It was then I decided I needed to stay here at the Ashram. This was so totally not my original plan. My original plan had been to stay here for just six weeks, have a bit of transcendental experience, then continue traveling all over India . . . um . . . looking for God. I had maps and guidebooks and hiking boots and everything! I had specific temples and mosques and holy men I was all lined up to meet. I mean--it's India! There's so much to see and experience here. I've got a lot of mileage to cover, temples to explore, elephants and camels to ride. And I'd be devastated to miss the Ganges, the great Rajasthani desert, the nutty Mumbai movie houses, the Himalayas, the old tea plantations, the Calcutta rickshaws racing against each other like the chariot scene from Ben-Hur. And I was even planning on meeting the Dalai Lama in March, up in Daramsala. I was hoping he could teach me about God.
But to stay put, to immobilize myself in a small Ashram in a tiny little village in the middle of nowhere--no, this was not my plan.
On the other hand, the Zen masters always say that you cannot see your reflection in running water, only in still water. So something was telling me it would be spiritually negligent to run off now, when so much was happening right here in this small, cloistered place where every minute of the day is organized to facilitate self-exploration and devotional practice. Did I really need to get on a bunch of trains and pick up intestinal parasites and hang around backpackers right now? Couldn't I do that later? Couldn't I meet the Dalai Lama some other time? Won't the Dalai Lama always be there? (And, if he should die, heaven forbid, won't they just find another one?) Don't I already have a passport that looks like a tattooed circus lady? Is more travel really going to bring me any closer to revelatory contact with divinity?
I didn't know what to do. I spent a day wavering over the decision. As usual, Richard from Texas had the last word.
"Stay put, Groceries," he said. "Forget about sightseeing--you got the rest of your life for that. You're on a spiritual journey, baby. Don't cop out and only go halfway to your potential. You got a personal invitation from God here--you really gonna turn that away?"
"But what about all those beautiful things to see in India?" I asked. "Isn't it kind of a pity to travel halfway around the world just to stay in a little Ashram the whole time?" "Groceries, baby, listen your friend Richard. You go set your lily-white ass down in that meditation cave every day for the next three months and I promise you this--you're gonna start seeing some stuff that's so damn beautiful it'll make you wanna throw rocks at the Taj Mahal."