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Cardiff by the Sea 1989:


Logan airport was freezing. Feverish snow was everywhere. On the gory plane ride I bumped into Dukakis' campaign manager and started sternly deriding him for such a lousy campaign. I could hear this endless tape loop of JFK belting out one of his speeches to the anxious incoming passengers and felt that the Democratic party had simply dissolved itself away into instant mediocrity...

I finally arrived at the Barre ashram around noon and quickly checked in. I was given a lonely room and told to do as I pleased. This historic place had been founded by Joseph Goldstein who was a real Vipassana nut.

I was finally here.

I had somehow miraculously made it. It was my final journey of the year. It would be my final inner pilgrimage before the looming a-bomb exploded in San Diego and I knew this.

I was back in Vipassana-land. Yup. Again. " Don't feed those hungry thoughts! Just quietly observe them. You see, they simply go on forever. " Joseph entoned. I desperately sat in the silent shrine-room. It was fairly large. I kept on watching my buzzy mind. There was nothing else to do, really. I tried not to duplicate my mental experiences. I tried not to expect anything dramatic either. I tried not to get too attached to my emotional fluctuations. This was the real challenge here. But I felt I was ready for it. For I was now a keen mind veteran. I wanted to win the epic battle with my devious mind.

The hard sitting continued. I hated getting up so damn early, so I slowly drifted into the grave-yard shift. I would sit next to the stiff Buddha statue in the shrine-room and see my thoughts just regress into old predictable patterns. The confused observer just watched his thoughts and then another less confused observer would watch
that observer and so on. I wondered quietly to my brooding self if this was how one just accidentally slipped into more subtler astral realms.

There were these strange periods of intense weeping and this would clear the blocked up heart-space for a short while. I was learning to be attentive and to be also more aware to what was actually there at any particular moment, and no other moment. It was much harder than it sounded. Your developing skill determined just how subtle your awareness could get. I mean, like what was your real touch-point of sensitivity? It was an important question. Yup. Thoughts seemed to always chunk into these thick constellations. Thoughts were really tricky. I mean you could observe them, but it was also very easy to get completely lost in them. They were a really tough concentration vehicle. That's why the breath was much less hairy. I mean, you could always go back to the quiet breath. Once you were at the mind movies, it was easy to get lost in the silly show.

As I watched the hypnotic snow silently drift down from my cold window, I realized it was really important to learn how to concentrate sharply on an object. Different objects interested the wavering mind with different kinds of intensity. The mind loved going to the crazy movies. It was hungry for tons and tons of objects. The fickle mind needed these thoughts just like
the growling stomach needed food. CHUM, CHUMP. It was just perpetual gluttony. Greater awareness was the key to survival here. Vipassana was the keen science of micro-awareness. The mind would be fed with less and less crazy thoughts. It would be put on a very strict diet, indeed.

AH, DIRECT EXPERIENCE....

This was the real thing. This turned all mindbody experiences into a less polluted form of reality. Direct experience even made the targeted object vanish if you got deep enough into it. All flimsy shells needed to be boldly stripped. None of these illusory husks could possibly remain. That's what you had to do to get aboard this enlightenment express. It was now leaving off track 109.... So you had to hurry.

I mean it was sheer silliness to get attached to these stupid ghosts. It was important to let the purest form of awareness come out. To just let things slowly reveal themselves. It was important to observe closely. If the careening mind got totally confused, you just went back to the quiet breath. That's how you kept awareness keenly focused and aimed. There was nothing to judge, really. You just did it. I mean, all perception and feeling were just so temporary. So why judge? This crafty non-judgment brought a new lightness to your struggling mind.

It was great.

When one really experienced directly any object, it just disappeared. It wasn't really real to begin with. But to get to this tough level of experience was pretty hard. Our controlling minds had this nasty habit of making things as real as possible. All normal waking experience was just indirect. Illusions thrived on this indirect experience. The holy breath cycle was your firm anchor. If you wanted to focus on these perpetual emotional and mental cycles you could. But your sharp focus if it was intense enough made them dissolve ultimately.

That's what you really wanted. After your fleeting thoughts dissolved you were free to go back to the quiet breath and just anchor your constantly shifting mind there. Or if you couldn't dissolve these tough mental and emotional cycles....that's why you ultimately went back to the quiet breath.

The indirect experience of the mind cycles betrayed their illusory nature. It was spooky. The breath was like a curious training tool for the ultimate goal of casting away these mental ghosts. This ultimately generated a calm and forgiving mind.

I walked into town when noble silence was broken finally. As I walked on the soft snow, the fierce wind slapped my face. I thought about the forgiveness concept. It was dumb not to forgive, really. It was totally fucking useless not to. It really hurt. It felt terribly heavy. You had to give it all up! It was important not to get too defensive. To just breathe a little bit easier. The small town, near the Buddhist ashram was filled with many imposing war memorials. I was amazed by how such a small obscure place could have lost so many of its men and this made me quite sad. All these countless men had died because somebody, somewhere had held a burning grudge. You had to practice forgiving beings often. It made life a lot less miserable. You then had more space to feel a bit better inside. You were less isolated then. This was real true wisdom. And it didn't come out of a boring sermon. It came out of my own private experience of dealing with my stubborn mind.


Boulder 1989:


These were confusing times for the markets. Glenn was not certain of the immediate direction of prices and in China the students had taken control of Tienanmen square. I remember how little attention I had paid to Bush's inaurguration. I was completely tuned out of what was going on in Washington. But I couldn't tune out China. Nobody could....

My trading was so bad that once more I was facing the bloody brink. I knew for sure that this strange emotional cycle had deeper reasons. I would do hatha yoga in the morning and walk on the beach daily. I also stopped eating meat and became completely vegetarian. I ate only fresh salads and drank only smoothies that I had prepared myself. Doing this became a deep ritual for me.

I threw all my money into yen puts. I gambled that the yen would continue crashing. My trusty indicators warned that a strong bottom was near, but I then simply flew off to Colorado to visit the famous Naropa Institute.

My Tibetan phase was in full gear. I was now exploring the famous Maitryi rooms and their five Buddha energies. The founder of the place I was visiting had been something of an impish radical. His name was Trungpa Rinpoche and he was now quite dead and his organization was in total chaos. But he had left quite a powerful legacy. He had left behind these finely tuned mind boxes. Each room was bathed in a particular color and had certain shapes inside it. Once you got in you were supposed to get into a certain crucial postures and just keep still and silent. Eventually the neurotic or sane aspect of the energy would slam you. Then it was cruising time! After the hour was up, you would just walk in silence outside in the dark forests nearby. This is how it all went until all five rooms were fully experienced.

I kind of freaked out in the mysterious yellow room. I saw myself as this hungry ghost. I just saw myself losing everything in the market. The empowering green room made me feel strong and brave. But it made others envious and kind of weirded out. The sneaky red room was seductive and lusty. A woman who had just left this room got extremely angry with me when I resisted her obvious advances. She was cute, but I wasn't in the right mood.

The strange white room just bored me to death. It slowed me down and made me not care about anything. But it was the compassionate blue room which made the deepest impression on me. I was filled with total care and compassion and wept with great ease in here. I could feel the lovely blue light soak me up with powerful healing waves. The Rocky mountain plains were curiously eerie and inviting. I lost myself in the huge vastness of the space. I was beginning to understand the nature of space much better as well. It seemed to mysteriously shrink if you tried too hard to control it.

The Maitryi retreat was well organized. We would sit quietly in the shrine-room with our eyes wide open, Tibetan style. Loud bells would then be skillfully used to signal a gradual transition to the next crucial phase of the day. Space and time were expertly demarcated with these extremely handy tools. This was all artificial and everyone knew this of course, but it was also very important. You see, time and space were peculiar forms that could be temporarily dissolved. Then the formless would fill you up and every breath that you inhaled would suddenly vanish, as you followed it out through your struggling nostrils.

There came a point where the gliding breath simply dissolved away and if you could just surf it through this subtle point of transition, the effects could be quite startling. You would then start to dissolve too. It was hard to describe this rare, sublime mind state.

Away from the meditation lodge, a huge tent city had been erected and filled up with concerned people performing meditations in long shifts. I would sometimes go over there and stare blankly at the Tibetan banners flapping about in the fierce winds. The energy was ferociously intense. I then entered the main tent after it had emptied out. Menacing portraits of Trungpa Rinpoche were everywhere. Was this some bizzare cult? I quietly chuckled about how anyone could take this silly stuff so seriously. There was a crisis atmosphere here and you could feel it. But the more I chuckled, the more the room started to violently shake as powerful winds shook the tent with a monsterous force.

I high-tailed out pretty fast! I wish I could describe the sense of sheer urgency I had felt in this queer place. And it wasn't just the usual urgency of some particular crisis. No. It was just the very urgency of beingness. It was that simple. The very fact that you were even alive meant that there was urgent work to be done on oneself. Yup. This was now already a given. This was all about being fully engaged in this crucial process of self-inquiry on a moment by moment basis. I was now being given a continuous mind empowerment and dharma transmission from Trungpa Rinpoche himself and in a most powerful and quite subtle manner.

That's what the howling winds were telling me. There was a curious wrathful energy here that had to be deeply respected. Somehow things were being rapidly accelerated in my life now.

BOOM!

So I guess I was ready....



Santa Monica 1989:


I peeked into the financial section of the New York Times at Denver airport. The yen had further collapsed as Asia got spooked by the terrible carnage in Beijing. Khomeini had also died and chaos in Iran was further fueling the mad dollar surge. I had multiplied my money ten times again. It was time to get out of these crazy markets for the rest of the year.

I got back to Cardiff and got big congratulatory calls from my excited brokers. I decided to stay in till the very last minute. My trusty indicators were screaming at me to get out and switch positions to the long side of the yen and make yet another massive killing. I failed to heed this timely warning. Three days later the dollar dramatically collpased and my profits melted away in a stunning key reversal disaster. I can still remember this deadly yen spike upwards quite well. I hung on to my capital, but my heady trading days were now over. My tools had not failed me. I had failed my tools. Operation Samurai had thus ultimately failed.

Ugh.

In San Diego strange things were errupting. My Dad was becoming more and more bed-ridden, but he was still making business calls on the phone from his sick bed. Amazingly the bank had no clue about his physical condition. My Dad was deep into macrobiotics now and he was coming back to the orthodox Jewish fold. He was determined to become this holy zaddik. But the heavy medications were now taking their fearsome toll....my brother who was a confirmed coke head began to deteriorate as well....and my Dad failed to commit him to an institution in time. So now both mental and physical illness were fiercely plaguing the family. A state of perpetual seige had now begun. My step-mother was going crazy too. The wild stress was mounting rapidly.

During this difficult time I decided to visit the Dalai Lama in Santa Monica in order to recieve the Kalachakra empowerment. I didn't really know what the Kalachakra was then. I know a tad more now. But I just badly wanted to see His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. And it was quite a large crowd that turned up for the massive ten-day event. Everyday, I diligently drove my trusty Honda or took a bus from the UCLA campus to smoggy Santa Monica. It was just like entering a big living mandala. The supreme majesty of His Holiness and all the cool stuff ocurring around a major empowerment was pretty wild. But at times I would just be bored stiff by the long dreary instructions. Actually these long talks were more descriptions of the critical ritual before us than any actual meditation instructions.

It all had something to do, as usual with pesky impermanence and the importance of not being really attached to anything illusory. When the true initiations began on the fifth day, it was all sight and sound spiritual fireworks. The monks would sit and drone on....near His Holiness. He would then firmly chant his crucial blessings and the fiery trumpets would then sound off. The sacred bell and thunderbolt were used with great dexterity by His Holiness too.

I didn't bother to understand what was really going on. I figured someday I would surely find out. But the key thing now was to just soak up all the holy vibrations. The karma was working over-time anyway, you see. I was simply getting the necessary transmissions. Yup. I was getting the psychic key to the dharma door that would open up for me possibly in my next life---if not this one. I was being taken care of and being repeatedly blessed. I knew this too. Don't ask me how I really knew this. I just did.

A few months later I shook hands with his Holiness yet again in Orange county. It was at a large inter-faith conference. I remember His Holiness grabbing both of my arms and not letting go of them immediately. I was puzzled by this. But what did it matter, really? A blessing was a blessing indeed. But now His Holiness had also won the Noble Peace Prize.


Santa Cruz 1989:


I peeked into the financial section of the New York Times at Denver airport. The yen had further collapsed as Asia got spooked by the terrible carnage in Beijing. Khomeini had also died and chaos in Iran was further fueling the mad dollar surge. I had multiplied my money ten times again. It was time to get out of these crazy markets for the rest of the year.

I got back to Cardiff and got big congratulatory calls from my excited brokers. I decided to stay in till the very last minute. My trusty indicators were screaming at me to get out and switch positions to the long side of the yen and make yet another massive killing. I failed to heed this timely warning. Three days later the dollar dramatically collpased and my profits melted away in a stunning key reversal disaster. I can still remember this deadly yen spike upwards quite well. I hung on to my capital, but my heady trading days were now over. My tools had not failed me. I had failed my tools. Operation Samurai had thus ultimately failed.

Ugh.

In San Diego strange things were errupting. My Dad was becoming more and more bed-ridden, but he was still making business calls on the phone from his sick bed. Amazingly the bank had no clue about his physical condition. My Dad was deep into macrobiotics now and he was coming back to the orthodox Jewish fold. He was determined to become this holy zaddik. But the heavy medications were now taking their fearsome toll....my brother who was a confirmed coke head began to deteriorate as well....and my Dad failed to commit him to an institution in time. So now both mental and physical illness were fiercely plaguing the family. A state of perpetual seige had now begun. My step-mother was going crazy too. The wild stress was mounting rapidly.

During this difficult time I decided to visit the Dalai Lama in Santa Monica in order to recieve the Kalachakra empowerment. I didn't really know what the Kalachakra was then. I know a tad more now. But I just badly wanted to see His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. And it was quite a large crowd that turned up for the massive ten-day event. Everyday, I diligently drove my trusty Honda or took a bus from the UCLA campus to smoggy Santa Monica. It was just like entering a big living mandala. The supreme majesty of His Holiness and all the cool stuff ocurring around a major empowerment was pretty wild. But at times I would just be bored stiff by the long dreary instructions. Actually these long talks were more descriptions of the critical ritual before us than any actual meditation instructions.

It all had something to do, as usual with pesky impermanence and the importance of not being really attached to anything illusory. When the true initiations began on the fifth day, it was all sight and sound spiritual fireworks. The monks would sit and drone on....near His Holiness. He would then firmly chant his crucial blessings and the fiery trumpets would then sound off. The sacred bell and thunderbolt were used with great dexterity by His Holiness too.

I didn't bother to understand what was really going on. I figured someday I would surely find out. But the key thing now was to just soak up all the holy vibrations. The karma was working over-time anyway, you see. I was simply getting the necessary transmissions. Yup. I was getting the psychic key to the dharma door that would open up for me possibly in my next life---if not this one. I was being taken care of and being repeatedly blessed. I knew this too. Don't ask me how I really knew this. I just did.

A few months later I shook hands with his Holiness yet again in Orange county. It was at a large inter-faith conference. I remember His Holiness grabbing both of my arms and not letting go of them immediately. I was puzzled by this. But what did it matter, really? A blessing was a blessing indeed. But now His Holiness had also won the Noble Peace Prize.


Planet Earth 1989:


Before I left Santa Cruz. A young Indian Canadian sold me a picture of Babaji. He told me that Babaji let you get close to the fire, but that he would let you get singed only. He was that protective.

Back home I was finally seeing a psychotherapist. A Tibetan Buddhist. Carolyn would guide me compassionately during the last difficult months of my Dad's madness and illness.

I started experimenting with my diet again, mixing nuts and fruits in certain combinations and eating them at carefully scheduled times. I wanted more physical cleansing. The entire world was rapidly changing. The Berlin wall had miraculously fallen. I sat riveted to my television set. I mean it was really the best show in town. I was video-taping all the historic news on CNN.

With the Communists on the run in Berlin, I knew Prague would fall next. I cried when Dubcek and Havel finally came out on the cold balcony and embraced the cheering crowds below. I felt freedom was finally coming. Not just for the long-suffering Czechs, but also for me. Svobodu was not just a Czech word, it was my word too now. I danced in my living-room. Yup. I didn't care about the future. I was into being totally within the present moment. And it felt good. Very good. Not kind of, but VERY.


Mexico City 1989:


There wasn't much to do really, but wait for the bloody end. Enya's prize song Cursum Perficio kept playing inside my queasy head. Our confused world was now drastically changing. My family had its final thanksgiving dinner as Eastern Europe kept going through its drastic convulsions. A bloody revolution broke out in Rumania. The world was now watching the old dreaded dominoe theory in reverse. I found this terribly ironic.

Both my step-mother and sister were nearing a nervous breakdown. My Dad was single handedly running his multi-million dollar business into the ground. There was no longer any responsible person in the pilot's seat. Carolyn my struggling psychotherapist was totally appalled by what was going on and sat completely rivited to her seat as I tried to keep my sinking head above water.

I voraciously read enormous amounts of literature during this very trying time. There was nothing else to do. Buddhism and psychotherapy dominated my reading list heavily. The subtle levels of emptiness in the Tibetan canons preoccupied a lot of my time.

All around me loud and heavy construction was hammering me crazy as the predatory developers surrounding me ruthlessly tore up the old beach cities north of San Diego.

I met Sunyata Saraswati again and bought a huge picture of Babaji. Thus began my first crude attempts at building an altar. I started giving expert tarot readings in order to bring in a little extra income and was quite good at it. But it was just a dicey stop-gap measure. I didn't want this as a permanent profession. It didn't feel right to me charging anxious people for this kind of service.

I also attended these fun Sufi dancing parties near my beach house. The whirling dervish mystique helped off-set the rapidly sinking situation in San Diego. I also paid weekly visits to the Yogananda ashram and kneeled before the bedroom of the dead master. Every little blessing helped during this horrendous time of gritty trial.....

My grandfather in Mexico was also dying now. Mt step-grandfather in Israel was gone too. I was really amazed how the old guard was rapidly melting away in Mexico, Israel, and now America. It was like a wrathful hurricane was sweeping away everything I had ever known....

The plane touched down in smoggy Mexico City. Like a dazed sleep-walker I entered the old Mexican neighborhood. By this time in order to stay somewhat sane I was furiously video-taping the incredible multicultural drama that was unfolding quickly before me. I wanted to create this glorious video tapestry to anchor these difficult events within a bigger and more meaningful context.

My grandfather was now bed-ridden as I sat next to him and asked him some very deeply disturbing questions.

" What do you think was my Dad's biggest mistake? " I asked.

" Embracing the US dollar too tightly, " he replied immediately.

"And the second biggest mistake? " I further inquired.

" Your father marrying your crazy step-mother. " Came the answer with such breathless finality.

What could I say?

I madly hugged my grandfather goodbye and flew home. I would never ever see him again....


Jerusalem 1990:


The new year was upon us now. Also a brave new decade. The family was now in suspended animation. The long anticapted death watch had begun. I filmed my poor Dad in bed. He was just weak skin and bones. He offered me some fresh popcorn.

Gene and Chris, my hidden psychic advisors were observing the death watch quite closely. My psychotherapist was on twenty-four hour call....

It was on the 26th of January that things finally started coming to a head. It was the last kiddish with Dad. A kiddish is a service pious Jews hold every Friday to celebrate the coming Sabbath day. My step-mother normally cooked a decent meal and my Dad would recite the prayers from the old kiddish book. Wine was then drunk and bread was broken also. But this time it was totally different. Dad was so weak he was brought down the steps from his stuffy bedroom in a light wheel-chair. As the eldest I was required to say the kiddish now.

Dad's head was slumped against the hard table. I had a very hard time starting up the prayers. It seemed like dreary years. I almost started to cry. Everybody was completely silent. Somehow my slow lips started to move. I was now walking across a major chasm. Dad was was then slowly taken back upstairs. Everyone pushed and lifted the stubborn wheel-chair up the steep steps. This was the symbol of our heroic struggle. It was now totally our life. I couldn't add much more to this.


Dad died on February 3rd 1990
12:07 PM
Saturday, the Jewish day of rest.


The body according to Jewish tradition could not be moved till sundown so people took turns sitting next to the stiff corpse.

It was decided with deep divisions among the family members to have Dad buried in Israel. So we flew to Jerusalem immediately. I filmed the dramatic landing at Ben Gurion airport. Seeing the Tel-Aviv shoreline appear suddenly with the airplane's speakers blaring out Naomi Shemer's popular " Jerusalem of Gold " left me quite breathless.

A large convoy of Israeli mourners at the airport echoed the full house that crowded the short memorial service for Dad at San Diego's Beit Jacob synagogue. I filmed all of this too.


The actual internment was marred not only by the freezing weather, but by a bitter ritual dispute at the cemetary between the officiating Rabbi and my step-mother's relatives. The internment was delayed for half an hour. But it seemed like eternity. I filmed all of this clandestinely.

Then we quickly flew home. It had all been a mad disorganized dash. The attorneys now took center stage as the doctors faded away. The big struggles were far from over. But everyone now was both exhausted and relieved.

Freedom of movement had returned finally.



San Diego 1990:


A massive vacuum had suddenly opened up. My Dad's will had left my step-mother and brother as chief executors of his crumbling estate. There was not much money available because my Dad had left so many huge debts. To be sure there was at least a small shopping center and some stocks and gold, but precious little else.

The grand dissolution was finally starting. My relationship with the neighborhood Rabbis had never been good. But now they were downright frosty. I found these silly men to be quite arrogant and self-absorbed. Yup. Forgiveness would come much later.

I took a quick drive up to the Catholic monastery and had long deep talks with Brother David-Steindahl Rast. A famous monk who like me was a curious haif-breed. Half-Jewish, half Catholic. He strongly felt that my Dad's fierce resistence to surgery had been simply a strong unconscious death wish.

I had a hard time arguing with this somber conclusion. The monks said quiet prayers for Dad and I slowly tried to relax after many long years of steadily mounting tensions.

I had a powerful dream of two Tibetan dakinis coming to me and telling me to leave San Diego soon. Dakinis are these sacred guardian angels who carefully guard the doors to all the secret teachings.

I came home and quickly started to pack. I said my goodbyes to Carolyn, Chris, and Gene. Also to my brother, half-brothers and sister. My step-mother and I were no longer on speaking terms.

Big surprise.

I left San Diego with my rent deposit and my trusty Honda. That's all I had left. My books would remain in storage in San Diego for now.

I was on my way back to northern California which to me had always symbolized home. A new era had thus finally started and it tasted so, so sweet.

I said Amen.



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The following comments are for "Inside the Eye of the Storm Pt. 3"
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