized yet and whom it was hard to keep tabs with, but I also saw the familiar picture of Babaji in Sunyata's living-room and I was immensely relieved by that.
I was going to be really OK, no matter what happened.
During this crazy time. My market research was accelerating. I had long ago dumped my full-service broker and moved to a discount one. I slowly realized that most brokers were just mindless churners who understood basically nothing about financial markets and who lived off their hapless clients who knew even less.
I abandoned trading mutal funds which were pretty boring to me and soon started playing with obscure penny stocks instead. But I was still not fully in the know about technical analysis. So I hired a psychic who chose for me from a list of stocks I provided her what stocks she felt were really hot.
I settled on an unknown company in Texas that dealt in drill-bits for the oil industry. I swiftly ordered my broker to throw everything I had into this company. The next day it took off like a hot rocket and I quickly doubled my money in less than three short days. I was now playing with six figures.
But something was disturbingly wrong. The roaring bull market as a whole seemed to be sliding now and I didn't fully understand why. I was studying Elliot Wave theory intensely and decided to fly off to Atlanta to be at the feet of Robert Prechter who had resurrected and popularized the forgotten works of R.N Elliot. Prechter, you see was now the glowing poster boy for the Reagan bull market of the roaring eighties.
I didn't understand Elliot fully, but I immediately saw that it was some kind of fractal system. Fractals were basically these geometric squiggles that repeated themselves over and over again in these infinite combinations even though the basic building blocks were quite few....
Was this the DNA of markets, I asked myself? I was determined to find out.
Just before my flight to Atlanta I had a queasy dream in which I saw a raging river bursting forth towards me with a voice warning me to get out. I woke up startled and shaking and was not clear about what this dream could really mean.
But almost like a marching sleepwalker I closed all my market positions on the morning of my anxious flight to Atlanta. I was losing already quite a bit of money.
So the very Friday I touched down at Atlanta's busy Hatfield airport, I was already out of my positions even as the market proceeded to collapse over a hundred and fifty points. This was truly a bad omen. This kind of one day drop was really historic.
But I had no clue that even worse things were just around the corner.
San Francisco 1987:
Prechter had been flying very high and now his moment of gritty truth had arrived. He had predicted the Reagan bull market, but for all the wrong reasons. People were now nervous about Friday's devestating market action.
Prechter said, BUY ON MONDAY. The bull was not dead. But he predicted horrrible disaster in a few years. He also talked about options. They were these strange market derivatives that my Dad and brother had warned me about. They had lost heavily trading in them, but to me they sounded really exotic and adventurous.
Options were like penny stocks, but with this faster mutiple potential. You could seriously increase your money tenfold, but you had to do it within a very restricted time limit. Time decay could kill you. You had to be right about the market direction and timing was absolutely crucial. You would have no second chance.
None at all.
I pondered this supreme challenge facing me. It sounded like something I really wanted to do. This was more than silly market trading. It was real financial alchemy.
Prechter looked a little school boy with his moppish hair and big grin....
I looked at the holy market charts that were now being projected onto the conference room screen. I was pretty used to this plastic enviornment after all my futurist jaunts in steamy Washington.
The impulsive and corrective market waves that R.N.Elliot had discovered fifty years ago seemed to hint of mysterious crystal balls plugged into history and all future human endeavors. But was Prechter really interpreting these waves correctly?
I swam in the warm hotel pool and felt troubled and fatalistic....whooee!
On Monday, on my befuddled flight to San Francisco many of the Elliot Wave attendees had immense trouble getting hooked to their brokers on the airplane's public telephones. Something was definitely wrong....
When I landed at SFO and drove to San Francisco a huge, dazed crowd had gathered in front of the imposing Charles Schwab building. The market had tumbled a terrifying five hundred points. All I got was perpetual busy signal when I attempted to call my broker.
Scary, strange images of 1929 filled my poor pounding head. What would come next I wondered. I quickly drove to Berkeley to see David my long-time private tutor. David had been my loyal tutor for all subjects when I was a student at UC Berkeley. You name it, David knew something about the subject at hand. He was a Mensa person.
Yup. I was a prince with special privileges at the tedious Berkeley brain factory....
So we started a manic crash course on Elliot Wave and yes, options. David and I looked at the stock quotes spilling out of the newspaper I had bought. The stock of the Texas company I had speculated in was almost worthless. I had survived a near-death experience with the market.
What would come next?
I simply shuddered.
Big Sur 1987:
The guru had fallen, but I still believed in the teachings. Prechter was history, but I still had Elliot's original book.
I fled to this Catholic monastery high above the Big Sur cliffs to ponder my lonely market fate. Also my Dad's. Things with him were not really improving. He was drinking wheatgrass juice and jumping up and down on a trampoline. But I wasn't sure whether this behavior would cut the necessary mustard, though.
I would sit in deep silence in the dark rotunda of the chapel with the pious monks....
I had my own meditation cell with a private garden and took my spare meals through this small window. I felt morose. My life was quickly changing. I knew that my Dad was not going to make it. But how much collateral damage would there be before he finally left his tired body?
There were no immediate answers to these serious questions. I studied my Elliot voraciously. I still lacked a really disciplined meditation practise, but now the necessary seeds were being planted for that future harvest.
I drove back to San Diego, but stopped at this Seven-Eleven to buy a drink. I then spied a copy of the Wall Street journal and quickly started thumbing through it until I found what I was looking for. I gazed at the holy market charts and instantly saw it.
Yup, it was a triangle. The crazy market action that followed the crash had created a triangle at the bottom of the money cliff and this meant one last traumatic collapse. I had to go short, but I realized it also meant one more thing. Prechter, who overnight had turned into roaring bear was now wrong once again. This was the bottom. The bear market was over.
I quietly gasped and jumped into my Honda. There was no time to lose....
San Diego 1987:
Now was the time to move. I threw everything into MacDonald's puts. I was furiously shorting the hamburger joint. Since it surely followed the main trends of the broader market. I scooped up those precious puts for pennies. They were three strikes out and just two weeks from expiration. There was so little margin for error.
I was living in this bizzare altered state. I called Sunyata Saraswati in a wild panic. He told me I would be alright and sent me these vibes that were so powerful....I could really feel them over the phone.
The market then moved up. It was a fake-out at the apex of the triangle. My puts lost two thirds of their value within just minutes. I felt sick, but was sure all would be OK, ultimately.
I watched TV over the tense weekend and when the market opened on Monday all I had was the hourly radio announements. I had one very crude set-up indeed. But the market collapsed on target. Commentators were screaming and saying the ugly bear was on the rampage again, but I knew better.
I got out three days later at the bottom. I had miraculously quadrupled my money. I was back in the black.
I heaved a sigh of relief and went out to see a movie. I had survived my first serious options trade. But there would be many, many more challenges....
But right now I just wanted to party. But there was no one to party with. So I dined in triumph alone.
Operation Big Mac had worked....