Spiritual leaders speak about kindness, love, and compassion, and try to answer questions that come from a deep place within each member of their congregation’s heart. Dogma is often attached to the answers: righteous paths, religious beliefs, dietary and sexual constraints that must be followed if one is to find God. When people seek answers to profound questions, there’s always a good deal of chaos and confusion in minds that refuse to shut up, in emotions that drown them, and in sexual energy that makes them feel guilty without having committed a crime. They have no idea how to deal with their localized sanitorium. Advice proliferates from temples, synagogues, and churches, but rarely does it teach one how to quiet internal pandemonium; it doesn’t teach an individual how to get on life’s raft with a spiritual teacher, navigate turbulent waters, and connect with God.  How does a neophyte learn to quiet his or her mind that’s like a birdcage full of canaries singing and screaming and keeping one on edge? We analyze the mind. We try to figure out what makes it run and we give advice to other people. But the mind of advice-givers, and takers, continues with a nonstop racket of noise, and there’s no end to mental and emotional self-abuse.

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” is a paradoxical truth that’s beyond comprehension until a person is ready for it to manifest.

At the age of sixteen, I had deep spiritual needs, but the idea of life in a monastery, ashram, or a Himalayan cave was foreign to a kid who was raised on the streets of the Southeast Bronx. There had to be an alternative answer to a quandary that puzzled me day and night. I spent nine years in search of a teacher, nine pain filled years that nearly drove me into a sanitorium. I couldn’t free myself from an unruly mind and emotions no matter how much I prayed and chanted, and how many spiritual books I read. I needed a teacher, a mentor, someone who’d been over the path and could guide me. After I traveled half-way around the world, I finally met him in New York City, the place where I was born.

After years of meditation practice, of writing and publishing books, of teaching people around the world, it became clear to me that happiness is the only solution to life’s conundrums.

I studied with Rudi because he didn’t just give me advice; it wasn’t the old love, peace, and eat vegetables mantra.  He developed a technique of inner work that quieted my mind, relaxed my emotions, and transformed my inner sanctum into love, joy, and a compassionate way of living. I learned how to live in the world and be free of the world at the same time.

It took me four years of Rudi’s meditation practice to finally live with a relatively quiet mind; and a score of years to develop an inner life that enabled me to live consciously in the moment. “Happy people are the only successful people on earth,” I said to myself. “Their hearts are open; they remain centered no matter the circumstances; they transform both positive and negative situations into a better life for themselves.” But to find a happy person is like finding the Holy Grail – a nonjudgmental person who can keep their opinions to themselves, who has a twinkle in their eye, and empathy for the human condition. They’ve freed themselves from whatever position they hold in life. I realized early on that saints must surrender their sainthood, politicians their politics, gurus their gurudom, the rich and poor their attachment to money, criminals their criminality because whatever one’s position is in life, it becomes an obstacle that will ultimately have to be surrendered.

The most basic need in every human being is to love and be loved. If we don’t love ourselves, if we can’t live with open hearts, how is it possible to love other people?   Once we free ourselves from ourselves, every form of joy and compassion becomes possible.

After years of meditation practice, of writing and publishing books, of teaching people around the world, it became clear to me that happiness is the only solution to life’s conundrums. If I sustain an open heart from day to day, it’s the first step off the karmic merry-go-round of human suffering…

(To be continued…)

Van Eyck painting