Dinnertime. I'm sitting alone, trying to eat slowly. My Guru is always encouraging us to practice discipline when it comes to eating. She encourages us to eat in moderation and without desperate gulps, to not extinguish the sacred fires of our bodies by dumping too much food into our digestive tracts too fast. (My Guru, I'm fairly certain, has never been to Naples.) When students come to her complaining that they're having trouble meditating, she always asks how their digestion has been lately. It only stands to reason that you'll have trouble gliding lightly into transcendence when your guts are struggling to churn through a sausage calzone, a pound of buffalo wings and half a coconut cream pie. Which is why they don't serve that kind of stuff here. The food at the Ashram is vegetarian, light and healthy. But still delicious. Which is why it's difficult for me not to wolf it down like a starving orphan. Plus, meals are served buffet-style, and it never has been easy for me to resist taking a second or third turn at-bat when beautiful food is just lying out there in the open, smelling good and costing nothing.
So I'm sitting at the dinner table all by myself, making an effort to restrain my fork, when
I see a man walk over with his dinner tray, looking for an open chair. I nod to him that he is welcome to join me. I haven't seen this guy around here yet. He must be a new arrival. The stranger's got a cool, ain't-no-big-hurry kind of walk, and he moves with the authority of a border town sheriff, or maybe a lifelong high-rolling poker player. He looks like he's in his fifties, but walks like he's lived a few centuries longer than that. He's got white hair and a white beard and a plaid flannel shirt. Wide shoulders and giant hands that look like they could do some damage, but a totally relaxed face.
He sits down across from me and drawls, "Man, they got mosquitoes 'round this place big enough to rape a chicken."
Ladies and Gentlemen, Richard from Texas has arrived.