After leaving my AYP comrades in Los Angeles, I flew to San Francisco, where I had not been since moving back to Tampa in 2010.
On the plane ride, memories and emotions flooded my consciousness. I wondered how I would react once I set foot in the courtyard of my old apartment—the place where my sobriety, divorce, and discovery of AYP had unfolded. Would I burst into tears and experience some kind of major catharsis, or would it be something calmer and more subtle? Either way, I was pretty stoked to find out.
First I had to make my way to my cousin's condominium in the Mission Bay neighborhood. She had recently moved to the city with a job working for Rolls Royce. I bought a ticket for BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) and boarded one of the inbound rail cars. The shimmying and shaking of the train, the whining and grinding of its wheels, made me feel like it had only been yesterday since I had commuted within the city, and across the bay to Oakland and Berkeley. The sounds, the scenery, the tactile sensations...how quickly my perception locked onto every detail and connected them with past experiences. At one point along the ride, the screeching noise was so loud, that I found myself laughing jubilantly and in tune with the pitch of the friction. And yet, I felt inner silence at the core of it all.
My cousin was taking care of her boss's dog, a little pug named Buster. His tongue hung perpetually out of the side of his mouth. We took the little beast to the park, along with my cousin's own dog named James, a wiry-haired mutt who had two bottom fangs protruding from his shut mouth, much like the tusks of a wild boar. The park was across the street from the baseball stadium, adjacent to a canal within the bay called McCovey Cove, where fans gather in boats and kayaks to catch home runs that fly over the fence. We reclined on the big grass lawn and basked in the sun with our canine companions.
Farther down the lawn were an affectionate man and woman intertwined on a blanket. They looked sublimely in love. They hopped up and starting throwing the frisbee. After a little while, I couldn't resist, so I jumped up too and yelled: "Hey, can I throw a few with y'all?" They both replied in the affirmative simultaneously. We formed a tight triangle and created a sweet rhythm as we torqued our hips and elbows—letting the beloved disc soar through the pristine air to and from each other's hands. (I've written about this before, but chucking the frisbee reminds me of samyama. There is a lot of finesse in the technique, and the release of the held object into space is reminiscent of a sutra set off into silence.)
The next day I met my dear friend Rob at the Lands End Trail near the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio. We hiked along the cliffs and admired the wetsuit-encased surfers riding down the barrels of cold waves below. To me, the Pacific Ocean is so palpably different than the warm, familiar Gulf of Mexico that kisses the west coast of Florida. Whereas the Pacific conjures up feelings of stark, masculine fierceness, the Gulf embraces me in a sultry, feminine haze, like an intoxicating bosom. (Also, I forgot to mention something in the L.A. blog, and that is that on one of the days there, some gale-force winds lambasted the beach for a couple hours. We walked to a pier, and I could literally lean into the wind and stay standing by virtue of the gale's leverage. The grains of sand spewing off the beach were pelting us like microscopic shrapnel. The waves were so choppy and monstrous that we didn't see a single surfer out there braving the elements. But I loved every second of the barrage. It was so real, and so exuberating.)
Anyway, walking and talking with Rob was a real treat. He had counseled me during my divorce, and had become a true saving grace for me during that time. He exemplifies the kind of sturdy tenderness that I appreciate in fellow men. On a professional level, he filters psychology through a spiritual sieve, which is a strategy much needed in the market today, especially when it comes to purifying and balancing the pharmaceutical monopoly and marginalization in the mainstream. The world needs more Robs. When I told him about my up-to-date dream of starting an AYP center in Tampa, he said: "It will come to be." In fact, we might collaborate in the future and do some podcast stuff. He also holds vision quests for men by going out into the wilderness and fasting for several consecutive days (check it out: http://goodmenproject.
After vibing with Rob, I headed to the courtyard of my old apartment building in Cole Valley, where my bedroom window had looked out upon an adjacent shop called The Sword and Rose (http://www.theswordandrose.
I sat down on one of the ornamental, concrete benches, where I used to play mandolin as an accompaniment to Randy's guitar playing and singing. A couple years ago, Randy had tragically passed away in a house fire. I learned of the news from a mutual friend, but had not spoken to Patrick since the event. As I rested and reflected on the bench there, an image of Randy appeared on the bench across from me, flickering holographically like a lively memory. It was faint, but of real substance.
The shop's single wooden door was adorned with vines and looked like it could fit perfectly in a Tolkiensque world of hobbits, dwarves, and elves. I walked through, and there was Patrick, tending to some incense on the shelves in the dimly lit interior. "Hi Patrick, it's Cody. Do you remember me?" I said. He squinted pensively through his glasses and replied: "Oh yes, you've gained a little weight, but you look healthier and more settled. You're doing well, I can tell." I thanked him, we hugged, and then he showed me his hands—telling me they had healed remarkably fast after being burned in the house fire while attempting to save Randy's life.
Patrick had dragged Randy's burning body down the stairs when the ambulance arrived, and that was the last time they ever saw each other alive, at least in the sense of incarnate body to incarnate body. Now, Randy appears to Patrick in his dreams at night, and also through mutual, clairvoyant friends. In fact, Patrick said that Randy had been hounding one of their friends in an attempt to get an important message through to Patrick about renovations and repairs to the house. Death, it seems, has not separated the two, but merely created new forms of communication and interaction.
The more we talked, the more it seemed like old times. Patrick was highly optimistic about many things, and he had me sit down in the rocking chair by the fireplace, where he gave me a card reading from a deck filled with Native American symbology and power animals. I don't remember the exact spread, but it all boded well for me. Patrick said: "If you ever feel afraid that your dreams won't come true, transmute that fear by imagining what the joy will feel like once your dreams actually do come true, which they will. See the vision as if it is real right now. You must have faith. Faith is the opposite of fear, and that's how we transmute the emotional energy."
He had spoken the language of AYP's path of bhakti and devotion to a chosen ideal. It resonated deeply, and that feeling of progress and coming full circle was upon me. I left his shop in very high spirits, and he extended an open invitation to call him anytime, which I sincerely appreciated and reciprocated in kind.
On my last night in town, back at the condo with my cousin, who is kind of like a sister to me, we talked about some of our family members...the dysfunction, addiction, resentments, and lack of transparency. We were sweeping through the shadows. Not that our family is overwhelmed with darkness, but there are certainly some kinks to be worked out. Sitting on the balcony, we could hear Metallica playing a live show in the baseball park across the street. I could see the lead singer James Hetfield on the Jumbotron. He was pouring his dynamic voice into the microphone—at times full of rage, at times sweet and melodic. The band rolled into one of their classic anthems, "Nothing Else Matters":
So close no matter how farCouldn't be much more from the heartForever trusting who we areAnd nothing else matters
Never opened myself this wayLife is ours, we live it our wayAll these words I don't just sayAnd nothing else matters
On my early-morning flight back to Tampa, I knew that what mattered most was for me to stay active, and to keep teetering on the radical edge of progress. I couldn't settle for the passive, do-nothing spirituality. I had to maintain and improve my daily routine, and to keep putting myself out there—taking advantage of my current network, and staying perpetually open to new people and opportunities.
Metallica had it right: Life is ours, we live it our way.