Life never works out exactly as we expect. We take a middle course, it seems, between our deepest fears and highest dreams.
The days after my return from India were difficult. I was ill at first. Then there was an out of town, work-related management course I had to take.
Once back, I drove again down to Virginia Beach, taking my old friend, Esther Dupchek, for my first Association talk since the overseas trip. It was held this time in Helen and Richard Lilly's apartment. The place was filled with men, women, and children eager to hear about the Gagan spiritual colony and Maharaji.
Something had happened to me over there. I returned more emotionally vulnerable. My feelings and spontaneity were much enhanced and on the surface. For awhile this and my earnest desire to let others know of the wonder of our beautiful Maharaji, actually encountered in person, seemed to transform me into a charming, charismatic, at times even brilliant speaker.
Mistakenly taking some credit for the infectious moods of inspiration or happiness that sometimes resulted when I gave talks at such meetings, I let these reactions go to my head. Losing detachment, I soon began to fret over my performance, wondering if I were exciting, heart-warming, or entertaining enough. If some seemed to sit spellbound, listening with rapt attention, I would feel gratified with my act and continue to pull out new stories or anecdotes from my hoarded repertoire.
But in just a short time local interest was waning. Turning inward as easily as earlier I had been buoyed by others' adoration, I was now filled with self-critical loathing. "They see. They can tell you are a hollow man. For all your dramatic showmanship, your deficits are obvious. Your motives reek!"
Within a few weeks, having given talks several times at different locations, in MS, GA, both of the Carolinas, and further in VA, for I was then often traveling in connection with my work or to visit Lifestream Way friends, I resolved never again to lead Associations. I felt hypocritical and that I had no right to talk further of our Maharaji. In my mind, perhaps I had only wanted to dazzle the crowd, to enthrall the young ladies, even to get under their skirts!
In this period I did indeed lose my head over a woman's affections, notwithstanding that she was married. I led her on somewhat. She seemed eager enough to be led, though we were both initiates and supposedly bound by spiritual tenets to a strictly moral life. Eventually, ashamed, I called it off. Understandably confused, she became angry and bitter.
I was frightened over my slipping values and lost direction.
Then news came of my being transferred by Civil Service to another state and an Army training post two hundred miles from the closest Association meetings. Though the change involved a promotion, I was filled with foreboding, wondering what would become of my allegiance to The Lifestream Way in so isolated an area, with neither friends nor other initiates around. My situation was similar to what it had been two years earlier, when I had arrived alone and knowing no one in Petersburg, VA, but this move seemed to offer even less promise for the future.
My fears were realized in the following months. The relocation was completed in the spring of 1976. Isolated from fellow initiates and other friends, feeling alienated from the starkly military environment, and bearing greatly increased U.S. Army responsibilities, I felt intense loneliness and turmoil.
My attempts to live up to the teachings of The Lifestream Way now seemed futile and desperate.
Despite this, after a popular Lifestream Way organizer in NC, Julie Conrad, had to join her husband in new TX digs and appointed me to take her place, I was even for awhile an Association secretary, in charge of the meetings of the several widely scattered initiates and pre-initiates throughout two rural states, driving here and there for this purpose on my free weekends. My fellow Carolina Lifestream Way friends seemed at that time still usually inspired by my expressed thoughts and the efforts I made to hold our little isolated bands together.
However, my own meditation practice fell off. Before long my feeling of commitment to Lifestream Way decreased too until I felt it best to resign my secretary position. Without this connection, though, and with nothing significant to fill my off-duty time, I was soon extremely depressed. Both sleeping and eating became irregular.
My job was at times a nightmare. In the middle of the night I would be awakened to help inquire into the death of some young man who had just been blown up, killed in a road accident, or shot. Once a female trainee, doing recreational skydiving, died when both her parachutes failed to open. She landed in front of a company of soldiers in formation. I was called to "investigate."
To occupy and distract myself, I began going on weekends and holidays to movies, one after another, sometimes three or four a day. I read through hundreds of cheap paperbacks.
The Lifestream Way teaching seemed more and more like a fairy tale, tantalizingly exquisite, yet too remote to affect this reality.
One evening I fell asleep early and dreamed of placing a loaded revolver at my temple. With a feeling of profound sadness yet resignation, I had pulled the trigger. The next day I began looking for a therapist.
In the succeeding months, through 1977 and into 1978, I was active in a Transactional Analysis group. I began life anew, but no longer as a "spiritual devotee."
This is the second part of my personal journal.
The first volume, Small Myths, Small Dreams, Small Steps, covers the period from autumn, 1971, through 1975. For quite awhile after I finished the earlier writings, there were no meaningful new entries. Then, several months into 1977, where this volume begins, they resumed.