WHAT ONE PERSON CAN ACCOMPLISH

2 08 2014

youngstephenStephen Gaskin, who was my first spiritual teacher, died last month.  I want to take this opportunity to appreciate the man and his work.

Perhaps the first thing is to clarify is what I’m talking about when I say “spiritual teacher.,” and why I have chosen to let Stephen, and others, play that role in my life.

Let’s consider basketball.  If you really like to play basketball, you don’t just shoot hoops in your driveway.  You get together with other people who want to play, and, if you’re really serious, you find a coach, somebody who knows the game well enough to teach it well.  Life is like that.  We all find our teachers, spiritual or not.  If you want to make a lot of money, you might find a mentor who will show you those ropes.  If it’s your perception that the best things in life are not things, and if, for you, unselfishness is more important than selfishness, then you might want to get together with other people who feel that way and find somebody you respect who can show you those ropes.  Christians call that a congregation and a preacher.  Eastern religions call it a sangha and a guru.

That’s what I was looking for when I first went to California in 1968, but, raised as a secular Jew, I didn’t have a name or even a concept for it.  I just knew, when I went to my first Monday Night Class at The Gallery Lounge on the San Francisco State College campus, that I had found what I was looking for, like a drowning man who encounters a piece of flotsam big enough to support him and save his life.

Yes, meeting Stephen saved my life. Just as some people, even when they’re very young, know “I’m not heterosexual,” or “The sex of the body I’m in is not the sex I feel I am,” I grew up feeling that the society I was expected to enter on adulthood was not the society I wanted to live in.  Like many a young sexual misfit, this disconnect was the source of a great deal of anxiety, neurosis, and self-destructive behavior for me.  Connecting with Stephen, his teachings, and the Monday Night Class community that ultimately became The Farm pulled meout of the steep dive my life was in.  Stephen and the Class opened a magic door for me, into a world where I could  have a life, a family, and a community that were more in alignment with the kind of society in which I felt I belonged. The Farm, “Stephen’s family monastery” for all its imperfections, was the best home I ever had, a home I have been trying in vain to recreate ever since the community came unglued in the early 80’s.farm

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