Monday, July 30, 2012


Before I arrived at Mount Madonna, a beautifully wooded yoga retreat center in the Santa Cruz mountains, I called ahead to reserve a place. The girl answered, "We are holding a retreat. There is no room here for you to stay. Sorry." I drove there anyway. The office manager made an exception and allowed me to sleep in my van on the property. That evening, I went up to a woman named Sami sitting alone at one of the tables in the dining hall and started to talk to her. She said, "I'm trying to be alone, so I can stay more present to the energy of the Sufi retreat. But don't go. I'll talk to you." So I asked her about the retreat. She said, "We just ended 3 days of silence and Pir Zia will be speaking over the next 3 days." Pir Zia is considered the great Sufi Master in the US. I had been to Sufi meetings before. "I would like to see Pir Zia one day. I've heard of him. It would be great to connect to the energy and learn from his teachings." "Well, let me ask the coordinator." So she stood up and soon returned. "He says maybe. That's better than nothing." A few minutes later, the coordinator himself came to join us at our table. I stood up and said, "Greetings, Wahaab!" And I gave Wahaab a big hug. I knew him and his wife, Batina. Good friends from Austin. They had helped me to connect to one of my great harmonium teachers. "My gosh," said Wahaab, "it is amazing to see you again." "What are the chances?" I exclaimed. Then he circled Pir Zia's talks on the retreat schedule and said, "You can come to these events." So for the next 3 days, I listened in person to the deep wisdom of Pir Zia, one of the great Sufi Masters of the West. He spoke about prayer and the generous legacy of Abraham from the Bible. I also listened to a beautiful Sufi concert and participated in a lovely group dance one night. One of the participants called me a retreat crasher. Yes indeed, I am a retreat crasher. What an honor to be with Pir Zia! My eyes filled with tears of gratitude. Let me incorporate his wisdom into my own teachings for the benefit of those who would hear me in the future. I spent many hours with Babaji too, the rare yogi who founded Mount Madonna and whose presence is a great Light in this world. In the early mornings, I took wonderful yoga classes, and in the evenings, I joined arati to Hanuman at the temple. After the retreat, I thanked Wahaab and Batina as well as my good friend, Sami, for the great honor of participating in this Sufi retreat. The retreat ended on the very day that I had planned to leave Mount Madonna. I can only bow to Grace who brings such spiritual abundance to life. May I surrender to Thy Will and let go of my own. With love, Brian.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Dear Persistence (my van), I am writing to apologize for how I have treated you since we first met. You were just an object, a vehicle to get from one point to another. I have been so cold and practical and never thought about your feelings. I wanted to keep pushing you, forcing you to move forward to fulfill my own destiny. Please forgive me for treating you like just another tool to fulfill my desires. You have really tried hard to transport me from place to place, even from Austin to Los Angeles. That is a great journey, and you never once complained. Please show me how to be so loyal, persistent, and patient. I have lost these qualities, and I am ready to follow your example. I also know you have overheated a few times now. I will try my best to keep you cool even at the expense of my body's comfort. You deserve care and appreciation for working so hard on the road. I honor you as a friend. If you should die on the road and not come back to life, it is ok. I will remember you fondly. My deep love and gratitude - Brian.

Joy Rising

As I drove "Persistence," the white Chevy van, down highway 40 through Arizona, I passed a town with little gas left in the tank. For the next 50 miles, up and down the long stretches of highway, I anxiously watched the gas gauge go down below the red line. In desperation, I typed "gas" into the I-phone and counted down the miles to the nearest station. At around 6:30pm, I got off at exit 66 and rolled to a stop at the stopsign. The last drop had just burned away and the truck station was about 150 yards away. After 10 minutes of embarrassment and haphazard thinking, I walked toward the station and a man walked toward me. "Can I help you?" he asked. I said, "Yes, my van is out of gas." "Lucky for you it ran out so close." He sat in the driver's seat and put the van in neutral while I pushed Persistence into the station. "Where can I camp for the night?" I asked. He said there is a campsite right up the road. "You can stay with me if you like. I live 5 miles back up the road, five miles down the exit, and 5 miles up a dirt road into the hills." This seemed rather far, so I said, "Let me check the RV site first." So after filling with exactly $99 worth of gas, I drove toward the camping place. The window was open, and I heard the rattling and clanging of the tire below. I stopped and discovered the bolts  were falling off, and I needed help. So I went back and said to Charlie, "Yes, I'd like to take you up on your offer." "Ok, my name's Charlie. Would you like to stay to watch a movie here?" "Sure," I said. And so we sat next to one another in the tiny theatre in the station and watched Stakeout. Great movie. Charlie hadn't seen a movie in a month, so this was special. Then I followed behind his truck through the dusty windy roads to his home deep in the desert mountains. It was a scary drive. The home had no electricity or running water, but he had brought barrels of water home. A border named Howard lived here with his own dog named Precious. Charlie introduced me to his cactus garden and showed me the dead generators outside. Moon was high, lighting up the distance mountains. It was a beautiful 20 acres of land that Charlie owned. That night, I slept on the bed in Persistence, and woke up right after the moon had set. Charlie and his 2 dogs were about, and they took me on a tour of the beautiful landscape. Never had I experienced such appreciation for desert beauty. Then Howard made pancakes and we sat at the table. Howard placed a large pool of melted margarine in front of me and a jar of peanut butter and some syrup. It was a feast for kings indeed. "We haven't been able to watch the TV because we have no electricity. And it takes money to fix the generators." "Well, I've got a generator, Charlie. Would you like to use it to run the TV and VCR?" I had bought a high quality Honda generator for $540 off of e-bay recently to charge appliances inside my van, Persistence. Charlie agreed, and with one smooth pool, Charlie got this little generator whirring happily away. He plugged in the TV and VCR with a cable he had found on the side of the street and turned them on. This was the first time they could watch TV since 2007 when Charlie first bought the land. "Well, since it's July 3rd, let's watch "Independence Day." So we sat in front of the TV watching Will Smith on TV. I petted the dogs, and Howard told me a story about how his dog shows love. An hour later, I said it was time for me to be on my way. Before Charlie could unplug the generator, I said, "You know, Charlie, you both can benefit more from the generator than me. Why don't you keep it and I'll pick it up if I return?" Both Charlie and Howard were happy. They hadn't had electricity in a long time. And it was really special to watch a movie in celebration of Independence Day. Charlie led me back to the main road, and I gave him a hug before I rode away. It was a bittersweet parting. A few hours later, I sent a text to Charlie, "Hi Charlie, In CA. All is well. Just learned van has cruise control! What a gift. May you always see joy in life, Charlie." He texted back, "Well the joy of life brought U to me. Now see what U can do to make the world better." Then Charlie texted a picture Howard had taken a couple months back of the moon rising one morning. You can see that one above. with love, Brian