When I arrived in Vancouver, B.C. in the early 70’s I felt as though I were a “stranger in a strange land”. Having been raised in WASP enclaves, I hadn’t been exposed to other cultures or races. All throughout my public schooling (in New Jersey and Missouri) there were no “children of colour” in any of my classes. Not one. This made my arrival in Vancouver a cultural circus of colours, smells and sounds.
People with long flowing garments and turbans spoke in languages that sounded like music to my sheltered ears. I didn’t know what they were saying, but I loved it. I realized that I’d never heard anyone speak a “foreign language” other than perhaps, in a movie or t.v. show. Although I’d been raised in suburban WASP enclaves, with virtually no urban contact, the daily swirl of colour (both dress and skin tone), smells and friendly bustle was overwhelmingly ecstatic.
I’d immigrated to Canada two years after Vietnam and a year after Woodstock. A full year of heavy drug use (mostly psychedelics) had helped erase some unpleasant memories, replacing them with a hunger for enlightenment, truth and a new reality. During the first months in Vancouver, we’d (myself and a friend who had immigrated with me) stumbled upon the Banyen book store on 4th Street. I would frequent this patchouli scented haven of esoteric knowledge, week after week.
I spent day after day in the beautiful waterfront parks of this spectacular, sparkling city by the sea, devouring the latest book I’d purchased. I taught myself to embroider. My first project was emblazoning the acronym E.N.E.M.A on a long sleeved shirt and I offered a variety of answers to any passersby who inquired what it meant. I befriended the “squirrel guy” in Stanley Park, who kindly introduced me to his chattering tribe, encouraging them to sit quietly on my shoulders and lap while I read (or embroidered). But mostly I would read for awhile, then allow what I’d discovered to seep into every fold and recess of my mind, purging it of any residual detritus of my previous life. Feeling the sun on my face (and the occasional squirrel on my shoulder) I’d empty my mind and Be Here Now. I felt I was home, not only in my newly adopted country, but also inside of the meat suit I’d inhabited at birth (maybe it was choice, maybe karma, maybe just a random biological event).
Two books were foundational to the start of my lifelong journey to enlightenment (I’m still on it, but way further down the road now). One was “Be Here Now” and the other “The Ultimate Frontier“. I bought the Baba Ram Dass book at Banyen Books. The other was a gift from one of the hitchhikers we’d been picking up while exploring the outskirts of the city. We’d casually offer them a few tokes of hash that we’d secured and drop them off at their destination, which was often the parklike UBC grounds (although it may not have seemed like it to them at the time).
My path to enlightenment has been long and often arduous. For the most part, I’ve travelled it alone, but have had the encouragement and guidance I sought from many sources. My journey continues and the finish line is now clearly in sight.
“Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretence. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.” Adyashanti
Here’s a video entitled “Enlightened Beings Share Their Awakening, Mystical Experiences”. I hope it provides encouragement to all truth seekers who may be reading this. May your own journey bring you what you seek.