Copyright © 2018 Hesam Samimi
Table of Contents
- Part 1
- Part 2
- Part 3
- Part 4
- Part 5
- Part 6
- Part 7
- Part 8
- Part 9
- Part 10
- Part 11
- Part 12
- Part 13
- Part 14
- Part 15
- Part 16
- Part 17
- Part 18
- Part 19
- Part 20
- Part 21
- Part 22
- Part 23
- Part 24
- Part 25
- Part 26
- Part 27
- Part 28
- Part 29
- Part 30
- Part 31
- Part 32
- Part 33
- Part 34
- Part 35
- Part 36
- Part 37
This book was originally written as a long-running blog. As I wrote each part, I shared it on social media. A number of my friends here have expressed concern over my blogging about my past relationship, perhaps wondering “Poor guy, he’s still not over his relationship of many years ago! How sad… He deserves better…”
What is sad is our judgments and misunderstanding of each other, and of each other’s circumstances, even if coming from a place of love.
I am not the least bit interested in re-living a past experience nor wishing for it to come back. I am freer and happier than I ever have been, and will never want to take a backward step into any form of bondage.
I do not wish to worship just another human love relationship, nor to bemoan the sufferings in its breaking.
I am simply telling the story of my life, and waiting for what’s to come, so it too I can write to you about… My wish for any interested reader is to find inspiration and encouragement in the longer term story, to be able to see glimpses of that eternal bliss behind the apparent joy and sorrow, in what we call life, as I have just begun to feel and see.
Part 1: Intro
A total late bloomer, I had my only real love relationship not until the age of thirty one. I’ve been convinced that this was the first and last love experience of my life. For a while, after it ended, the feeling of others, and even my own doubtful suspicion, was that this was simply sentimental, that I was still not over the relationship. But my life trajectory since then has made it more clear that it is indeed true: it’s meant to be my only love of life.
Looking back, if I were to characterize our too short—less than two years, nearly half of which turned long-distance—relationship in a sentence, I might say “endless missed moments of opportunity to respond to her sweet presence with a divine full presence of my own, with a few rare but ever so-cherished occasions when I did succeed to respond in this manner”.
If you look closely in the photo along this text, I have a teary eye, only the left eye for some reason. It is a photo taken by her, as we were sitting on the outside patio of one of our favorite spots, Blu Cafe on Melrose Ave. in West Hollywood, California. I had taken one of hers during the same moment. In it, her eye that is directly in front of my teary eye, the right one only, is tearful. No doubt this was a moment of deep communication between two souls, remembering their deep connection in past lives and perhaps knowing of future ones, far beyond what our two bodies, she and I, could ever know. The only physical trace of that soul-to-soul exchange was two tearful eyes: one of mine, and one of hers. The rest of our bodies were just still. The time was the summer of 2012, when she had graduated from her Masters program as an international student, and was about to leave the U.S., hopefully to return someday, or perhaps never.
It all started on a September 24, 2011, and I’m going to tell you the whole story of the love of my life, before, during, and after. Somewhere across the world, I hope my love will also read this and cherish the moments of these pages. Though I know we’re eternally soul-connected, for this short time we have left in this particular incarnation, our bodies are no longer in touch.
Why are love stories so intriguing? Why all of us so desperately want to experience true romance? I don’t blame us. Swami Kriyananda said that “Human love is a part of divine love….” Behind this ceaseless seeking, be it not consciously, there lies a longing for an experience a million times grander, a distant soul-memory, to want to merge back into God.
Part 2: Earlier Years Me
I was raised in the busy city of Tehran, the capital of Iran, mostly by my grandparents, and mostly at home. I am of an introverted nature, and somewhat of a loner. My grandparents’ unwillingness to let me engage much with the outside, compounded by the segregation of the sexes in the schools and somewhat everywhere in the mostly Muslim, traditional culture itself, I reached the age of eighteen having rarely even conversed with girls of my age, even among relatives. I imagine my case was not uncommon, given the circumstances of those times (some of which have changed much since then). Of course, there were plenty of social butterflies or playboys who could easily defy the system and laws and situations of the time, and do their thing. Clearly, and unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them.
I had barely started my first university year, and my sister only the first grade, when my parents packed our things and moved us to America. It was May, 1999. I was nineteen years old, and as pure, inexperienced, and naive as a young boy can be. Let the American dream begin, whatever that is supposed to be.
When it comes to relationships, it’s quick and easy to summarize my experience in the next twelve years. Still not really able to connect with girls, several years went by with a few cases of infatuation with some girl, holding a relationship in my mind without much manifesting in the physical reality, even at the level of a simple interaction.
During this time, I had been in my Mars Mahadasha (astrological periods in one’s lifetime) in a house related to achievement and success, well illustrated by our family’s fresh start in America and my dedicated push to succeed in college education. Relationships of any sort, including romantic ones, were somewhat foreign and certainly not foremost on my mind. Nevertheless, I was painfully aware that there seemed to be something missing in my DNA, as I was so used to having friends who came and went with partners, while I was still going my own lonely way. A few times, under peer-pressure or with insistence of a roommate or friend, I would get pushed to going to clubs with some friends, or even looking into online dating, all of which attempts ended disastrously, as if affirming to me “forget about it.”
One such painful instance remains in my memory. I was a senior undergraduate, and had gone to Boston, for an internship. Feeling pretty lonely, one day I set up myself a date through an online site. Rented a car, nearly had a serious freeway accident getting into the city, only to sit there, have the girl show up with another friend. They would talk to each other, occasionally take a look at me and laugh.
So I did forget about it. Eventually I learned to be comfortable in the way I am. As a result, I gained self-confidence, and thus learned how to be a “friend” to those of the opposite sex. Without the pressure of “making a move” or “asking someone on a date” I found that I did well being there for someone as a friend. This way, I got into a couple of close friendships with a few girls over different periods of my mid twenties life. The difficulty, however, was that I had learned how to go deep into the “friend-zone” with somebody, making it all the more difficult to turn it into something more personal. Doing well as a “guy-friend”, the moment I would try imagining myself as the “guy-my-date” I would get clumsy and awkward and couldn’t even walk straight.
One such friendship lasted quite a few years. Despite my hopes, it would never turn into a real relationship. I did not dare, nor did I know how, to hint to go for even a kiss.
Soon after I had left my job in Northern California to start graduate school at UCLA in Los Angeles, I was happily declaring myself single-for-life. I was supremely loving graduate school at UCLA, as much as I had hated my undergraduate years at Berkeley.
Part 3: The Rising Me
So many years of being so bad at approaching girls, with my few and borderline-funny futile attempts to break that tradition during my 20s, had actually been a tremendous blessing for me. It had brought me to a place where I knew how to be happy and contented with myself. I had experienced that we truly need no one to be happy, which I blissfully continue to experience today.
On the sexual side of things, I was also seeing a contradiction between what I knew from our culture and society and what I was experiencing in my solo life. Our culture portrays lack of sexual fulfillment as almost like a disease. Sex is part of a healthy lifestyle and self-pleasuring is advocated as a way to balance the hormones, the mind and the body. In my early twenties I had experiences in self-pleasure, but soon I had stopped, as I would experience a deep loss of self-confidence from it. Over the next few years, I would of course lose myself here and there. A couple of times during my twenties I also had engaged in sex with a casual partner through an online site.
But those were but a few distance instances by that time. For fun, or sometimes as amused self-pity, I was counting the number of times I had sex up to that point in my adult life, which was about the number of my fingers on one hand, and the last time I had engaged in any sexual activity, with a count that was in years.
But I didn’t seem to be sick or unhappy. My body seemed vital and healthy; it didn’t seem in trouble. I learned that it would naturally discharge the old semen once in a while, while sleeping. I wasn’t a psychological mess from years of “suppression.” I was the happiest I had ever been.
As I mentioned before, I was also in a happy place in my school-work life. Not only, or perhaps because, I was enjoying graduate school and research work, I was meeting with a lot of success, and praise.
I was now in my 31st year. Several years later I learned, in an astrological reading session, that at that time I had just entered a new astrological period (Mahadasha) in my life, which is called Rahu. The energy of this 18-year-long period is most outward. This is when one becomes interested, more than what’s one’s nature, in outward activity, in the manifested universe, in reaching out to others. To solidify this, my Rahu just happens to be in the house of “relationships”, which compels a soul to reach out to others, make new and deeper connections, work with and serve others, at work, in society, and in one’s personal life.
My rising sun, which is an indicator for one’s unchanging nature, is in Ketu—the opposite of Rahu. Ketu has an inward energy which often manifests as an introverted nature, a lack of interest in the outside universe and a desire to retreat within. Nevertheless, looking back to my life events starting from the age 30, and continuing to this day (I will stay in Rahu until the age of 48), the effect of being in my world-engaging Rahu period is easy to feel and see. It is evidence in my sharing of this blog with you right now.
I began to notice I have good and intuitive people-skills. Despite my usual shyness, I was reaching out to people, making new connections. I began to pay more attention to the way I dressed. I started to become more comfortable and confident in the way I looked. At school and work I seemed to be placed and do well in situations of leading others. Something interesting was going on and I was happy to experience this new period of my life.
There remained one thing that was unchanged though. While I found it easier now to interact with girls, I steered clear of thoughts on dating and intimate relationships. Like I said, at this point I didn’t even feel the need. Somehow revisiting that topic felt like stepping backward.
And it was around this time when I met the love of my life, in the most improbable place and circumstance. It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Love often comes to you only when you stop looking for it.
Part 4: A Most Improbable Meeting
Divine Mother’s love is such that if She wants Her most relationship-handicapped child to experience a love-experience, She’ll make it happen, in the most improbable, astonishing ways.
When a real experience of love comes, you just have to sit back, observe and enjoy, be present. There is no struggle. There will be no need of efforts to “make it happen.”
Let me fill you in on some departmental statistics, where I attended graduate school. The department of Computer Science is perhaps the most female-impoverished in all of UCLA, as it is probably in nearly every college in the world. (Not sure why. Has it something to do with computer-work being totally left-brained?) So when a guy like me is put in a department like that, you’d be sure you won’t be getting much when it comes to the news of new romances brewing. Now the department of Liberal Arts, for example, is a whole another story!
One April day in 2011 I attended a low-key local academic workshop called SoCal. It’s a gathering of graduate students who study programming languages from various universities only in Southern California, providing them an opportunity to present their latest research work, in the form of a short talk or a poster presentation. SoCal workshops happened a few times a year, and I usually presented my work there. This time, as it happened, I wasn’t on the program. Yet I decided to go with a buddy of mine.
Curiously, there was one or two female students from other UC universities who were present, among the rest of us guys. The site of girls who study computer science is rare, so even I was curious. One girl, with a dark brown hair in an elegant and simple black dress caught my (and probably everyone else’s) eye. Now, yes, I did say I didn’t know or care much about girls and relationships, but I was still a young single guy. Come on!
Naturally, my buddy and I, among a few other guys, lined up in front of this girl, to ask her questions about the poster she was presenting. Her poster, it seemed, was the most popular station! She was presenting it with a colleague of hers. I remember, when it came to my turn, bless his heart, he stepped away and allowed her to respond to my question.
I was met with a smiling, inviting face, probably one of the Middle East or North African origin. With her soft voice, she graciously answered my technical question about the poster. Later on, after we became a couple, she told me something funny about this meeting, though I’m not sure if I remember it as it was. I think she told me that she “thought I was cute, but also noticed I didn’t really listened to her as she was answering my question!”
Well, that was probably right. Can you blame me? The whole encounter was a bit curious to me. She was engaging with me in a way I hadn’t been before, with a girl. I felt easy, as she was talking, yet kind of lost in the experience of it. We finished the conversation and walked together back to the hall, as the next session was starting. Of course, it didn’t occur to me to ask for her number.
And that was it. The next day, back in my desk in our department at UCLA, I thought about her a couple of times, thinking why I didn’t get her contact. But by the next day, I had forgotten about it all.
Part 5: I Get a Second Chance
A few months passed. It was now the summer of 2011, and I was going to attend a week-long academic summer school in Northern California near Stanford. Once or twice I remembered Nahla, the girl I had met a few months ago, and wondered if she was also going to be attending this. Actually, it was more than wondering; for some reason, I had a feeling that she would be there.
This was going to be a gathering of a hundred or more people, from universities of all over the country and beyond. As I arrived into the parking lot of the college, where this event was being held, before I had seen anybody else I saw two girls approaching. It was her, with a friend of hers, walking in my direction! ” Though it confirmed my earlier feeling, I think I probably just wrote it off as just another coincidence, as it was my habit then.
Next thing I knew the three of us were going to grab dinner nearby. It was nice, because I would have been scared if there was only her. This way we could keep the conversation impersonal. I think it was then (or maybe later on) when Nahla told me she was hoping to see me there. I don’t think I told her that I was too. At this time I had the desire to meet her more, but I lacked the willingness and daring to approach her alone. By that time I had been into so many years of swearing off even trying to approach girls, and was not interested in risking my happy contented own place with the prospect of re-living the whole “approaching girls” nightmare.
Now that I’m writing this, I remember after returning from that dinner, as we were saying good night, I was fantasizing about walking up to her to ask her if she wanted to go for a walk before returning to her room. But no words would come out of my mouth.
Classes began and we were busy most of the time. While we would say hi here and there, I wasn’t able to get myself to take a step forward. So instead, I found myself doing an easier step for me, perhaps subconsciously. I would try to make group plans to do something, and then later ask her if she was also coming to it. This way I was finally able to exchange numbers with her without asking her out.
One time I was in a cafe with some of my (guy) friends, when I got a text message from Nahla. She said she was shopping nearby and asked if I would be interested in giving her a ride back to the college where we were staying. I was excited to see her message, but quickly I remembered the pains I had felt many times in the past, when I would feel being used by some female friend who would receive my help and services, yet, despite my hopes, never having the intention to be more than just a friend with me.
Another odd thing added to my suspicion. I can’t remember how, but I had heard from someone else that she was planning to go visit a guy in San Francisco after this program. Somehow another friend knew the name of the person she was supposedly going to meet and didn’t tell me the best things about this guy. It sounded like a familiar story.
I was just not used to getting attention like this from girls. Pretty much never. So out of my past experiences, and this extra bit of gossip, I decided that Nahla must be just another one of those girls who just needs a free ride from me now, only to go and meet some guy later on after this week. So I told her that I couldn’t come.
Did it help me eventually to reach her, to have initially rejected her gesture? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But there is something to the whole “playing hard to get” thing. Human nature is that way. When there is rejection, the response is often a stronger desire for whatever it is, rather than a reciprocated rejection. I think that might be because human beings have a vague memory of having a connection to the Infinite, a distance knowing that there is nothing out there that is beyond them, that they are limitless. So when one gets a rejection, it is common if that only strengthens her resolve to go at it harder.
Anyway, you could be sure I wasn’t intentionally trying to play hard to get. By now you must have figured out I’m not all that cunning, when it comes to this topic! It was just happening by itself. To tell you the truth, I think it was Divine Mother who was arranging my responses.
In any case, I was a bit floored and impressed with her quick polite and kind text message response, something along the lines of “It is quite OK and see you later.”
Once in one of the group outings, that I might have organized, I had Nahla and another girl from the program in my car. This time I had received another chance to pick them up from a quick stop at the mall next to Stanford. I remember, in the car, Nahla extended her wrist to my nose to make me smell the perfume she had tried. I found it a nice gesture, but again, knowing nothing other than being myself and how I am (always a good advice to give), I told her that I can’t really smell much and I was sure it was a fine perfume. Maybe to her I was being cold to her friendly and inviting gesture. The difference was, unlike what many do, saying something to flirt or win somebody, I was just naive and honest. I think maybe that’s why all my “faux pas” didn’t kill what was trying to happen…
The program eventually ended, and once again, I never did make any moves, other than getting a few conversations with her. But that’s when something happened that somehow shifted my cynical perception.
I can’t remember why, but I decided to leave one day earlier than planned. I was well on my way on the road when I received another text message from Nahla. She said a group of friends were going to movies and invited me to join them. I quickly responded that I was already gone. Nevertheless, I don’t know why, but somehow after receiving that message, the combination of her persistence while maintaining cordiality and enthusiasm, I felt at ease with where this was going. My heart was softened. Then I drove along back to Los Angeles, and again just let it be.
Part 6: Is It that Easy?!
One of the reasons I believe Divine Mother was taking control of my soon-to-be-relationship was the fact that I was kind of aloof and unattached to where it was going, so uncharacteristically. Being so inexperienced and having no past romantic relationships, naturally I would be anxious and the opposite of unattached to what was happening. Yet, after I came back from the summer school where I had bumped into Nahla for a second time, again I soon forgot about it and went back to my life and graduate school work.
Non-attachment is actually a major teaching of yoga. It means remaining totally even-minded no matter what life brings, or which direction a life outcome wants to take. It is also the most empowered state of mind; being unaffected with the results, one can function in his/her highest potential, unencumbered by emotions and reactions, and thus actually most positively affect the outcome in the end. Remaining Non-attached is also a very difficult thing to do!
Again, at that time I didn’t know much about these teachings, much less followed them, nor did I intentionally kept cool about the prospects of meeting Nahla in the future. That’s why I am saying that Divine Mother had taken control of it within me.
Anyway, a month or two passed. I don’t think we had any communications during this time. Finally one time I received a message from Nahla, who said she was soon visiting her family in Tunisia, and will be in Los Angeles for a day before flying out of the LAX airport. She said we might be able to meet. I responded that it would be great. A few hours later I remembered I myself would be traveling overseas before that day, and called it off. It’s funny how many times I had shown a cold shoulder to her, for one reason or another, and none by my own intention or planning.
And finally, once she and I returned from our trips home, the streak was broken. I sent her an email asking about her trip and also saying “looking forward to see her when she returns.” She replied that she was back and that next two weeks she had plans but could come visit me the week after that.
What? Is it that easy to get a date? My whole life up to that point had shown me otherwise. I couldn’t believe what was happening and how it was happening without my even trying.
She had asked me in her reply to look for things we could do in LA. Looking back at my emails, I see that I had come up with things like visiting LACMA, original farmers market on 3rd St., Melrose Ave shops, Silverlake, Hollywood Bowl, Santa Monica’s restaurants, some of which we eventually did go to.
You should know something about me: I really dislike phone calls (as well as other cyberspace forms of calls: Skype, etc.) for some reason. Not only I hate them, I’m so uncomfortable and distracted in them, almost as if I’m not trusting if I’m talking to the real person on the other side. True, I’m not a social person, but one-on-one and in-person I can make a good, genuine connection with someone. I’m actually a tech-friendly guy, so not sure what that’s all about. Could this have been a factor in our closeness falling apart, once our relationship became long distance and only over the phone? I don’t know.
Despite this, during the few weeks until we were planning to meet, we did have a couple of phone calls. They ran into early AM hours. One time I shared with my graduate advisor, who’s also my good friend, that I was going to go out with a girl, whom I had been on the phone with for hours a couple of times. He gave me a reassuring tip that “if a girl talks to you on the phone until late night, then no need to worry; she’s interested in you!”
One time, as I looked for possible interesting events that were happening, I came across a fair that was happening in Venice Beach, which I had been curious to go before. But that was on a Sunday, and she was planning to visit on Saturday. There I saw an opportunity to ask her if she would be interested to stay a night, so we could go to this fair the next day. She did agree. Later on she told me that she wasn’t sure about accepting to stay a night with me, but her roommate (bless her) had encouraged her to go.
Part 7: She Visits Me in LA
Like a classic Los Angeles love story, in the afternoon of September 24, 2011, when she was going to visit me, I went to the historic Los Angeles Union Station to pick her up from her train. She didn’t drive and was coming from Irvine, where she attended UCI, via train. And, like it just happened yesterday, I still see the moment she appeared in her simple, gray, loose dress and open hair and big smile. We cordially hugged and walked towards my car. There was a feeling of ease I felt from her, as if we’ve been going out for a long time.
We visited a few places. Had food at a stand in the old farmer’s market in West LA. Towards the end of the night we visited a bar, where I asked that we exchanged our wild experiences. I don’t recall her sharing much, but I do remember I shared a couple of wild experiences (at least according to myself). We shared a couple of beers. She seemed comfortable with drinking. I’ve never been into alcohol, but at that time I had accepted it as a way to fit in.
On our way out, I noticed the most remarkable thing (again, according to myself)! Never feeling comfortable with girls, I would always be super clumsy around them, never quite knowing how to shake or hold hands, etc. At that time, as I felt she was a little buzzed up, I felt to walk a bit closer and more intimately with her. I reached my arm around her back, and my hand locked ever so softly and naturally around her back. It was as if I had been practicing for that moment my whole life. Again, I was wondering in my mind “What is going on? Is this me?”
So I brought this sweet Tunisian girl to my home, which was a little studio apartment in the back of a garden house in Carthay Square in West LA. An interesting thing was that, for some reason, only very recently at that point, I had bought a nice queen bed. For years, I had been sleeping on a pad on the floor. I preferred a stiff bed and was comfortable with that, and never worried about how it looked as I never had any guests anyway. The stars had arranged for this night, as I had only recently rented this beautiful room in a scenic area in West LA and furnished it with a nice large bed that I could share with someone.
As we were getting ready to sleep, I jokingly and flirtingly told her that “Sorry you’re going to need to share my bed” to which she quickly responded “I’d like that!” Now, you could be sure that was the sexiest thing I ever heard from a girl. It was extremely hot to hear!
There is a difference in how a woman can be sexy. There is an “ego” way to do that, with a focus on herself, saying and doing stuff which all imply “look how desirable I am.” Obviously, most men wouldn’t have any problems with a woman approaching them that way! But, just like women can sense “subtle” things, I would argue that men, too, can sense the energy through which a women is presenting herself to them.
But there’s another way. A woman can be saying the most flirty, sexy, dirty things to you, but you can feel it is coming from a place of “love”. Being the opposite of “ego”, the energy is on the other soul, rather than on oneself. It’s a call to “let’s share an experience together”, “I want to love you”, or “I want to make love to you.” With Nahla, even though she just returned my flirty talk with even a stronger one, I could feel it was coming from a place of sweetness and love. It was soft and joyful. It felt as if she would say a flirty thing just so “I can experience hearing it.” That’s the power of love, though many, unfortunately, never get to experience or give that kind of love in a lifetime.
This is her empty Starbucks cup she handed me one day…
Thinking about that first day together with Nahla, I sometimes regretted why I didn’t dare to make a move, to kiss her, during the many hours we were out together. But again, there’s never a good reason to regret anything.
Better sooner than later, we have to come to grips with (perhaps shocking for some) reality that whatever happens, or doesn’t happen, whatever right gets done, or wrong, success, or failure, is all the will of Divine Mother. It is the grand universe’s call, who are we to question it! (Yes, Divine Mother’s will is sometimes to fail through us, only to help us to learn. Of course, don’t make the mistake of thinking this means we are not responsible. This simply means we must accept what is, so we can fully get the intended lesson and growth from that experience given to us by the universe.) This reality, at first, might sound like a limitation, or else a cop-out, but when rightly perceived at last, it is infinitely freeing!
That day, I was just the observer to the gift Divine Mother had brought me—an experience of a sweet girl coming to visit me for a day. I didn’t want to do anything out of my comfort zone to risk spoiling that. That’s why I don’t think the thought of kissing her even crossed my mind that day.
But that didn’t matter, because that night I had Nahla in my bed, and as soon as I joined her, she didn’t waste a second to break the ice and kiss me. Well, that’s one way!
Hers was the sweetest kiss I had ever experienced (not that there were many before!). But then, with her slightest touch, I quickly orgasmed before we could even undress. With my close-to-none amount of experience and going without sex or orgasm for so many years, I had no control to speak of! I was so embarrassed. I told her that “I didn’t feel like doing this right now.” More than my own embarrassment, I was sorry to see her disappointment. I don’t know if she knew of my problem, or if she thought I didn’t want to have sex with her.
She took out her phone and started playing a Tracy Chapman playlist on a low volume, as we were going to sleep. My heart was consoled, because I also listened to Tracy Chapman (passed-down tapes from my parents) sometimes when sad. It was a bitter-sweet moment. As I awoke in the morning, I went straight to kiss her and this time I was able to perform better in bed! Later I learned, to my huge relief, that when one has orgasms regularly it becomes easier to control and lengthen it.
One of the things about Nahla that impressed me tremendously (ladies, take notes!) was that, on the very day she was visiting me, she had also set a time to meet some of her friends in a park to do slacklining. She didn’t say “Oh, I have an important first date today, so I’m not going to meet anyone else!” She just asked me to come pick her up after she’s done playing with her friends. That’s also a nature of love; it’s not exclusive. It doesn’t exclude others so it can just concentrate on one soul! This was her nature. She seemed to always stay open and present to everybody, at the same time.
On our second day, we visited a few places, but ended up missing the fare we were planning to go to in Venice Beach. But we did have a deep moment while having coffee at Intelligentsia Coffee on Abbot Kinney Blvd. There she shared with me how her dad had died with a heart attack when she was a teenager, while in her arms. I was in tears looking to her eyes. I noticed that she immediately turned her attention to me, responding with a deep love and appreciation for my listening to her. I shared with her that my dad had died also, when I was two years old.
Only a day and half spent together, I felt like we had already experienced laughter and sadness, pleasure and pain together. A deep bond was already between us.
Like a classic LA love story, that evening I found myself waving her goodbye, tears running through my face, as I stood on the train platform in the Union Station. Despite my still present disbelief, yes, these two days had really happened!
Part 8: Sweet Little Memories
We were attending schools in different cities, a couple of hours away, so we only had weekends or occasionally some evenings in the middle of the week to spend together. This was all just happening too fast and I was finding it hard to switch gears from all I was used to, my mental school-work, to fully enjoy our romance while we got together.
Yet there were occasional moments when we did have a spark in the present moment. One time, as we were sitting in a diner somewhere in Irvine, I look deeply into her eyes and said “I want to do crazy things with you.” Her usual smile doubled in length as she told me, child-like, “I like it when you tell me you want to do crazy things with me.” I felt as if I was given the whole world to see her feeling happy from something I had said. Did we do crazy things? Not much, maybe a few. Certainly not enough… not enough.
In the beginning there were so many moments of disbelief for me over what was blossoming. I remember she was telling me about the time after we had first met, in the local computer science seminar, when I had forgotten to even exchange our contact information. She told me that she had found my personal web page and would often visit it to “look at my dreamy photo.” I remember, as I was hearing this, thinking “is she visually impaired or high or something?” I’m trying to be funny here of course. I would never think about her that way. But I was somewhat in shock; I just never imagined my looks being desirable for some girl, and certainly not used to hearing flattering things like that from any girl.
A few times she would bring up, and jokingly protest, my initial coldness towards her. I tried to explain my cynical and conservative behavior due to past experiences. I couldn’t quite tell if she was satisfied with my responses though.
Nonetheless our relationship was quickly deepening. It was magical. Once we snapped some photos as we were sitting in the patio of a local organic grocery store, as the sun was setting. Looking at the pictures, I was astounded to see we both appeared to be literally glowing, with eyes filled with serene joy.
Then she took me to a national park somewhere nearby her campus. We were playful. I remember being a party pooper as she would go to kiss me with others around. I would feel embarrassed to just respond with her same carefree spirit. But gradually I did become comfortable to be with her that way.
I remember our ordering coffee at the Starbucks drive-thru. At the time we both drank coffee. People in Tunisia like their coffee really sweet. So she would always ask for a regular coffee and 7 sugars (packets). Sometimes the person taking the order would pause or ask again to make sure they heard her right.
At the time we met I had been a pescatarian for about a year, and she had recently turned vegetarian. So I used the opportunity to dive into becoming a full vegetarian with her, which I still remain so. Another funny food-order story concerns her leaving a phone-order at her nearby diner. It was an old-fashioned Mexican diner/fastfood joint, but they served a mean breakfast burrito. Of course, the burrito had bacon strips in it. This wasn’t a sophisticated place and not in a hip, young part of town, so they didn’t really know what to do when someone asks for a vegetarian version of some dish. Many times I would catch her on the phone, trying to order the breakfast burrito but without any meat. They didn’t know how to ring it up. The manager always had to get involved. It was hilarious to hear her on the phone explaining, sometimes for minutes, to leave her order.
Perhaps the sweetest moment of my life was a late evening, two weeks after our first date in LA. It was in the middle of the week, and my birthday. We had talked on the phone and I think we were planning to spend the weekend together. As I came out of a shower, I heard someone knocking at my apartment door. There behind the door stood Nahla with her sweet big smile. I was in shock. She had been in my place only one time and didn’t know the address, nor did she have a car to get here from her town. Somehow she had guessed the neighborhood address, took the train and then a cab. She had entered the house by telling the owners about who she was and why she was surprising me.
You know, up until that point, I think I still thought of her as “someone I’m going out with.” But as she came to my door like that, looking into my eyes, to say happy birthday to me in person, I felt her true love, and something melted in me that would still not believe someone can want me and love me in that way. I was in tears, realizing her sweet gesture. We sat on the outside patio table. She lit candles that she had brought, along with a fancy cheese and champagne. I don’t remember we even said much at the table that night. We were mostly looking at each other, letting love speak through our eyes.
Another sweet memory I have was when she was standing in the middle of my bedroom. As I approached her, without thinking, it came naturally out of me to tell her “you are a sweet pumpkin!” She paused and thought for a little bit. Then she brightened up with a big smile on her face: “Sweet pumpkin? I like it!” Again I felt so good to have pleased her. From then on she became my “sweet pumpkin”.
Part 9: Some Cracks Appear
Nahla stayed with me on that sweet night of my birthday surprise visit. The next morning we had breakfast and spent time together around Los Angeles. It was Halloween season and I took a photo of her among some pumpkins. A sweet pumpkin among real pumpkins! Her eyes and huge smile were beaming radiance and joy.
By the time afternoon had arrived I was getting uneasy with not showing up at school and work. I was just not used to the idea of not turning up on a workday without prior arrangement with my advisor, simply for the reason of wanting to hang out with a girl! So I made sure our plans slowly wound down and took her to the train station to return to Irvine. I felt a little funny about what I was doing, but my feeling bad for unannounced absence at school work was stronger.
It was only when I was driving alone back to campus when it hit me what a mistake I had done. All of a sudden I felt the void, and really alone. This beautiful girl had skipped two days from her school work to travel to LA and to surprise me and be with me, and I had taken her back to the train station early because of feeling bad to skip a few hours from school! I felt utterly stupid and ashamed. I got back to work on my desk, but I don’t think I did much work that day, feeling so bad for what I had done. I felt I had waited until the age of 31 for this, and now I blew it in only a week!
I thought to myself maybe it was no big deal, but when I saw that she wasn’t responding to my messages and calls, it became pretty clear; she was pissed and disappointed at me. She finally called me back that evening as I was driving back home from work. The next thing I knew this big guy–me–was wailing on the phone trying to apologize for what he had done! I don’t remember having cried in my whole adult life before that point. What was happening to me? What sort of transformation was occurring? I think it was after hearing my crying that she softened. She later sent me a message, along with the photo I had taken of her with the pumpkins, from her phone: “Hearing your sweet sad voice made me feel bad. I thought maybe sending you this picture would make you feel happy, dreamy and smiling again.”
The next time Nahla visited me, I believe she went out in a T-shirt with no bras and took me to a bar, at noon, to have a beer. Yep, that was my girl! But that’s also when I started to notice new cracks appearing…
There was a mismatch in our ability to be present, in the moment. Even though we were both Computer Science major graduate students, a field that’s quite (perhaps the most) mental, she seemed to know how to put all that aside just to have fun, like deciding to have a beer at the top of the day. While I was ecstatic to have the experience to be with this gorgeous, and smiley girl, I was also painfully aware that this might be too much for me to handle.
For years, I had virtually no life but my graduate school studies and research work, and didn’t quite know how to park my mind from all that. I had no idea how much I was in my head through all these years. My journey to yoga would only start some two years later, after our separation. Presence of mind isn’t something one can just fake in the moment! For too long I had been wrapped in my mind and head, and I felt like I was missing an opportunity to be fully with Nahla.
But she also had such a positive and gracious attitude, such as after the episode of my sending her back early, that I felt she was resolute in our budding relationship and wasn’t going to let slight moments of lack let us both down. And that lifted me again and again.
I remember something she told me in a phone conversation, around this time, that remained my guiding principle throughout our relationship and beyond it. She said something along the lines of:
“If we want to be in this relationship, we need to let go and just dive in…”
And that is when I dived without looking back. Just drop the doubts, the thinking, the overthinking, the comparisons, the judgments. Just let go, give it all you have, and live it in full faith. I found our relationship grounds shaky many times, but my letting go and full faith in this love has not failed me to this day.
The next bitter-sweet memory was our first trip together, a week or two later. We went on a weekend group canoeing trip to the Colorado River organized by her school UC Irvine. The trip and the outdoor experience itself was great fun, but I think as far as our newborn relationship is concerned, it felt like a rocky trip and a big test. I think we were both uneasy and out of our elements during this time. For me, it was the first time in my life I was appearing in public with a “partner”, and didn’t quite know how to act. And for her, it was the first time she was going out with a group, having me as a partner. Up to that point we had only gone out with just ourselves alone.
At times I felt we had more in common with others in the group than with each other. A few times I even sensed an energy of dislike between us. For the first time, I felt it was not just “me”, but also her, who’s causing this feeling. Was it perhaps the “cycle thing” that had a hand? I don’t know. We had at least a couple of arguments during the trip. To finish it off, when we arrived back we got into a fight, because I had told the guys who were dropping us off to just let us out at the street corner, and she was upset with me for not letting them drop us at our doorstep. Well, in retrospect, that was silly of me. We did have luggage and how much time did they save by not turning a corner?
But perhaps these sort of experiences are common among new partners; I had no point of reference. But I noticed soon enough we would get passed whatever had come up (it was her who had to allow it, I was the guy who just wants to forget and move on!). And that somehow solidified our partnership: having gotten passed it, it strengthened my faith in our partnership. Perhaps that is part of the purpose of such experiences.
Part 10: Human and Animal Connections
We were getting to know each other more. One time in the beginnings I made a joke about considering someone with a high-end car being worth more than others. She brought it up later a couple of times, until I wondered “could she really believe that I’m that superficial?” My face rarely shows any emotion, so it is hard for people to know when I’m joking and when not. I think she was kidding too, but couldn’t be sure.
I think our understanding and knowing of each other has changed so much, and it is still. Obviously, if you recall, during our first encounters I had a totally off impression of her based upon my cynical views born of past experiences. I think she too was now seeing me differently: “The more I get to know you the more I realize what a wonderful person and sweet lover you are. I love being around you so much, being in your arms, talking to you, seeing you getting excited about avocados,” she said!
But our relationship ended too soon and there’s so much to discover! One cannot really start to understand another, until one comes to a better, more real understanding of his/her own nature. Unfortunately for me, it was only our eventual separation that triggered the start of that process. I have a feeling her knowing of me has changed a lot too, after our separation, though I am not in touch with her to get direct confirmations.
Even though at that time I remained wrapped pretty tightly in my head, and had little awareness and mindfulness, I still loved her in my heart and adored her ways much. I wanted everyone to know what I felt I knew of her and her beautiful being. But she has an interesting and unique personality towards others, at least in my experience. Even to those close to her, I think she doesn’t quite let in much; she remains rather reserved. That was my feeling at least in relation to meeting some of my family, and I had felt she was that way with her mom too.
In our society, much of our day-to-day socializing concerns the least real things: superbowl, news, politics, movies, and pop culture. Nahla didn’t follow that stuff at all. If you asked her who the president of Russia or even U.S. was, or when the Olympics were happening, I doubt she would care to know. Sometimes I feared others, such as my own family, might think of her as “simple.” But of course, it is all of us who get it wrong, to know what’s worth spending our breaths on and what’s not. She lived on higher vibrations. She cared and paid attention to things that really mattered: such as expansion of consciousness, higher love, beauty, simplicity, and joy. These things weren’t really in my vocabulary at that time.
One time we were dining at my parents, and they brought up what they liked to point out often: “Hesam likes to put himself down.” I was impressed when Nahla immediately jumped and said: “No, he doesn’t.” I felt she understood me. I proudly agreed with her: “I actually think I’m the king.” It’s my habit, on the surface and in talking to others, to belittle my status or abilities. But, of course, I have a high regard for myself! How else did my parents think I succeeded in my education and work endeavors? If anything, I have an egotistical problem, still present at times.
One way Nahla was being an instrument to teach me to be more present was her way with animals. Walking to the car she would notice a cat or a squirrel on the sidewalk, and she would take her time appreciating and talking to the thing for a while. Here is picture she snapped of one of her friends.
One day early in our relationship she was kissing me on my face, rapidly moving her lips around my cheeks. That’s when I found out that she is actually a squirrel. It all made sense. So I second-nicknamed her Sweet Squirrel. Somewhere along the line I became the owl. The owl that loved the sweet squirrel. A year later when she was leaving the U.S., I surprised her by putting these two little animal toys in front of her. I gave her the owl and kept the little squirrel to myself. Six months later, as I was visiting her in France, where she was doing an internship, we went to see the Twilight movie. In the beginning there was a sequence showing wild animals in the forest. It was so sweet as they showed a squirrel followed by an owl. We both looked at each other knowing this was a little gift for us by Mother Universe.
Another ever-present memory is her treatment of the snails on the sidewalks. As the lawns were watered, snails come out on the cement walk-ways and that’s how they get crushed by human footsteps. Every time we were leaving her apartment, she would painstakingly pick up every single one (there could’ve been tens and tens of them) to put them in a place of safety.
I feel embarrassed remembering that during those times my attitude was rolling my eyes. “We are losing time”, I would think in my mind, for whatever “important” thing we were going to do. That’s the danger, when a person has fallen entirely into one’s own mind and head, cutting off the connection with the heart and the present time entirely, without even being aware of it. Little I understood back then (a mere five years ago) to think “What’s more important than being mindful of life, in the present moment, right in front of you?”
Ever since becoming solo again, I always remove any snails on the sidewalk, to honor her and her presence.
This reminds me of a story which I think I read in one of Echart Tolle’s books. Thousands of starfish had washed up on the seashore and were dying. Someone saw a young man picking a starfish and throwing her back into the ocean. The person went to and asked the young man: “But there’s miles and miles of shore here, all covered with washed up starfish. How could this make any difference?” The young guy replied, as he was pointing to the starfish he was holding: “To this one it makes a difference!”
This story demonstrates well the difference between living in the mind and in the heart.
So was Nahla and her way of being.
Life is ever so sensitive and caring to you. As I finished writing this last paragraph, a hummingbird came right behind my window’s screen, and then flew away!
One time she sent me this text along this photo: something that has obviously stayed with me, because I have never felt that our love stopped when our relationship did.
“I wanted to give you this yesterday but then, I wasn’t too cheerful or in the mood for love, I guess. I just thought of you when I saw it and I found it so adorable. I don’t know if I already told you that but I remember our guide telling us that elephants were capable of great emotions just as us humans and that they would stay with the same person all their lives and mourn their separation if they leave or if they separate, she said their behavior totally changes and you could feel their pain, they would be sadly sitting in a corner when they used to be playful. I don’t know why I never forgot when she was saying this story. I found that very touching.”
Part 11: Coming to the Heart
Nahla’s coming to my life, I feel, was Divine Mother’s head start with me on the process of leaving the mind and entering into the heart. Divine Mother was thinking “OK, you’ve gone far enough, boy, conquering the things of the mind, with your school work and such. Now go learn the supreme ways of the heart!
I give Nahla a lot of credit, and sympathy, because she came at a rocky time—sort of my kali (dark) years. This process of Divine Mother’s didn’t really begin until later, after my heart was broken and she no longer around me. Nahla poked some holes, but this pot needed a lot of hard smacks to crack open.
Of course, I had no clue of any “process” wanting to begin. As far as I was concerned, I was still a few years away from getting my PhD degree, and that was what my life was all about. After that I was supposed to continue my work, to go and pioneer new frontiers in the field of Computer Science. I didn’t really think or care about the things of the “heart” or “feeling”. I was just enjoying being with her and spending time with her, while we were both quite focused on the serious business of finishing our degrees.
She triggered the very beginnings of this process by small things she would do in my presence, small things that ended up having a permanent effect on me. I already spoke of her spending time with the animals. Another thing that she did was helping any homeless person that we would pass by. Without hesitation, she would go and give money to whomever was asking. Up to that time, I would never do such a thing. In my head, I had justified my unwillingness to give money to homeless by the thought that “they would just go spend it on drugs and I don’t want to help them do that!” (and I know I’m not the only one thinking this way).
Well, this is the “star fish” story all over again! It means I am stuck in my mind. Through her I was confronted with an alternative view: “Why assume the worst? It’s our job to help, not to judge!” And when I did start to give to any homeless I saw (which Los Angeles had / and must still have a lot of), it just felt good! Why rob ourselves the pleasure of doing something beautiful, and instead make up in our minds hypothetical negative scenarios? It just doesn’t feel good, for our own sake, to think that way!
Another way I was being introduced to new ways of being was the experiences she was gifting me in the present moment. My most cherished moments, among all interactions that we had during our relationship, were the times I would visit her at her apartment near UCI. At the door, I would always be greeted by the sweetest smiling face, melting my heart every time. Then we’d embrace and kiss. An embrace and kiss that were not of this world.
Now, obviously I’m no expert in kissing. And I think I had only kissed one other girl in my life before, a decade before, a few times. But nonetheless, I can say, honestly, although it was really enjoyable, it still felt like I had something in my mouth, which I was touching and tasting! But when Nahla and I kissed, it was not at all like that. Rather, it just felt like we were melting in each other. There was not a shred of individuality, or ego, in it. It was pure surrender, on her part, in my embrace. During those moments, I felt weightless and time would really seem to stop.
Our hugging each other was just as blissful. Usually she would make a “hmmm” sound when we united in an embrace, a perfect sound for the feeling of a serene blissful rest in your lover’s arms.
The anticipation, during my hour or two drive from LA to her town, for these few seconds of meeting her at the door, was by itself, a sweet experience. But more importantly, for a little time, it allowed me to leave the busy life in my head and taste my heart’s feeling capacity.
Nahla is from Tunisia. Among the countries on the northern coast of Africa, French is more than a second language. Nearly everybody, young and old, knows and speaks French on a day to day basis, and many young people just tend to freely switch from Arabic (their local version of) to French while conversing. A funny thing is that I always kind of snubbed those who learned French, as showoffs. At least in California, I thought, Spanish is a useful language to learn, living among the big Latino community here. But now, since meeting Nahla, all of a sudden I was so interested in French! Now I thought it sounded beautiful. Perhaps one evening when we were driving together had something to do with it:
She started playing on YouTube a French song by Julio Iglesias (Spanish singer) and sang along with him. It was, I think, the first time I was hearing her speak/sing in French, and her soft voice was taking me for a spin! It’s called “Je N’ai Pas Changé” and here’s my attempt at singing it. Imagine the feeling of a beautiful soft female voice, singing this to her lover, on a moonlit night, while driving in a car:
The sexiest moment I had with Nahla, was one afternoon, when I was sitting back on my La-Z-Boy recliner with my laptop in front me, doing school work, as usual. She came out of the shower, only a scarf covering her body, dancing slowly towards me. Talk about being thrown out of the mind! All I had to do was turn on a tango channel on Pandora radio to complete the moment… “Ms. Nahla, thank you for the memory, forever!”
She was also responsible for making me become a bearded man. A couple of years before I had tried growing a beard, but hadn’t stayed with it and soon had gone back to shaving. One time I brought up wearing a beard and later emailed her a picture of my bearded self from the past. I got encouragement: “I’m trying to stay focused here and you sending me your picture, I’ve been looking at you for a while, seeing that dreamy lazy sexy look of yours that makes me lose it. I love your beard.” That gave me the confidence to become a bearded man. It has stuck with me ever since.
In these experiences, I was getting a taste of living, a few moments, in the moment. And I was feeling my heart a bit more. 3-4 years later, with her long gone, this transformation was in full bloom. Amidst a creative storm that was flowing through me, I wrote this poem about coming to the heart:
I will never know you enough;
see you enough;
hear you enough;
feel you enough;
taste you enough;
touch you enough;
love you enough.
You are so elusive,
that as I sat down to write this letter,
a matter of you alone,
and uttered in all sincerity,
my mind murmured in my ears,
as it always has:
“let me handle this one for you.”
So this time, this one time,
and closed the lid:
Maybe another time…
A warm soothing sensation,
from my own lost depths,
sounded its confirmation.
How shall l know you,
whose gentle whispers,
under the landfill of wants,
further distorted by an imaginative mind,
my own and my surrounding’s,
are like wing-flaps of a hummingbird,
under the battle cries of a thousand cannons?
once in a long while,
your thrilling beats
do conquer through the thick veil,
sweetly reminding me:
“You are in Mother’s hands.”
A smile then
does sit on my inner appearance.
I loved you,
even if for seconds,
that festive day,
when I left the busy familiar crowd,
and as soon I set off alone,
roaming along the coast,
you sang the sweet track of liberation,
“Closer to Home you are
on the lonely road,
than in the comfortable nest of your loving clan.
And I loved you,
of my earlier days,
for the first time,
felt on my face
the intoxicating breeze of pure love,
through your own sensing and reassurance!
And I hated you,
when not past a few hours thus,
your counsel upset my expectation of love,
“Transient are the dances of the Spirit.”
have taken home
somewhere in the vicinity of my chest
(yet no X-ray vision will
ever admit your throbs),
you are Mother’s gift to me,
a piece of Her own infinite, omniscient bosom.
I know that I have
long neglected your glorious existence,
let alone abide by your guidance,
blinded by the deceiving fashion
of modernity and intellectualism.
Let me find my attunement to Mother,
Take me Home.
Part 12: A Dream Vacation that Wasn’t
Since the beginning of it, physical attraction was an important part of our relationship. Everything about Nahla’s appearance and energy attracted me: her hair, smile, her clothes, the feel of her skin and hands, her scent and soft-as-a-dream kiss, never imposing, always receptive; her youthful breasts, which she never wrapped in commercial bras, but only covered with one of two pairs of crochet bras which she had herself woven; her extra curvy lumbar, which in addition to the added sexiness provided a nice handle for my arms to ring around when holding her. It was an attraction that was serene, soft, and sweet, rather than hasty, almost forceful and violent, as you might see in the movies.
Through this experience I had learned that a healthy sexual attraction between couples, while certainly not in the same ranks of the things that bond two souls deeply together, helps a lot in maintaining a fresh and healthy relationship.
A sweetest memory comes back. It only happened once, towards the beginning of our relationship. One afternoon as we woke up, on the bed, we found ourselves in each other’s embrace and totally naked. What a warm and soothing feeling that moment brought us.
I was now getting a lot of experience in sex. With Nahla I felt I had more than made up for all the rest of my pretty much abstinent life! Lucky for me, I feel she was more sexual than myself. Often she would be the one who would initiate making love.
I had noticed an interesting thing, which I never shared with her. I had always thought of oral sex as the yuckiest thing in the world. I would almost want to vomit even imagining taking my mouth in that direction! But with Nahla, it really felt inviting and enjoyable. I loved being able to take her to the moon and back! I liked it so much, to the point that she sometimes had to stop me and plead with me that “I want to have sex with YOU!” I liked it, also because I felt it made up for my problem controlling myself in sex and not orgasming too quickly.
Of course, I highly cherished sex with my girlfriend, because I loved the idea of being closest and most intimate with her. But even from the start, I had noticed something quite disappointing as well. Often I felt sex didn’t give me fresh energy or vitality; it sapped our energies, it felt. And every time there was a kind of melancholic feeling that invariably came over me afterwards, lasting longer than the enjoyment of sex would. It was as if an instant confirmation, whispering inside of me: “Nope! That wasn’t what you’ve been seeking.”
Speaking of the voice inside, I had felt another call, right at the beginning of our getting together, maybe even on the very first day she visited me in LA. Something from the depths of my heart, amidst the emotions of disbelief and joy over her coming to my life, would whisper: “She will leave some day!” There is a Persian saying, “That which was easily brought by the wind, will easily flow away with the wind.”
In Summer 2012, About a year into our relationship, we got to vacation in Maui, Hawaii. Nahla had just finished her Masters degree and was soon to leave the States after this trip. I had some airline frequent flyer miles saved up and decided to use it to take her on this trip as a graduation gift. I think the reason the universe granted us this visit to the paradise island so early in our relationship was that this was to be our last proper vacation together.
You would think, “Wow, two young lovers alone in the one of the most beautiful spots on earth! Can there be higher bliss than this?”
Sadly for me, and for her, I don’t really remember much of deep or joyful moments, or even sexy moments, from this trip. What I remember mostly was my constant feeling of disappointment for not being joyful, or present. Something kept whispering in my mind: “Here you are with Nahla in paradise and you’re still not having the time of your life. You must be living it up with this girl. Instead you are sad, boring, and have no energy. You are depressed!”
The feeling was not new to me. For many years, It would come visit often on. Many years ago I had a roommate who insisted that I should go see a therapist. On my first visit to one, I was shocked how eager the doctor was to prescribe antidepressant pills to me, even before checking on me. So instead I visited a psychologist one time, who talks to you, rather than wanting to medicate you. I thought it was OK, but decided I don’t need that either.
But for the past 5-6 years, since I had moved to LA to attend grad school in UCLA, I was busy, happy, and content with my life, so I didn’t really think about being depressed. But ever since being with Nahla, once in a while the old feeling would come back to me, mostly as a nagging sensation that “I was missing out on what this could be.”
I guess coming to Hawaii highlighted this for me. She was joyful and would dance around and wanted to go surf and swim. But my presence wasn’t there and I couldn’t handle the moment. My expectation of what it would be didn’t match the reality of where I was, and my mind took it away from there, for most of the time during this trip. “Why am I sad? Can it get better than this? Why are you still not present? You should be showing this girl the best time of her life right now! You must be depressed…”
But of course all Nahla was asking me (without asking) was to drop the thinking and just be. Be myself, rather than thinking and wishing to be someone else.
To be honest, I now think I wasn’t really depressed. I was simply not present; stuck in my head and mind and not knowing any better way to be.
I think many of us, in our modern society, battle the same thing, and many of us get diagnosed as “depressed” and then get put on those horrible antidepressant and anti-anxiety pills. But most of us, to the tell you the truth, don’t need any pills; we just need to learn how to get out of the head. We need to learn about ego and feeling of separation, and how to let it go. We need to learn yoga and meditation. We need to re-learn how to breathe. It’s actually quite simple.
It’s not that I didn’t try. For example, I went along with her plan to take surfing lessons. I even started to get a little excited about the sport. But then I was so bad at it, I would literally injure myself with each attempt to get on the board or get off it. So after some time I just gave up and instead decided to take photos of her surfing as I was sitting safely on the shore.
The week in Maui finally ended, and it felt more like I survived it, rather than lived it.
Everything was still OK. There was a bit of empty feeling that was starting to get bigger, as the time of Nahla’s departure was getting nearer.
Nahla was in the U.S. on an international scholarship and student visa, which required her to work in her own country for two years after graduating, before she could seek new opportunities again in the U.S. That’s what she had told me.
Friends and family now would ask us here and there: “so what are you guys going to do?” (meaning as far as our relationship). We both had, on our own, decided that there is nothing to talk about. Of course, it’ll be what it’ll be!
I had decided not to make a big deal about it, and not talk about it. For example, as much as I would’ve liked to get on my knees and ask her “Please don’t go. Stay here with me!” I knew that wasn’t right. But of course, I was hoping that she’ll indeed finish her required work there and then apply for a PhD position back in the U.S. Actually her present advisor had told her that he’d be happy to take her back when she was ready. So I thought of the possibility as quite strong.
This brings me back to that afternoon in the photo on the patio of Blu Cafe, where I started the story. We were looking at each other, but words were being exchanged more by our eyes than our mouths.
Part 13: The Long Distance Begins
And so the day came when Nahla was leaving. She had secured a 6-month internship in a Paris university and was going there after a short visit home. To tell you the truth, I think Divine Mother had numbed us both down a little, during this time, to make it easier to flow. Because many times later I asked myself about the time of her departure, “Why didn’t I hold her longer?” or “Why didn’t we kiss harder?” or even “Why didn’t we just stay up all night and have sex?” Instead what I remember of this moment was a quick “Love you. See you soon. Bye!” Maybe that’s just how I remember it.
Thus the long-distant half of our relationship began. I quickly turned all my focus, as it mostly had been, on my graduate studies. We used Skype and online chat daily to see and talk to each other. I wouldn’t admit it at the time, but I didn’t enjoy our Skype calls much, and I think neither did she. For one, the time difference becomes a real challenge. Plus, as I eluded to before, I get unnatural and uncomfortable for some reason on phone calls. Besides, very soon our daily lives were very different and had little to do with each other, leaving not much to talk about. In any case we kept on our daily calls and chit-chat. But without my noticing or openly admitting, the process of being removed from each other’s lives had already begun.
A few months later I was able to make a trip to France for a couple of weeks to be with her. We were both excited. I can hardly forget the moment she received me at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. As we hugged, that indescribable sensation of being home in her embrace descended on me, stronger than I remembered it. It felt like I was able to hold the essence of sweetness, bundled in the form and scent of Nahla. There was a feeling of being absorbed in each other, and an unworldly electric current would run through us. As we started walking towards the trains, we could hardly take more than a few steps before we were once again hugging each other, holding tightly.
She led me through the train rides and walkways of her new town, Paris, certainly holding up to its name for the charm, now highlighted for me by visiting my love there. She had rented a small cute room on a tough part of town, because it was cheaper and closer to her university. Somehow her French vibes, being from a French-African country, with her scarf around her neck and all, was flowing through stronger, than when she was in Los Angeles. We couldn’t help but start the first night out near the Seine, having baguette, cheese, and red wine. I think we dared to ask for ketchup with our side of fries, but I’m pretty sure we got a funny look from the waiter, in addition to our French fries. It was kind of fun, with her going to work during the days and I being the stay-at-home boyfriend, waiting for the moment of her walking in.
My impression of Paris was definitely mixed. The charm of the colorful city is undeniable. Yet, having lived so many years in the comforts of life in the States, such as larger spaces, taking your own car everywhere, and clothes dryers, I found it a bit inconvenient. Taking a shower in a box that my body barely fit in was an example. But then again, that is true of Europe in general. Where we were I had to use a laundromat to wash and dry our clothes. Being a kind of a clean-freak, it was a tough experience for me noticing the guy running the laundromat would handle your clean clothes, move them from one dryer to another. Granted, we were not in an upscale part of town.
There were things about the civil governance of Paris specifically that was off-putting to me. My impression is that, with the degree of over-immigration and terrorism which they have been experiencing, mixed with shreds of racism which still exists in many people there as well as around the world, they have made rules and laws that I felt have gone a bit overboard. They seem to have overlooked the fact that the laws were made to improve the quality and security of lives of citizens, rather than making their daily lives unpleasant and a struggle.
For example, I found the rules and regulations around using the metro (subway) system so complex and confusing. There were different zones, and different tickets and pricing apply to different zones, depending on the time of the day! If you happen to have, by accident, gone passed the zone allowed by your ticket, you can’t get out of the train platform, unless you hop over the automatic walk-in gate, making a scene. When I was there, they didn’t check the bus tickets. Instead, randomly, once in a while a swarm of police would storm the bus, as if it was war time, checking everybody’s tickets. I felt like it was an atmosphere of fear and lack of trust for their own citizens, which I think backfires. Later on when I got to experience other cities in France, I found the atmosphere more relaxed and friendly.
One evening in Nahla’s apartment, as I was lying down on her bed, I asked her to come lie down next to me. Then I turned on a Spanish song by Julio Iglesias called “El Amor”. I started to look deeply into her eyes as the song was playing. Soon my tears were running, still not blinking or taking my eyes away from her eyes. The melody seemed to express the love I felt for her; it was strong, making me tearful. She was softly receiving the experience with admiration in her own eyes, then reached out with a finger to clear a tear from my eyes. It was a sweet timeless moment, and I don’t know what prompted me to do that.
Loveis not just words spoken accidentally,for the moment, without thinking.It is one of those things which we feel without saying anything,smiling, embracing you.love… love…LoveSometimes it never comes because it passes by without calling,looking for somebody to love.Sometimes when it comes it is late, becausethere is already someone else in its place instead.love… love…LoveIt knows no boundaries, nor distance,no place, has no age.It could come and get lostamongst people, staying silent in someone’s song,through a smile, through a tear.love… love…Loveis to forgive everything without reproaches,to forget,and to get back to the beginning,It is to say nothing and to walk in silence,It is to give without expecting something in return.love… love…
Part 14: Somewhere South of France
This was one of the extraordinary things about Nahla. It’s unique enough for a lady to be a computer science graduate student; yet she had two younger sisters—Imane and Nour—both also computer science students. Imane, who is closer to her age, was a student in south of France. During my stay in France Nahla and I traveled south to visit her.
I had met Imane though Skype before. I could tell how much Nahla loved and cared for her. And I don’t blame her, such a gorgeous, independent, sharp, skateboarding, video-game-playing kind of girl. Imane was living with her boyfriend, Kadin, Tunisian as well, whom I could tell Nahla was also really close with. Nahla had told me that Imane and Kadin will be getting married soon, and sometimes told me about Imane’s occasional hesitation, whether it might be too soon for her to take that step. Kadin, from what I had seen on Skype, is a deep, friendly, funny, energetic guy and seemed to me to match up with Imane real well.
So the moment came when Nahla and I arrived in their town and we were finally acquainted face to face. Such a positive energy emanated from these two, and their closeness with Nahla was admirable and adorable. As I was looking at my iPhone, Kadin, the funny guy, trying to make friends with me said, “My thing is bigger,” showing his phone. Nahla felt compelled to clarify for me, “He means his penis!”, which was unnecessary. I replied, “Do you use your thing a lot?” Kadin is my kind of guy, likes the sarcastic and crude kind of jokes!
Nahla, from what she had told me, used to smoke, but had quit ever since moving to the U.S. But her sister and soon-to-be brother-in-law, were quite serious smokers, as are seemingly all the youth from Tunisia! It was a nice, new feeling to me to be with them: it felt like we’re a complete team; two sisters and their partners.
A sweet moment, that I’m remembering just as I’m typing this, was at a restaurant, where the four of us were sitting. Nahla was seated in front of me, and Imane to my right. All of sudden, as if I had seen Nahla for a first time (it did feel that way, she had such a heavenly unattached smile on her glowing face), I turned to her sister Imane to say: “Look how beautiful she is!” Imane agreed.
At the same time, I was, from time to time, feeling I was somewhat separated from them, with the three of them being much longer time friends and family. The feeling of not being interesting or fun enough to be with them would come to me once in a while. Kadin and Imane were kind enough to mostly speak English in my presence, but inevitably, once in a while the conversation returned to French, leaving me wishing I could join in. They spoke English really well, but obviously I could tell it was a chore, compared to French or Tunisian Arabic.
Imane and Kadin, were kind enough to give the two of us their room to sleep, themselves staying at a friend’s, during the few nights we were visiting. I remember the first night, as they were leaving us, I chased them to the stairway to tell them “I love you guys.” Kadin said, “Are you crazy?!”
It was the next night when I had my only psychedelic experience of my life, and one that I’ll never forget. I’ve never been attracted, but in fact repulsed, towards drugs. Nahla, on the other hand, had told me that she had a lot of experience with them, in her earlier years. When she told me that we were about to go to somewhere outside of town to attend a psychedelic party, obviously my feeling was to say no to taking anything. Seeing that she was excited about this experience, I had inwardly resolved to go for it. But just to test her, I told her with a serious face that I would not be taking anything. She did get upset and disappointed, saying she had wanted us to have this experience together. So I told her that I will do it. And here’s why I’m glad I did.
Nahla told me what MDMAs are and gave me the instructions. “Put on your tongue. Don’t swallow.” This was all new to me, but by this time I was quite intrigued about what was to come. This wasn’t a hard-core “rave” kind of party. It was just in a house outside the town, and some 30-40 people were present. It was kind of low-key. Something I noticed about these drugs, which I thought interesting, was that as people got high, they didn’t get lustful and more affectionate towards others. Everybody seemed to be kind of floating alone. People rarely touched each other, but just moved about freely.
As Nahla and I, who were still kind of standing close to one another, got high, we felt the same way. We were kind of acknowledging each other, I still felt her love and acknowledgment of me, but at the same time dancing alone.
It was about that time when I entered a state, that I later understood, to had badly needed to experience. I felt my mind completely cleared. Being so much in my head for so many years (perhaps I had felt “freedom” of mind, naturally, only for a short time when I was eighteen). It felt so good to be all light and clear! Once the four of us got together, along with some of their friends, I found myself completely different. I was talkative, energetic, engaging, and fun! I could tell others were noticing the shift in me and were enjoying it. I experienced what it feels like to engage the present moment without the burden of a busy, heavy, and distracted mind.
We were still high. It was out in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in south of France, clear starry sky above us, and I felt I was finally alive, after a very long time. Then I felt like having some time alone with Nahla. I held her hand, not really talking, and we started moving away from the crowd. It felt like we were flying away. It was serene, and magical. A little farther away, we lied down on the ground, facing the sky, gently holding hands. The experience was, as if we didn’t have to think and analyze, before doing something. Things seem to be happening naturally, and we were flowing with them naturally and without thinking.
I remember there was one thing that I kept saying. I kept asking her, while both of us are high: “Is there something I can do to make you happier?” And the response she kept repeating, “But I’m already happy!” I don’t know why I was asking that question. Perhaps, subconsciously, I wanted to see if there is a tinge of regret or sorrow, in Nahla, over her younger sister getting married, and whether or not she ever wished about us being married.
Before long, we heard a girl shouting out Nahla’s name from distance. We quickly figured out it was Imane, who turned out was worried for her sister, while being high, not seeing us around. We quickly returned to Imane and Kadin. The next magical moment, I can still see clearly in my mind, the four of us had our arms on each other’s shoulders, walking in a direction, into the nothingness of the night. Just infinity. There was an awesome feeling of unity with each other, as if we are marching forward, towards the future, in love and strength.
The next thing I know, I put the palm of my hand over Kadin’s (shaved) head, as if I was blessing him. Now, I don’t know where I got that from and why. I don’t think I had even ever seen someone blessing someone that way! But I did this, mystifying even myself, and then turning to Imane saying “You can’t find a better guy than this.” I felt a divine hand and voice acted through me at that moment. And I felt (though I can’t be sure) it helped Imane be assured in her decision to marry Kadin. I told them that I’ll be sure to attend their wedding. She did marry him later, and I did attend their ceremony.
That night we were driven back home by one of our loyal friends, who, bless him, had stayed drug-free to be the driver for everyone. One last amazing thing about the effects, I learned was in bed. While I always had trouble controlling myself in sex, the psychedelic had turned me into a king! Nahla, the ever-experienced girl, casually remarked to me, while we’re in bed, “Oh yeah. Drugs make you go forever!”
I never felt the impulse to try psychedelic drugs again (though I did try weed–a later story!). But that night’s experience, I admit, was very helpful for me to experience what I could be like, out of my stuck-in-mind state. Later on, when I came to the spiritual path, I got to experience the natural way of going into a high state, in kirtan music and in meditation, which felt far more blissful, truer, and in-control. And I learned the reason for my lifelong subconscious repulsion towards drugs, no doubt garnered from past-life experiences and knowledge of the path:
The “will” and “willpower” are perhaps the most important things on the spiritual journey. God wants each of Her children to learn to come to Her through their own will, merit, and effort. Drugs, while can lift one into a higher state of freedom, do so involuntarily, and causing a devastating crash back down after the effects are worn out. Worse, they strengthen the delusion in the seeker for a need for external means to get their consciousness uplifted, which can be a serious backtrack on the path. That is the opposite of what leads one to true freedom: inward and internal, through your own conscious control of cosmic energy, rather than outward and external, through unconscious riding on a chemical.
Part 15: Stories within the Story
I will tell you a funny story within the story.
Recently, I was picking some vegetables at our market at Ananda Village, where I live, when a friend of mine, whom I feel very close to, and is a long-time member here, approached me. With a bit of a funny look on her face, she said something about a Facebook message I had posted, saying “You know what I’m talking about…”. As you know, I post a lot of messages on Facebook, and share blogs that I wouldn’t be comfortable telling someone face-to-face. So, I didn’t know which blog or posting she was referring to. I said, “I post a lot of stuff on Facebook. What are you talking about?” Honestly, I thought maybe she was going to mention a recent blog I wrote about masturbation. So shyly I said, “Let me know if you think I should change some of my writings.”
“No, it’s beautiful,” she said, but with a concerned look continued, “I saw you had written something about ‘the love of your life’ so I thought maybe you met someone and now are going to leave Ananda!” She was so cute! I so appreciated her concerned love for me. I told her that I was doing no such a thing, and this was just a “past life” story that I was now inspired to tell.
I don’t blame her thinking in that direction. It comes from our society in general’s misconception that someone’s “love of life” is whomever they’re in a relationship with. We have a tendency to want to call whomever we get into a romantic relationship with “the love of my life.” Until we change partners, that is, at which point somebody else becomes “the love of my life”!
Another mistake is to assume one’s “love of life” must be a relationship that goes on all the way to the moment of one’s death. But if we think about it, to a soul, one’s length of a current lifetime, is something quite random, small, and insignificant, in the grand scheme of its soul-journey. A soul’s life is a continuation, and is not at all affected, in its deep reality, by the single event of one incarnation’s end.
So whether a deep bond between two souls manifests as an outward relationship for 1 year or 80 years, it makes no difference. 1 year or 80 years, are both nothing but a flash, when it comes to the journey of the soul. Nor is one necessary deeper or more real than the other. What makes a love between two souls worthy of “the love of my life” is not a matter of the length of their relationship, but the extent and depth of the connection and chemistry between them.
How I got inspired to start this blog is in itself a little story. I recently had to take a last-minute quick trip to Iran to take care of some business. It was a hurried thing and I was going to be in somewhat of a tense family situation, and to top it off the timing was overlapping with Mr. Trump’s taking a splash into the immigration waters for Middle East. So I was being sent off with a lot of prayers from my gurubais here at Ananda Village. No doubt because of the prayers and blessings they were sending me, not only everything went smoothly, I was blessed with such a heart-opening experience throughout my trip. The heart opening was such that I would be walking through people in the airports, and not only I would feel love from my own heart, I was feeling love emanating from everyone else. The love of God, even if latent, was palpable.
I don’t know what else, other that those prayers, could have triggered this. Perhaps, the change of scenery, outside where I have stayed for a couple of years, had something to do with it? And/or was it just karma’s work. I don’t know.
So I came back to the village, with the strong feeling of love still burning within me. I think it was then, when I remembered my love relationship, of several years ago, and felt an inward sanction to share that. It was part of the love, and indeed the seed of the love which had now grown to include others, and I felt a certain fear drop, which tried to cover or suppress it. Why hide or change the love? I resolved to celebrate and share all of my love with all.
Part 16: Seeing Eye to Eye
I returned from France feeling that Nahla and I were ever destined to be with each other. I don’t mean in marriage. That wasn’t really something that was in my consciousness. Rather, I mean the knowing of an undeniable chemistry that pulled us together. Later, once I got on the path of spiritual life, I learned what that means. A strong pairing between two souls like that, when a seemingly random, improbable series of events bring them together, is often reflective of a strong soul-bond established in one or many past incarnations.
But that doesn’t mean we were Romeo and Juliette all the time. Quite the contrary. There were plenty of times, including during the two trips to France I had, visiting her during her research work there, that I found little in common with her, or struggled to find something to talk about together. More often, I think, it was my own lack of presence and also leftover feelings of inadequacy and being boring, that would revisit me. No doubt, she could also sometimes make it difficult for us to stay in an elevated state of mutual love and being. Like any other human being, she had up and down days, which could affect the quality of our relationship on a day to day basis.
The other day a friend of mine was telling me about how a mutual friend of ours acted in some scenario, implying she was unjustified to act that way. All I wanted to say to her, though I didn’t, was “Oh, so you’re telling me that so and so is not yet a saint!” But why should that be a surprise? Most of us, OK, virtually all of us, are no saints yet. We are sure to be doing things that we shouldn’t do, and say things we shouldn’t say. That’s no reason to use it to judge or use against one another. On the contrary, if we see that, we need to offer more love and compassion in their direction, just to cheer that bright soul behind the personality which is longing to come out, for the saint to rise out of the darkness.
But, alas, I didn’t know of such wisdom at that time. Instead, I beat myself up for doing or not doing, saying or not saying something with or to her, or else get confused and hurt by a way she would behave with me, sometimes for absolutely no comprehensible reason that I could find.
There were plenty of things Nahla and I did not seem to see eye to eye. That was normal, I thought. On one thing, though, I felt I just couldn’t get her way of thinking at all. To me, she seemed so elaborately selective in what she shared about herself and with whom. This came up before in my blog, when I was speaking of having a desire for my friends and family to know her more, the way I thought I knew her, because I felt she was hiding so much of who she was with them in the way she presented herself. I perceived myself as someone who presented himself just about the same to everybody. It was a much simpler way to be, I thought.
It was especially baffling to me that, even after more than a year of our relationship, Nahla kept hiding it from her mom in Tunisia. Every time she Skyped mom, which was pretty often, either I had to quickly dock, ninja my way out her room, or she would jump out herself to answer the call.
I didn’t really feel like getting in a discussion with her about this, and just obeyed the rules. To me, it was a matter of common sense and practicality, to choose what was going to make her mom feel more at ease. I got that she was devout Muslim, and might have not approved of Nahla seeing somebody, and definitely not spending her nights with him. But to me, she is foremost a mother, and would naturally worry about her young daughter, alone in a foreign country. So, in my mind, I thought if she was told that Nahla is in a stable relationship with a guy, and if she got to learn a little about him, that he is actually a decent guy, it would be easier for her. I figured with the total absence of any information, which was Nahla’s policy, she must’ve been wondering and guessing who she was spending her time with each day.
But Nahla didn’t seem to see it this way. In retrospect, I think she was just not comfortable yet sharing with her mom on personal matters like that. To come to think of it, even though I am close to my mom, I myself find it difficult to share personal things like that with her.
Many months later, only after I had gotten to meet her mom, Nahla told me that she finally told her mom about all this time, and “Yes, Sam came to France and stayed in my room when he was there.” (Sam is a name that I use with people I’m not expecting to meet again, like with a Starbucks employee while ordering my tea. Incidentally, Nahla called me by that name!)
It was a similar case, some months later, when I was hosting Nahla’s younger sister Nour, which means light in Arabic, for a few days at my home in LA. She was there for her spring break vacation. Once in passing, she mentioned to me that “I would impress her mom a lot if I would be fasting during the Ramadan.” My immediate reaction to her advice was: “No, the way I will really impress her is by loving Nahla.”
Again, I felt Nahla and Nour’s advice and actions were based on a superficial fact of their mother bring a devout Muslim, relative to the truth of her being a mother, a human being, and a soul. When I went to Tunisia for Imane’s wedding, I did meet mom, and found her a beautiful and deep soul.
Part 17: The Tunisian Wedding
Before long news came from Nahla that Kadin and Imane had set their wedding date, to be happening in Tunisia where their families were. As I had told them that I would, that night when when we were all high in French countryside, I made plans to be there for their ceremony. I wanted to be there, also because I felt Nahla would like having her boyfriend by her side, for the wedding. But she didn’t seem to want to assert one way or another. Perhaps it was because she was not yet sure or comfortable about the idea of telling mom about us, or maybe not even wanting to. I never did learn that for sure. But as I will tell you in a later part, she is not your average girl, dreaming about the day of her wedding. She just expressed a lot excitement once I told her that I was going to buy my tickets to Tunisia.
I was taken away by the reception I got at the Tunisian airport. Nahla, Imane, Kadin, and Nour were all there, and Imane was jumping up and down when seeing me enter the hall. It felt like I was rejoining old friends and family, but in reality I had known Nahla only for a year or so, and her family only a couple of months.
But I didn’t have a good start with Nahla, regrettably. I think I was somewhat nervous being there with everybody and wasn’t as present and loving with her, the way she was expecting me to receive her. Not to mention I was jet-lagged and exhausted from my multi-leg airplane ride. The kids momentarily dropped us off at the room I was renting to drop my luggage before going out. Things didn’t get better between myself and Nahla. Right away, as we got into my room, Nahla, who had been patiently waiting for some alone time together, was cozying up with me to have sex, but I found myself pushing back (I know, “stupid!”). Again, I was more in my head than anywhere else, this time thinking that I didn’t want to be having sex while everybody is expecting us to join them to go out. I felt that would be “immature”.
It was us, plus a few French friends of Imane and Kadin, all here for the wedding. We started our first night enjoying shakshukas (a Tunisian egg dish) at a cafe. Imane and Kadin were bright and energetic as always, playing fun hosts, more than bride and groom.
I have a rather funny memory about a conversation Nahla and I had with one of Imane’s French friends. He asked each of us why we were vegetarians, a question that baffles a lot of French guys, who love their world-famed meet-based cuisine. Nahla didn’t waste her breath or brain, simply replying “because I don’t like harming animals.” I, on the other hand, thought I had a much more profound and convincing reason, and couldn’t wait until I get my turn to reply.
I actually had no sentiments or thoughts about animal rights or feelings. I explained to him that as I had tried becoming a vegetarian, simply out of curiosity. Refraining from eating certain things, I had found myself more aware about what I eat and had more awareness and presence when I ate. Because of that newfound mindfulness around eating, I had come to enjoy my food more than ever before.
Our companion listened to my long response, and then told me that he liked her response, not mine! So much for my infallible reasoning!
I didn’t get to see Amina–Nahla’s mom–until the night of the wedding. But she had kindly sent a delicious dish with Nahla which I enjoyed the day before the big event. The night of the wedding came, at last. I was nervous participating in a family wedding in which I knew practically nobody but the groom and bride and her sisters, yet it was a fantastic and memorable night for me. I hadn’t been introduced to Nahla’s mom, but when I got a chance I leaned over to her to tell her that I had enjoyed her dish very much. She knew who I was and I think appreciated my gesture.
Not everything about this Tunisian wedding was brand new for me. Being from a Middle Eastern country myself, I found many similarities. For one, in contrast to a traditional Western wedding, which to our eyes is a bit stiff and formal, traditional Middle Eastern / North African weddings are super warm and informal. They’re usually held in someone’s family house, packed with relatives and children. Another familiar thing was putting henna on the palms and feet of the bride and groom.
I’ll tell you about a few distinguishing characteristics of the wedding for me. There were two ladies whose sole role was noise making. They were not really singers, but would just make the loudest, strangest sounds, all of which really hard to describe, with the purpose of cheering on and adding excitement to the celebration. The most exciting part of the night was a tradition I was not familiar with. They brought in the bride and the groom, each being carried inside a huge tray/basket of some sort. As they were being danced around the room, high in the air and somewhat violently, I thought they both had to hold the handrails quite tightly to hang on to their lives!
My final memory of this wedding trip is the next day at a cafe restaurant, where Nahla and her sisters and mom, plus Kadin, myself and another friend of the bride, had lunch. It was an easy and pleasant time, and the first time I was sitting in the company of Nahla’s mom, who I felt had a very calm and confident energy.
She spoke less English that everyone else. At some point I was talking about myself getting so fat once I had moved to the U.S., but she thought I was talking about Nahla (who had also gained some pounds upon her arrival to the U.S., from what I saw from some pictures). I had to do a quick damage-control. So I said, something I did truly believe, “All your three daughters are amazing.” Many times later, I would replay this conversation in my mind and wished I had added, in French, “Mais Nour, elle est la meilleure!”: “But Nour, she is the best,” which would have made everyone laugh and would have made Nour (the youngest) happy to hear!
When we were saying bye, I wanted to leave a lasting impression with Nahla’s mom. It wasn’t quite because I wished to just impress her, but I wanted her to feel that we’re on friend’s terms. I did know in Tunisia, as it is in Iran or any country in the Eastern world, it would be uncommon and rude to call an older family member by just his/her name. Nonetheless, something compelled me to just call her by her given name “Amina” as I said goodbye. Nahla quickly jumped in to tell me I should say “Khalti” (“my aunt”) instead. But, even behind her mom’s a bit surprised look, from my unconventional gesture, I felt an impression of approval of me in her.
Part 18: Her Last U.S. Visit
It was now January of 2013. Soon after her sister’s wedding, Nahla who had finished up her internship in France, made one last trip to U.S. to visit me and other friends. Part of her plan was also to attend with me the second level of a self-exploration workshop in Arizona, called Omega Vector. I’ll dedicate the next part of this blog to tell you all about our time in Phoenix.
Before her arrival, I had used an online photo-book publishing service to make a birthday gift for her. It was a collection of my favorite photos of her and of us together, garlanded with little notes and memories of our most delicious moments. The title “The Book of Sweet Pumpkin” was on its cover. She loved receiving it and I remember her showing it off on Skype to her sister and brother-in-law.
As it was the case with all our times together, I am left with mixed memories, some of remorse over not giving my full attention and heart to her, while she was visiting me. Especially knowing that this would have been our last week or two together for potentially a very long time (which ended up being forever) I don’t understand how was it that I was not cherishing and loving those moments together as I should have.
For example, many times later I regretted why I didn’t plan something special for her birthday, like surprising her by taking her to a beach-front rental for a night, or something else. Instead, I remember arguing with her that we didn’t need to buy a cake for her birthday, since we were going to a restaurant with some of her friends. She had to tell me “It’s my birthday and I want to do it…”
And this is a person I absolutely adored. How could I have been so awful, and blind to the blessing that was in front of my eyes? I must have, in my mind, decided that the book I made her must be enough.
But how could anything be ever enough? What is it in us, which takes over and makes us resist, and prevents us from giving our utmost love? How could we ever put a cap or a quota on the amount of loving presence to give to the most beloved people in our lives? Surely, if we learn to stay with the heart, and not in the mind, we will not fall into such serious mishaps.
While Nahla was here, she used the opportunity to experience getting high with me one more time, this time on weed. Through some friends we got some white chocolate with the green goodies in it. They told us two things. One, it might make us very giggly, and two, only to take one square tile at a time.
Once again, this was totally her idea and I was just giving in to her will. But this time, having tried a psychedelic drug before, while we were in France, I was now considering myself an expert, and thought weed must be child’s play compared to that… As it happened, I was very mistaken.
We each took our one square (actually one and half, to make it more fun) that night. We waited a couple of hours, and then nothing happened, not even the giggles. So bed time came, and somewhat disappointed, we slept.
It was some time later when my troubles began. While the thing seemed to have had no effect on her (as I said before she is pretty experienced with these things), I started to repeatedly wake up, with my mind “skipping frames”. By that I mean this. I would see myself in a conversation with her. All of a sudden I see her open her eyes, sit up, and ask me “What?” I would reply, noticing we were not in the middle of talk and I had just woken her up: “I’m sorry, were you sleeping?” She would say, “You were sleeping too!” So I go back to sleep. Five minutes later, again…, I would say something to her, she gets up, “What?” “I’m sorry were you sleeping?” ” You were too!” And on and on and on.
This happened for, I don’t know how many times…, a very long time, to the point I was feeling so bad for not letting her sleep much. This much, though perhaps pretty annoying for her, was kind of funny. But then my pretty serious problems began. I woke up noticing my muscles were involuntarily shaking. I got so dizzy to the point that I had to ask her to walk me to the bathroom, put me on the toilet seat, and then bring me back to bed. I couldn’t lead the way by myself.
Next, breathing became hard. Amidst this chaos, I remember thinking “Great, all my life I have stayed innocent and drug-free, and now I have to call 911 and tell them I just took some marijuana!” By this time Nahla was freaked out too (though in her calm way) lying awake next to me.
Somehow, I was also aware of the emotions that must have been running through Nahla’s mind and heart. As I mentioned before she had lost her dad, in her teens, while in her arms. And I thought she must be thinking “not again!”
And the next day, when we had survived the experience, from what she told me I realized that my feeling was correct. She told me that she was thinking “I already lost a loved one like this, I can’t take another one.” But she also said, “I kept telling myself: ‘Nobody ever died from cannabis!'”
Amidst this, one of the scariest moments of my life, I also carry within me one of my sweetest moments. I was going through basically the motions of “I might just die now.” I remember then taking a glance at Nahla’s face, with her concerned look, as she was lying beside me on our bed. At that moment, once again I saw how beautiful she was. It seemed to me she was radiating beauty. As the love was coursing through me, I said to her, with a serene smile, “You are so beautiful.”
It was a sweet moment, because it was genuine beauty and genuine expression of love, and because it was a moment of transcendence from the experience of pain and death, even time. Those few fleeting seconds, I didn’t feel any pain or lack of breath. Just calm, timeless warmth, love, and beauty.
I will never forget what happened next. She placed her palm on a side of my face, with her eyes returning the love I was feeling. I immediately felt I was recovering. My breathing became normal and my shaking of limbs abated. To me, it was a miracle healing, literally from the hand of love.
We never did find what came down to me that night. A likely scenario is a quick drop in blood sugar, which I learned can happen to some people when taking marijuana. Marijuana, as I learned later, despite its reputation for being super mellow and therapeutic and all, doesn’t sit well at all with some constitutions. Alas, only two experiences with mind-altering substances: I had such a blissful time with what I considered a serious psychedelic pill. And then a bite into a piece of weed, the mellowest thing in the world, almost killed me!
Part 19: A Heart Experience and a New Beginning for a Man Who Had Lived All His Life in the Head
On Sunday, January 20, 2013, I had the most extraordinary experience of my life, a metaphysical one, though ever since that day many extraordinary days have come my way.
Nahla had told me about an experiential self-awareness workshop in Arizona called Omega Vector. A few months into our relationship, we made a long-weekend trip there to attend this. Now, while Nahla was in the U.S. for one last time, we went to take the second level.
As I have mentioned before, it was Nahla who was interested in things of this sort. She was the seeker, not me. At the time, I wasn’t really into this stuff. I was interested in it, because she was. I was only a contented man, who was close to conquering the higher education and career lives, and now had been a couple of years into a conquered love life, of the sweetest kind. “Could there be anything else!” I must have been pondering in my head.
We both knew from the previous time that this workshop was going to be powerful. Participants are not supposed to share about the nature of the workshop, because the “shock-factor” of each activity adds to its effectiveness for a participant. But I can tell you that it is very expansive and potentially life-changing. It is, primarily, a series of real-life simulation, experiential individual and group practices, designed to put a mirror in front of you, to learn about yourself, your habits and tendencies, your behavior, your demons, and your deep desires. The second class in the series was expected to delve much deeper and be much more intense. So, by that time, even I was excited about this.
The way you know this is a genuine workshop is that it has been offered free of charge, ever since its inception many decades ago. Only optional donations from participants, in appreciation for what they have received from this program, has carried it through all this time.
Omega Vector 2 was, indeed, powerful. During one of the activities, I actually made a remark to the group along the lines of: “I feel that I have already received everything that life has to offer.” Perhaps that’s when Divine Mother decided to take my heart away soon after that day, to shake me and slap me and remind me how much greater divine aspirations lie ahead for both of us. Indeed, now that I can look back through four more years which followed this event, which have brought me to my guru and the spiritual path, it is laughable and sad, at the same time, to recall my thought at that moment, that “I had fulfilled my goal in life.” By the same token, it is clear why such drastic life changes had to be brought to me, in order to help me undergo the huge leap of consciousness which was necessary to direct me towards the path which I am now on.
But let me come back to my extraordinary experience story.
As a last challenge for myself, towards the end of the program, I had set out to walk in a Starbucks cafe and talk to five random persons, without premeditating a topic. I am timid in front of those whom I don’t know well, and mingling has always been a daunting thing for me to do. So this was no small challenge to me.
Nahla, too, had chosen to do something that, I had learned, was very difficult for her. She wanted to face the fear of seeing, holding, and petting a cockroach. So we each went on separately to face our challenges.
I drove to the cafe, gathered all my confidence, and walked up to one guy who had a newspaper in front of his face. I asked if he “had a minute to chat.” No response. I shyly repeated a few times and got nothing. Scared more than before, I moved on to a new person. I got a couple of “No”s and a few funny gazes of the kind which imply “is he mentally ill?”
But this was too important to just walk out with my tail between the legs. I stood in and walked on to the next person, with no less amount of fear or anxiety.
What proceeded next was the start of an extraordinary turn of events.
I asked a Hispanic man. Hesitatingly he said yes. I don’t remember what I talked about, just that it was brief and uninspired. But with that I got my encouragement to go on.
Next there was a lady, whose face brightened up when I asked to chat with her. She smiled and openly chatted with me with kindness. As she was speaking, my heart was warmed to know that “there are kind people around”. Then a feeling of deep shame overcame me, as I noticed that I myself would be the one who would have turned away or look condescendingly at the crazy stranger guy who wants to have a chat with you!
I felt humbled, especially when I noticed that those who had rejected me looked and acted like the sophisticated, educated kind, and the two people who were open to speak to me had the appearance of more simple folks: low-income immigrant, of less formal education, etc. I considered myself of the first category and thus the shame.
So now I had my #1 and #2 taken care of. #1 had been unsure about letting me chat, but nonetheless had allowed it. #2 was actually kind to me. A little more brazen, I asked a man who was about to leave. He hesitated but then said yes. We sat together on a table on the outside patio.
This man #3 turned out to be an African immigrant and a cab driver. When he found out that computer programming was my field, he lit up and told me that he came to this country to pursue a career in computers but didn’t have the money or time to take that on.
This is when it hit me. Here I’m thinking about my silly challenge and thinking this man is about to fulfill part of it “for me”. Yet he is genuinely looking at me like someone who can help him pursue a career of his dreams. Once more, I felt shame, this time for being self-centered, but also delighted to have an unexpected opportunity to be a real friend to someone. We exchanged numbers and later on we actually stayed in touch for a while. The thought came to my mind that I could not be of benefit to someone like him, and be a friend, if I was shy and didn’t reach out to people.
I had an awareness that, as moments passed, my chats were magically becoming more and more easy to get and meaningful.
This is when my extraordinary conversation happened.
I was still in the outside sitting area after I left my previous companion. I looked around but no one was in sight. Then, once more I turned my head and all of a sudden there was someone at a distant table. Encouraged, I walked closer. It was an older man in an old and wrinkled dark brown suit. “Do you mind if I sit and have a chat with you?” I asked. With kindness, and also a certain distance, he agreed.
As I sat down, he opened the conversation with a peculiar sentence, something about “Jesus Christ turning water into wine on a Sunday.” It was indeed a Sunday. Finding it a bit strange, yet I was just happy that I have my person #4 down. I casually replied: “I wonder what a modern day kind of miracle would be like… Ha ha.”
Then the conversation turned casual. It turned out he was Mexican, and a some kind of a retired priest. I practiced some Spanish with him and talked about my home-country Iran a bit.
As we were talking, a few youngsters came to him and asked him for a cigarette. I think he had one on his ears and gave them one. No more conversation. Then they left.
Once again, a bit strange scene to witness. But our conversation moved on.
Somewhere at this point, I noticed his eyes moved to one side, to the extent that I saw almost only the white part. That’s when he started uttering sentences that I knew and understood to be profound, but strangely I could remember none of it later when I was relating the story. The only thing I could remember was that he mentioned the word “cosmos”.
It was during his speaking at this time that I realized I was not having a normal conversation. It was more as if I was seeing the conversation unfold in front of my eyes. I was just the observer. My very first sentence flashed in my mind: “I wonder what a modern day kind of miracle would be like.” Feeling I was witnessing a miracle right at this moment, I began to weep uncontrollably, as I continued to listen.
A normal person in a normal conversation would stop at this point and react to my emotions. He might try to calm me and asked me why I was crying. But he was not the slightest bit affected. Though he saw me, he kept on speaking.
At times his eyes would come back to normal, and we’d say a few normal things, and again they would shift to the side and the cosmic words would be spoken. They were ones that would just not stay in my memory after the encounter, but were somehow completely understood at the time.
For a moment Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist book came to my mind. In that book he talks about “personal legends” (one’s soul-call), and certain natural or supernatural beings that come on one’s road for the sole purpose of guiding you along on the spiritual path. Something was telling me that this old man appeared just for me to help me with something. But with what?
The next time we snapped back to a normal conversation, for the first time in this exchange, I came back to my head. By that I mean the natural conversation flow was cut, and I thought about “what to say” to him to keep it going. So I asked him, “I would really like to speak to you again. Can I have your phone number?”
Casually he replied, “There is no need.” He said something along the lines of “today I was here and we talked and tomorrow there’ll be another person.” This is when I realized my mistake had broken the flow of the experience.
Part of my intention during that weekend was to learn how to “be in the moment.” It felt that this was a message to remind me of that.
The conversation had finally come to an end, though I was still weeping and had no clear idea how much time had passed. In fact, I had forgotten about my challenge and that he was person #4 and I still needed to talk to one more person. But I didn’t care at all about that anymore. All I wanted to do was to go to my car and cry some more, so affected by an experience that I had no doubt was cosmic, but could not explain what, why, and how.
So that’s what I did. As soon as I sat in my car, I noticed a middle-aged man sitting at a table, directly in front of my car. He was staring directly at me, and had a big inviting smile on his face. I am sure you know that this doesn’t happen in normal life. Strange guys just don’t smile at each other, especially if one is in the car and the other sitting on a chair in a cafe! Although I had no motivation to finish my challenge anymore, I felt as if life was giving me a gift on a silver platter, to finish my challenge with no effort on my part. Such a contrast to where I had started half an hour earlier!
I went to him and we had a brief casual conversation. He just told me that he was a dentist and a few other mundane things. I thanked him and left, having finished my challenge successfully, one which held no importance to me any longer.
I joined my group again. Nahla had returned also, with a photo of her holding and petting a huge cockroach, which she had managed to encounter in a pet store.
Coming out of that experience to Nahla and the rest of my group, and later my other friends and family, I attempted to explain what had happened during that encounter. I would just burst into tears for reasons I couldn’t understand. And somehow I couldn’t really describe much, as you see evident in my writing here also. I couldn’t remember any words! It felt like as if I was taken to a higher realm of consciousness, where I understood him really well. But later on, after descending back down, those concepts could not be expressed in human terms.
I attempted to share what had happened to me with my Omega Vector companions. I remember saying, while sobbing, “I just met God, and you can ask Nahla here, that I am the last person who would say such a thing!” The person next to me kindly held me to calm me down.
Nahla and I had intentionally tried to experience this trip alone, as individual souls, rather than a couple. We purposely sat separately and stayed out of each other’s energy. It was a self-exploration workshop after all.
But there was a feeling that I didn’t like, and didn’t understand, about how Nahla was taking in my story. She kept her distance from it, even later as I would try to share with family and friends. I never got how she felt about this. Did she or not understand it? Was she curious, worried, or even doubtful or incredulous? In either case, she didn’t mention it again.
I knew this program was both very important and very challenging for Nahla. As I eluded to before, she has had a challenging life growing up, of which I know only a very little. The workshop dealt us with experiences that hit directly at our stored “vrittis” (past karmic energy knots inside our subtle spine) in the language of yoga, or “pain bodies” in the lingo of Eckhart Tolle.
I respect her and was impressed with her tremendously for taking this workshop on, and I am ever so thankful to her for bringing me along, on many levels.
Later on, I often reflected on that day. I wanted to know what its significance was. I thought maybe that was just a crazy person whom I met. But somehow I was certain this was a significant divine experience and message for me. Recently, thinking back on that day, I realized that this might have been the first day I had cried in my life, caused from an experience of awe and wonder. Something had happened in my heart. An opening was made. Once being brought into the mystical path of yoga and getting to know Divine Mother, I have cried from a sense of wonder, or nothingness, or love, many many times.
We had a nice time driving to and back from Arizona together. Once again, a little numbness and unspoken feeling was going on, from knowing that our days together will soon be over. As you will read in later parts, a few months after this encounter, my relationship with Nahla ended. One month later, I read the Autobiography of a Yogi, which we had picked up together to read. My conscious spiritual path had begun.
Part 20: Whispers to the World-Wide Wind
Nahla’s last visit to U.S. ended as fast as a wink, and, for a second time, we had the awkward experience of saying goodbye to each other at the LA airport, not knowing when the next time will be, if at all.
Some time during her stay, or was it maybe while she lived here, she had alluded to being apprehensive about the prospect of going back to her life and environment in Tunisia. We didn’t really talk about it, but I think I understood the sentiment. I think she hadn’t had an easy life growing up in Tunisia, and had lived some real challenging experiences. Once you have moved to a new country and adapted to a new lifestyle and environment, there is something daunting about having to move back to your birthplace, especially if it is a country and culture which is less progressive and free, as a whole. Of course, there is a nice aspect to revisiting the people and places with whom you grew up. But once you set foot on your home turf, old friends, old habits, old family dynamics, old psychological triggers ingrained in the subconscious, must all be waiting to creep back right in front of you. Needless to say, I am only speculating. I have been fortunate enough not having to experience this myself, once having moved to the States. For this reason I couldn’t fully understand what Nahla must have been feeling before, and after settling back in her life in Tunisia.
With this, and a hundred other unspoken sentiments in her heart, and a hundred other unspoken or unknown sentiments in my heart, we resumed our long-distance relationship, between California and Tunisia.
We resumed our chats and Skype calls. Soon it was valentine’s day. Our second year together. Once again she came up with something that melted me completely. She made a slide show video with some of our photos, ordered chronologically, right from the academic summer school near Stanford where we had met the second time, all the way to our time in France and our most recent time in California. She chose the soundtrack of the Twilight movie “A Thousand Years” for its background music:
Here is the text that she included with the slide show:
Once there was a little owl and a sweet squirrel.
It all started here.
I knew I had met the love of my life.
My prince charming.
But even in my wildest dreams,
I never expected to find someone like you,
who would fill my life with flowers,
with amazing memories.
You made me the happiest I’ve ever been.
Thank you for being a wonderful friend,
for coming away with me,
for giving me a wonderful family,
the sweetest moments of my life,
and the most awesome warm fuzzy hugs ever.
I have always found you,
at my proudest moments,
at my most delicious moments,
at my sunniest,
and most exotic moments,
Crossing the oceans for me.
I love you Hesam,
for you make everything special,
and every moment count,
for the conscious life we live together,
and for all that is yet to come…
That last line, “and for all that is yet to come” was especially meaningful, though not in the way I had read it, or had hoped for, at the time. Alas, even though what was to come was our breaking up, so many amazing stuff and changes would soon be coming our way, both hers and mine, as I will tell you in later parts.
In turn, I emailed her a handwritten letter for this occasion. It was a to-do list of what I wished to do with her. I thought I could include a few items from that list here. Now that I have the prerogative of introspection (and more wisdom I hope!) , I can include some with fresh commentaries. The ones I’ve skipped are not due to censorship, but because they were not noteworthy.
1. Get to kiss your lips once a day, as long as I live.
The first part is OK, the second part is not, because it comes from the ego-mind. We don’t get to choose what’s to come, and best for us. The universe will bring it, and our job is to open up to it, cheerfully.
3. Live together with you soon (anywhere).
4. Collaborate with you on a project/job related to humanity and helping others.
5. Go to a meditation/spiritual camp trip together.
This one is interesting, because I don’t remember thinking about meditation or spirituality at all, at that time.
6. Continue to have even more amazing sex with you, even when we’re old.
“Sorry Hesam, maybe next life.”
7. Learn to give you orgasms better than you’ve ever had.
“Finding enlightenment might be easier.”
10. Go to Iceland and watch the northern lights together.
I’ve never really been excited about travel, though when I get pushed to do it I usually end up loving it. I must have added this because she had told me once about wanting to go to Iceland. Be careful about making other people’s wish your wish. It’s fine to want something because you know it would make your loved one happy. But if we say we want something just to impress the other person, that is being dishonest with ourselves, and the start of a whole lot of trouble. It never pays off.
11. Go to Hawaii again with you and this time go worry and thought-free every second of it.
Still an affirmation.
12. Be aware of how lucky I am to know you and love you and be by your side everyday, as long as I live.
A saint once said: “If you knew how much God loves you, you’ll die of joy.”
13. Make you happy every day, as long as I live.
14. Get to live and work in Tunisia for a year while you’re there.
This must have been my mind, trying to figure out how we can possibly be together.
15. See you find your Personal Legend and be a part of it.
16. See myself find my Personal Legend and have you be a part of it.
“Personal Legend” is a reference to The Alchemist book, where it is used to mean one’s dharma, or purpose in life. Again, we don’t get to choose to be or not be involved with another soul’s dharma. If we let the ego creep in, like I had here, we’re likely to suffer.
17. Adopt a child and raise her/him with you.
18. Marry you when it’s time and stay happily married with you as long as we live.
Again, marriage has never been something I cared about. But with Nahla, I knew I wanted to be with her. And, at that point, I must’ve figured that marrying her is the way we could accomplish it.
20. Speak French fluently with you and your family.
She responded by saying she wants to do all those and more with me.
Part 21: The Beginnings of an End
Life moved on: Nahla’s reimmersion into life in Tunisia, and my graduate work at UCLA. She shared little with me of what was really going on with her life there, which at the time I didn’t really notice. But again, I can hardly blame anybody for not sharing, as I rarely feel to share with others my deep feelings.
She had managed to get a software teaching job at a junior college. So she would tell me about news like one of her young boy students telling her: “Excuse me professor, you are very beautiful!”, and I would tell her about “how many meetings I had today”, etc. Little by little, it seemed our lives were starting to have nothing to do with each other, and there was no point in getting into details, it felt like.
Our conversations were already becoming shorter, and less often. One time we didn’t have a call for a few days and the last thing I had heard from her was that she wasn’t feeling like talking. After a day or two I started worrying. A lot of confusions were happening in my head. “What’s happening?” Part of my worries was out of loving concern for her well-being, but surely, part of it was my ego: “Has something happened?”, “Is she hiding something from me?”, “Has she met a new guy?” etc. and down that whole ugly road which ego can take you.
It was only a long time later, when I started to understand that a lot more confusion and emotions must have been running through her, though none we shared together. At the time, I must have thought it was a challenge we were going through together and must share together. But it was her, whose life had had a dramatic change, not mine, other than not having her around that is.
So I sent her a dramatic message saying “I was in pain not knowing how she was feeling.” She responded telling me she was just not adjusting well to the life back there and didn’t like our distant situation, and that “she understood my desire to want to know what was going on with her, but would have appreciated if I had respected her wish not to talk about it.” We were going down some dark space pretty quickly. Such a huge contrast to our loving sweet exchanges during valentines day, which were but a few weeks earlier.
Once her bright young sister Noor was visiting Los Angeles for a few days during her spring break, and I hosted her. I hadn’t spoken to Nahla for a few days, and emailed her a picture of the two of us at the beach. She replied, “You guys look so good. I LOVE YOU!” This was the first time hearing those words from her actually didn’t feel good. It suggested to me as if she had been doubting that fact, and now all of a sudden she remembered again that she did love me. Again, at the time I didn’t understand this well, but all this was indicative of the huge storm of painful emotions that must have been running through her mind and heart. It was manifest even in her written words, writing all-caps, something she would never normally do.
I couldn’t help but think about and lament the negative effects of her being back in her old environment. It felt as if I was manifesting all my worries true. Soon she informed me that she was back to smoking, although she didn’t have to. I had already sensed it, as I later discovered that I can often feel at a distance something my close friends are going through. Some time later she told me that she had gotten back to being hooked on weed, as many of her friends seemingly were. Some time later she would tell me about having a good time with LSDs, and so on.
I cannot describe what a heart-breaking experience it was for me, to sit powerless on the other side of the world and watch this change happen in her life. To me it was a sad thing, but perhaps to her it was just adapting to life there. I can’t know how she felt about it.
She must have been going through a lot of pain, but I had little clue if at all, how much, and why. Looking at our short email and chat conversations around that time, it seems like she was in some sort of a state of numbness, perhaps garnered to cope with her situation.
I was suffering to see her go down that road, and it was because of my ignorance. I wasn’t realizing that it was her that was greatly suffering. To my eyes, then, she was just choosing to go that way because she wanted to.
Of course, it is wrong to suffer for the suffering of another soul. That suffering is born out of the ego, the perception of separation between all creation. Masters would feel deep compassion for another suffering soul and bestow calming and lifting blessings to him/her, but they would never get touched by it, and will not suffer from it. That is because they have released the ego, which is the thing that suffers. They also know that the soul itself, which is whom we really love in a person, is never touched. As the Bhagavad Gita says:
“The soul can never die.”
It is the body and the mind which can suffer, and if we only associate with our body and mind, and suffer with it, we offer no help.
Alas, devoid of such wisdom, along with my sympathy and love, I was suffering greatly.
“Do not take life’s experiences too seriously. Above all, do not let them hurt you, for in reality they are nothing but dream experiences. Play your part in life, but never forget it is only a role. If circumstances are bad and you have to bear them, do not make them a part of yourself. What you lose in the world will not be a loss to your soul. Trust in God and destroy fear, which paralyzes all efforts to succeed and attracts the very thing you fear. All Nature will commune with you when you are in tune with God. Realization of this truth will make you master of your destiny.”
Part 22: My Darkest Hour
The first time we talked after a few days of bitter interruption, I cried on the phone, feeling happy and consoled. She asked me if I was crying. I replied I was, just being happy to be talking to her again. We resumed talking regularly, but somehow our connection and joy felt a lot diminished.
Once my parents mentioned that Nahla had Skyped with them, and that she had cried about us being away and perhaps her current circumstances. Not only saddened, but I was overly confused. She would never cry in front of me. Why? Perhaps she was too proud to be expressing sadness or being down with me. That would explain her being hesitant to talk when not feeling upbeat. But now I think she likely just didn’t want to encourage my emotions and dramatization about this, which I had already demonstrated I could do. A process had started which compelled her to pull away from me and encourage me to do the same with her. If she overtly opened up to me about her painful times there, it would have had the opposite effect on me: I would feel a stronger need to be by her side and to fix things.
Part of my lingering confusions had to do with the question of why she had not stayed here. Did she want to? She had earned the option to extend her visa and start a PhD program with her same advisor. But she had told me that she needed to satisfy the exchange-student fellowship requirements, to work in her own country for two years, before being eligible to apply for job positions in the U.S. I think she had expressed that she preferred to finish the requirement sooner than later. But perhaps more convincing was the fact that she felt she needed to be with her mom, who was living alone, with all three daughters studying abroad.
Feeling the cooling of our connection and relationship, I was desperately trying to figure out possibilities we could once again live together. I even thought about the impractical prospect of maybe working half of my time remotely, traveling between Tunisia and California every few months. My amazing boss and career mentor was so good to me that he agreed. So I would tell Nahla on the phone about the possibilities of working part of my time there. She would listen and express interest over the possibility, but somehow it was as if we both, more so her than I, knew this wasn’t going to happen.
Now it seemed like she was getting settled there fine, spending her free times with friends, a couple of whom I had met before. One thing that seems to be big among youth from Tunisia is the yearly rave/psychedelic music festivals in the desert. She informed me she was going to one of those for a week. Again, part of me was crying inside, being clueless where and with whom she will be, in the psychedelic environment that I just couldn’t get myself to like or trust. I did and still do detest their energy.
The week passed and I was looking forward to hear from her. But no words came. A few days later I received a message from her, simply asking for the phone number of her past roommate in California. My stomach felt so empty and my heart ached so badly from that message. Here I was hoping she would let me know that she was back and tell me about her trip to the desert. All I had received was “Can you send me this person’s phone number?” as if I was just some distance acquaintance.
In between these huge red-flag episodes, which now seemed to be happening more often, we would go back to our normal occasional phone and chat conversations: our “Hi love, can we talk?”s, “Love you”s and “Miss you”s.
I sent her a picture of the little squirrel, which I held close in her absence. She said she loved seeing me in that shirt.
Having only recently returned from the rave party in the desert, she was now talking about two festivals in Europe that summer. She expressed the desire for me to join her. Actually, I had been planning out a trip to Tunisia with my good friend in England. So the three of us were discussing plans to tour North Africa together and then attend the rave music festivals in Europe.
Needless to say, I was saying yes to the psychedelic festivals, despite my dislike for them, and worse getting my good friend involved also, out of desperation to feel that things are OK between me and Nahla.
Over the next few days there seemed to be a not-so-subtle shift in my communications from Nahla. While she would always sign off her emails to me with something like “Love you”, the next one came with “Hugs”, and the last one perhaps not signed at all. Feeling our relationship on a sort of a life-support, I thought my half-serious plans for part-time travel there weren’t going to cut it. I decided to leave my work and just go live in Tunisia for a year, whether or not working remotely from there was going to be an option.
I talked to my mom about my decision, explaining to her briefly that I felt our relationship wasn’t feeling as warm anymore and that I felt I needed to take action to be with her. I remember my mom said to propose to her, to which I had an immediate inward repulsion. As desperate as I was back then, even then my heart must have known that marriage isn’t for me.
In any case, my parents were supportive as always with my decision. I was looking forward to calling Nahla and telling her about the happy news that I was going to come live in Tunisia. The next day, before I had a chance to call her, exactly 1 year, 7 months, and 7 days after the first day Nahla had visited me in Los Angeles, I received the most painful email of my life. It said,
I feel we have been growing apart for the last months. I had a nice weekend in the nature and had some time to think things through and I wanted to share what I think and feel with you. I feel very far from you and I feel as if I don’t know you anymore. I know distance might have its part in this, but as I once told you I never saw myself in a life long relationship, and that for me, I’d rather travel around the world like a bohemian and our relationship is going towards that and I’m not sure that I feel I can do it. I need some time to figure things out and I would like us to take a break for a while. I truly hope you will understand. I promised I would be sharing my feelings and thoughts and that is how I feel. I care so much for you and I don’t want to hurt you, but I couldn’t keep this from you. I hope you will forgive me. I love you so much, and as much as I wish I could have kept this for me, I don’t think it is fair not to share this with you. Please take some time to think about it and we can talk about it tomorrow if you want.
All my love,
Part 23: Waking Up to Harsh Realities
With that, alas, I didn’t need to tell her my news anymore. If you think Nahla’s email might be sending slightly confusing or inconsistent messages, you could imagine how I took it. Who knows how many times I read it, or how many ways I tried to read each wording in the most optimistic way to see if it keeps a glimmer of hope for us. Regardless, it left me in a state of shock and utter confusion.
Did she really mean a “break”, or was it her polite way to break up? You could also see in it how our ways of seeing things, related to sharing truths with others, really did differ a lot. She apologetically talks about having to share this with me “because it wouldn’t be fair”, as if I would have preferred her not to say anything and just kept going like that. Reading the way she writes it, I kept thinking “It’s not even an option to hide a truth like that, just because one side might not like hearing it!” Also, she talks about
having promised to share our feelings with each other.” Well, yes, but sharing feelings means sharing as you go along together, rather than keeping things to yourself and then just share right at the time you’re going to drop the ball and say “bye!”
Some months later in an email exchange I had with her she alluded to the way it had to go and said, “You can blame it on the our different ways to handle our emotions.” I think the thought of needing to let me go must have happened to her over a certain period of weeks or months, and it must have been such a painful and heavy thing for her, so much so that she could not bring herself to share anything with me. Only her increasing silence with me had been our loudest communicator.
The next day I did call her, which was a calm conversation. But I remember at some point I couldn’t help myself and went on to plead with her “not to do this”, and I remember she told me scoldingly not to dramatize things.
When something big like that, in the world of maya, happens to someone, its shocking effects come in waves, as in aftershocks of an earthquake. The first waves of emotion to come are reverberations of the shock of what has just happened.
I remember for several days I was so heavy in pain, from the feeling of losing my first and only love relationship in this life, that I had to lean against the walls when walking around. I didn’t feel I had enough energy to pull myself forward.
One of the worst experiences I had during this time was waking up in the morning or in the middle of night. You know, at the moment you awake, it takes a split second or two to come back to your mind and emotions, as you had left them before falling asleep. The first thing I would remember immediately as I awoke was, of course, that I no longer had Nahla in my life. Each time, it was almost as painful as the first time I had heard it. I don’t know for how long this was my experience of waking up.
There exists here an interesting spiritual parallel. Sleep is in fact a kind of a Samadhi (state of oneness with God) experience. When we’re asleep we no longer identify with our body or mind. We are floating on pure thought vibrations of consciousness, easily manifesting and vanishing things in our dreams, playing the same role as God–the cosmic dreamer. That, to let go of the ego, to a spiritual seeker is close to everything, save that it’s done in uncontrolled subconsciousness and not in waking.
At the moment we wake up from sleep, we drop back into the ego, that is, the body, mind, and emotions. In essence we wake up again to our delusion of maya, thinking again all this is real and what we were dreaming wasn’t. And so was the truth of my painful experiences of waking up in bed. Each time I “woke up”, I was actually falling back to the delusion of separateness, thinking that “this is real, it is bad, and it is happening to me.” It is so that the pain becomes real.
Was it a coincidence that I received Nahla’s breakup message the same day I was going to tell her that I will be joining her in Tunisia, two very different plans? Surely not. The same Divine Coordinator, who normally arranges the course of things more on the grand longer-term scheme, sometimes sees it necessary to zap us and our circumstances right at the needed moment, should it deem necessary.
Part 24: The Painful March to Victory Starts
When Nahla had come to my life, it had taken a couple of weeks for me to just come out of a state of disbelief, that this was actually happening. It is understandable of course. My whole life had been a constant affirmation that romance and partnership wasn’t meant for me. Although it seemed strange, since everybody else seemed to have it, I had accepted it. And so now, as it felt she left me even faster that she had come, the state of shock remained with me longer than just a couple of weeks.
Big traumatic experiences in life, such as losses of loved ones, whether due to death, or to separation and breakup, seem to take us all on a rather universal ride through the same set of stages: shock, confusion, anger, blame, despair, pain, pity, sympathy, and if one is lucky to come victorious out of the other side of the ride, finally back to love.
I was victorious. And so was she. I want to tell you about our journey back to love. But to get there, I must first tell you about the dark place were I was then.
In the days following her breakup message, out of hurt and pain of course, I sent her a few emails, to which she sent no reply. In one I warned her about the negative pull of her environment. Feeling her rejection of me, in the next one I said this. “I think what we have when we are together is a special non-verbal sense of warmth, calm, and ease, which is hard to carry through internet. Maybe that by itself is not enough or can get boring. For me it doesn’t.” In another one I told her that I would like to experience many more first dates with her!
All of this talk was because I was in the stages of colossal confusion, anger, and blame. My ego and troubled mind had quickly stolen control of my delicate and hurt self. Doing what must happen in pretty much every breakup case in this Facebook age, I would look at her messages and photos on her profile to learn about her life and friends there that I didn’t know.
Of course, when you want to find something negative, you will find it! I came across a message a guy had left on one of her photos from our time in Lake Tahoe, saying “He knows a place in Tunisia just like that.” Then I would look at the date of her breakup email, where she talks about having made this decision on a trip to nature, and it was around that time. Clearly, I concluded, she must have gone on this trip and cozied up with him, and that’s why “I had to go” when she returned!
It took a few more weeks for her to send me a reply. In it she said,
“I didn’t feel comfortable talking to you then, nor was I able to communicate clearly with you because it was a transitioning period for me and I didn’t really have clear ideas in my mind. We have been very happy together and I’m so grateful for all the amazing things we lived together, but I feel it’s time we went on our separate ways and I’m sure we will have wonderful memories to share with each other. Please enjoy every moment, life is a gift.”
Those of us who have heard the words “going our separate ways” spoken from someone we love, know how painful it feels. Each time I read or heard these words, it was as if something in my heart rises up, only so it can burn fully again down to ashes. Even today, it is not easy to read.
Needless to say, that did not reduce my amount of confusion, sadness, or a tiny glimmer of hope which I kept to me.
The next few days found me taking my first important steps towards more elevated states of understanding, and eventually towards feeling sympathy and compassion.
Being a “thinking” kind of guy, part of the awakening had to be of the intellectual kind, of understanding. I remember a point came to me one day which felt like an important step in accepting the circumstances and allowing the healing process to continue. The consoling thought was this. In the beginning, when she would talk of desiring me and about “looking at my dreamy photo all day” I didn’t go and argue with her “Why you want me?”. And so now, just the same, I don’t have the right to question her “Why you don’t want me?”
Some time later I started to feel her pain. For the first time it occurred to me, in a deep sense, that she wasn’t doing all this just because the next guy had come along, as I had assumed so for a while! I started to understand that it must’ve been harder on her, to go back in her old living environment, physically separated from her newfound life in the States and love relationship. I came to feel that she had let go of our relationship, not because she didn’t want us to be together, but because it was too painful to be separate.
And so my painful process of swimming upward from the “depths of slumber”, as my guru Paramhansa Yogananda calls it, started. The crack had been dealt, into my head and my heart. It hurt so bad, but a faintest light from over the surface of the ocean was calling me upward.
Part 25: A Man Gotta Do What a Man Gotta Do
My days passed. Painfully, of course. But I found my utter attachment and devotion to my graduate work, which had been a kind of an enemy to my love life and to my finding presence of mind, now my great reliever. I would get engrossed with my research work at UCLA, and for some hours at least, I would forget about my pained mind and bruised heart.
I had started to slowly crawl out of the ego-driven stages of blame and anger, perhaps being helped by the great healer which is called time. Purely out of desperation, perhaps, my mind and heart seemed to be now willing to ponder expanding my sense of love for her. But it would need a few more months, until coming across the Autobiography of a Yogi book, before I could undertake the giant leap towards expanding it to divine love. Here is one of the emails I sent to her around this time, obviously still trying to hold on to the ego-definition of our relationship, but now willing to loosen the grip a little:
This is my wish: I want us to maintain our love anywhere we are, but also be able to not be fully consumed and limited by it, put it aside and feel free to experience and enjoy new life experiences, friendships, and relations. Since we now have been far, maybe this is an opportunity to feel free, and enjoy life, and find new experiences and feelings and friends. In the process we will learn something new about ourselves and about Nahla and Sam. Maybe we find ourselves even happier and compatible with a different person, but that would ultimately make both of us happier, to know we are being fulfilled to the fullest. Or maybe it’ll bring us more together, realizing more we are good together. Either way is exciting!
Some three weeks had now passed since the dreaded day when Nahla’s email had arrived. My state of mind had gone somewhat towards the direction of normality, but many whirlpools continued twirling in both my mind and heart. These whirlpools are called “vrittis” in yoga teachings. In fact, the definition of yoga, according to the great yoga scripture written by the ancient seer Patanjali, is:
Yogas chitta vritti nirodha.
(Yoga is the neutralization of the whirlpools of feeling.)
When one has entirely let all such (millions and millions of) whirlpools within one’s energetic spine calm to a point of perfect stillness, one has achieved union with God—that is, yoga.
(Imagine how much more elevated, experiential, and true this understanding is, in contrast to what an average unenlightened religious person believes being with God means: “Where you go after death, once having lived a pious life”!)
One such whirlpools that was bugging me a lot during those days was the confusion of how Nahla really felt, and why she had come to this decision. I was also still keeping a glimmer of hope, burning within me that, if I went all the way to Tunisia to see her and talked to her close and in person, things can turn around.
But I knew I couldn’t tell anybody about my plan. Not her, one because I thought she would not agree with my plan to see her, and second, I had a little hope that it would make her happy if I surprised her with a visit. And not my parents and sister, because I knew they would discourage me from going.
The more I visualized it, the more it felt like it was the right thing to do, to at least see each other in person one more time. The whole breaking up with an email thing, sounded like such a low, unfortunate, and unfair thing, for such a beautiful, elevated relationship that we had shared together. I knew I had to do this, even if I came back home more hurt, humiliated, and tail between my legs. Otherwise, I knew, for the rest of my life, I’ll be pondering the question: “What if I flew there to see her and talk to her in person one last time?”
So I booked my trip to Tunisia, some late May 2013, without telling no one. It was only when I was in my seat on the plane, when I texted my family, telling them that I was on my way to Tunisia, and that this was something I had to do. My mom replied that they were praying for things to work out.
Part 26: One Last Glance in Tunisia
So now I was on my plane from Los Angeles to Tunis, Tunisia, by way of Paris, and without Nahla’s knowing. I was on a journey, not as much to change the outcome, but more so to understand. I wanted to alleviate the whirlpools of confusion in myself, and come to some sort of knowing why things had to be this way. How could the feelings of a lover to his or her lover change so drastically, so fast? After all, it was but a month or two ago when she would talk about never dreaming to have met someone like me, or when we would chat about all the things we would be doing together. Once she even joked about me needing to come “courting her” there in Tunisia.
However, it is in the teachings of my guru Paramhansa Yogananda that “reason follows feeling.” Ultimately, it is the heart’s feeling (and not just the deep, soul-knowing feelings, but heart’s surface ego-desires too) that lead the process. The mind only comes in next to justify those feelings with some rationale it can put together.
So too, I am positive, was her case. It wasn’t that she thought to herself one day “Well, I like being more like a bohemian, and I have never seen myself getting into a life-time kind of a relationship. Plus, the distance between us is making us feel apart and unrelated… Therefore, I am going to end our relationship.” Rather, it was the other way around. First, a feeling must have come to her, making its presence known gradually over a period of time, that we needed to go our different ways. And then, after some internal processing, and her silent times with me, she recruited the mind to come up with some reasons to justify the decision to me, in that email, and more importantly to herself.
I would not be surprised if, even today, both she and I could not give a straight answer why we had to end our beautiful relationship. Yet, I am positive that both of us by now know, resoundingly, that this had to happen.
Once I settled, I texted her a message, which I had carefully crafted, with my ample time during the overseas plane ride. It said something like, “If some guy is crazy enough to travel all the way from the other side of the world, just to have a dinner with you, what would you tell him?” No reply came.
Believe it or not, by that time I wasn’t all that affected by what was happening. I no longer thought in terms of what’s fair or not. I guess I had hit the bottom lows, and kind of numbed out. So by then I was getting somewhat used to her new treatment of me, I suppose.
I was staying some 3-4 days in Tunis. I had found myself an AirBnB rental, near the Mediterranean Sea. I was assuming, like in the West, neighborhoods by the water must be more upscale. It turns out it wasn’t the case, at least in the parts I had chosen. It was fine, but I could tell Tunis had better parts to it.
As I awaited some answer from her, I spent my time practicing my French ordering tea and pastries. I went into an interesting pastry shop, which had a swarm of bees flying over the pastries on display. I guess it was part of the specialty of that shop, for the sweets to be fresh from touch of many honey bees. I don’t remember what kind of thing I bought there, but it was indeed amazing.
Desperate, I had no choice to plead with her. So a day later I texted her, saying “I didn’t come here to change your mind. I came to see if we could still be friends.” This was, by that time, pretty much the truth, although like I said, I was keeping a tiny bit of hope that meeting each other could still make a difference.
Nahla did reply to me finally, and told me she wished I had told her that I was coming. As it turned out, she was not even in town, and kept postponing the day and time she would return and see me. I had a pretty clear image in my mind that she must be with her new boyfriend in the nearby city, and that’s why she kept delaying to come visit me. As it happened, at the end I was given no more than 2-3 hours to spend with her.
I was waiting for her in a cafe not far from her home. My heart was so excited for the moment I would see her. It had been a few months since our last time in Los Angeles. For that time at least, I had been able to set aside all which had happened, and I was genuinely happy that I was going to see her–my “sweet pumpkin”–regardless of the circumstances. Soon I saw her from the distance, before she noticed me. I saw her taking a huge gasp, as she was getting off the taxi, as in when about to take on a huge challenge. I remember my heart ached from seeing that scene, as I thought to myself, “I used to be her love of life, and now I seemed to be a sort of challenge and obstacle for her to pass through.”
Of course, that was my emotional read at the time, not realizing than in some circumstances those two can be true at the same time.
Nahla came and we hugged. Adding to my confusion, I felt our embrace as warm as always, and she made her usual little “hmmm” sound, as we melted in each other. Our deep connection was still there. I didn’t want to let go, but she let herself loose after a few seconds.
We sat ourselves down at a table. Nahla didn’t seem to be full of joy, as I remembered her, and she didn’t make much eye contact with me. She was chain-smoking instead. I asked her if this was the brand she used to smoke, before she had left Tunisia. She said it wasn’t. I pondered if it wasn’t the brand smoked by her “new friend”.
I don’t remember much from our conversations, which were not plenty. At some point she did say:
“I don’t love you. I mean, I love you, but I don’t ‘love love’ you.”
You could be sure this is a crushing thing to hear from someone you love deeply. But as I said, as crushing as it was hearing it from her lips, it couldn’t affect me a whole lot anymore. It was by that time, the next natural thing to hear, I suppose!
Somehow, though, later I contemplated, she didn’t sound sincere. She was hardly looking at me, and it was as if she was saying that to encourage me to go away. I brought up whether she was seeing someone, which I think she said “Yes, but didn’t feel like talking about it.”
It puzzled me a lot when she told me that “her mom said hi!”. I remember thinking, “OK, you wouldn’t tell your mom about our relationship at all, for all that time we were together, and now you told her all about breaking up with me, and that I was here to see you now?!”
Well, it was hard to keep the conversation going from that point. So we decided to get pizza somewhere else. Things, I noticed, are kind of “loose” in Tunisia. For one, unlike many Muslim countries, North African countries are pretty moderate when it comes to enforcing religious rules. Clubs and bars, where you can dance and drink, are not hard to find. In this pizza place, I remember, she asked where we could smoke. They pointed to a corner table, as if the smoke would kindly stay in the invisible room around that table and spare the tables next to it!
Again, I don’t remember saying much there in that empty restaurant. I do remember once in a while I would accidentally refer to her as “baby”, or something else I used to call her, and then awkwardly had to correct myself. At some point, noticing we were not talking much, I requested if I could sit next to her for a little bit. First she looked at me like I was crazy, and then she softened and said OK. Once I sat next to her, she quietly placed her head on my shoulder. My tears started running, infusing her hair with tear drops of the “sad lover who had to go.”
Reflecting about this time, I think a certain ego-dissolving was occurring within me, perhaps because there were nothing else left! A total crush had completed. I had lost it all, and at that point, I guess something within me just gave up. Yet there was nothing else left to give but the ego itself.
It was dark then and time to depart. Once we got outside, I asked her if we could have a real good hug, knowing that still in that environment we couldn’t be too affectionate. She said we couldn’t do that here. So we kept it to a quick hug.
I am proud of our last moment. As I said, there was not much ego left to me at that point. As we were embracing, all I said to her was: “You are so precious,” as she held me tighter, just for a few seconds more.
Indeed, this is true. We all are so precious, much more so than what we realize, as little flames of God.
She called a taxi for me and told the man where I should be dropped off. I insisted that she be dropped off first, but she refused. As the cab started, we were both frozen in place, as I was looking back from the backseat, and she standing on the curbside of the street. As we were taking the last glances at each other, we were also saying goodbye to this last chapter of our lives.
Once getting home, I realized what a mistake I had done. I should have insisted that the cab takes her home first. Now I was going absolutely crazy worrying about her, whether she had gotten home safely or not. She was sending me no replies. Desperately I send messages to her sister and brother-in-law in France–Imane and Kadin–asking if they can could check if she had gotten home safely. Again, I didn’t get any news.
The next day was the day of my departure. Nahla called me on my phone, as I was in the airport. She was fine, but I noticed her voice was so low and sad. We said a few words and then said goodbye.
I had come all the way to Tunisia, and now I was leaving with no more clarity of mind than I had before. All this time I had assumed she simply let me go because she wanted to be with someone else. At the time, what I had gotten from her, from her energy, and what she actually said, was not at all congruent to me. What I didn’t understand at the time was that part of her must have been trying to stay strong and save face, to encourage me away. And another part of her was hurting to let me go.
I felt more confused than where I had started, but at least I had accomplished one thing. I knew I wouldn’t have to regret for the rest of my life, for not taking the chance to fly over and see her in person. I returned feeling consoled and somewhat contented, despite our sad predicament. I knew the trip had been the right thing to do.
I sent her this message, once I had settled back home:
I promise you that our two hearts will stay really close. This is not about being or not being in a relationship thing. It is about having a connection, which I know we have.
Some years later, I wrote this poem:
To Tell You That I Love You
I’ve always had a feeling
that my stay on earth
in this life
will not be long…
I want to tell you to forgive me.
To forgive me,
for the times
I’ve spent with you,
with an absent mind,
not fully engrossed
in your radiant existence,
here and now.
I want to tell you that I love you.
Not because you loved me,
or let me love you.
Not because you kissed me,
or allowed me to kiss you,
whether you remember it or not.
Not because you gave me gifts,
or cooked for me,
or stayed by my bedside in the hospital,
or walked me to the bathroom,
or cried heroically in my defense,
whether you remember it or not.
Not because you held my hand,
when I had fallen.
or when you befriended me,
when I was bullied by others,
or because you bullied me,
teaching me of my strength within.
Not because you mocked me,
in front of others,
whether you remember it or not,
to train me to stand for myself,
and relate to and lift other souls,
when they face trials of their own.
Not because you showed me
the ways of sweetness,
I love you,
because of the unchanging flame of God,
which you carry within you,
whether you remember it or not.
Yes, Gurudeva said:
“Always have I loved Thee!
Ever shall I love Thee!
Part 27: Out of the Darkness, Into the Light
I was now back home in LA, having gone all the way and back to other side of world, not even knowing to call my trip a success or a failure. It felt like neither. Indeed, great souls like Yogananda and Shakespeare have said, “Circumstances are always neutral. It is the mind that makes something good or bad.” But try telling your emotions (your “vrittis” in your energetic spine) this truth!
Yet, even in my still disillusioned, disappointed, and super-sensitive self, I could admit seeing some kind of a healing process being underway.
Here I am using this word, even so I have actually always disliked it very much. I think I am right, and not right, to dislike this word. “Healing” is a word you hear a lot these days (if not before), especially in spiritual circles. “Get your healing session blah blah blah healing blah…” … “Do you want some fries with that?”
I have always had a distaste for the word, because I feel it implies something is wrong with us, or broken, or missing. That insults my soul a bit. The truth is that there is absolutely nothing wrong, or lacking, within us, ever. The only thing that needs correction is our assumptions: “I am sad because”, “I am not worthy”, “I hurt”, “I have been wronged”, “I am not enough”, “I need someone”, “I need something”. Indeed, these are only false assumptions, because in reality that “I” doesn’t even exist!
Self-Realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowing.
Such was the definition my guru Paramhansa Yogananda gave of the term “Self-realization”, which is the path every single human being is on, whether consciously or not.
I am right to dislike using this word too much, because just like focusing on “our darkness,” as some people and paths liked to do as a means for “healing”, it can act as a negative affirmation, making the darkness more real as opposed to vanishing it. Instead, we must focus our attention and whole heart on the light, and that’s how the darkness vanishes as if it had never existed (which is, in reality, the case!)
“You can’t drive out the darkness with a stick,” as a Swami Kriyananda song goes, “What we need is light!”
I am not right to oppose this word, if by healing we mean the process of waking up, and coming to the realization that we need no healing. Healing is all we need, on the other hand, if we are talking about perfecting the act of “letting go”. It is letting go until we see and feel, right here, right now, no separation between us and God, which is all things and beings, and the consciousness which enlivens them.
One of the things that was instrumental in helping me get back on my feet was a little clip my friend Majid from UK sent me. It was a short talk by Alan Watts. Here I include the beautiful video and the transcript:
If you awaken from this illusion and you understand that black implies white, self implies other, life implies death (or shall I say death implies life?), you can feel yourself – not as a stranger in the world, not as something here on probation, not as something that has arrived here by fluke – but you can begin to feel your own existence as absolutely fundamental.
I am not trying to sell you on this idea in the sense of converting you to it, I want you to play with it. I want you to think of its possibilities, I am not trying to prove it. I am just putting it forward as a possibility of life to think about. So then, let’s suppose that you were able every night to dream any dream you wanted to dream, and that you could for example have the power within one night to dream 75 years of time, or any length of time you wanted to have.
And you would, naturally, as you began on this adventure of dreams, you would fulfill all your wishes. You would have every kind of pleasure during your sleep. And after several nights of 75 years of total pleasure each you would say “Well that was pretty great”. But now let’s have a surprise, let’s have a dream which isn’t under control, where something is gonna happen to me that I don’t know what it’s gonna be.
And you would dig that and would come out of that and you would say “Wow that was a close shave, wasn’t it?”. Then you would get more and more adventurous and you would make further- and further-out gambles what you would dream. And finally, you would dream where you are now. You would dream the dream of living the life that you are actually living today.
That would be within the infinite multiplicity of choices you would have. Of playing that you weren’t god, because the whole nature of the godhead, according to this idea, is to play that he is not. So in this idea then, everybody is fundamentally the ultimate reality, not god in a politically kingly sense, but god in the sense of being the self, the deep-down basic whatever there is. And you are all that, only you are pretending you are not.
It was in tune with what wanted to happen in me. I didn’t need a “counselor” to tell me “Things will be better. You’ll find someone again!” I needed a shock, to tell me “You’ve been asleep! Wake up to your true reality!”
One month passed with no communication between us. Then an email came from Nahla, suggesting that we can now close an Audible account we used to share together. There is an important link here, related to my karma in this life, in this innocent little reference to this audiobook-selling website.
Some months ago, while we were on our long-distance relationship phase, we had downloaded from Audible the newly published Steve Jobs biography by Isaacson. We listened to it more or less around the same time together, and had enjoyed it tremendously, both of us being computer science geeks. A number of times within this book, there were references to a book called “Autobiography of a Yogi”, by Yogananda. First there is a reference when Jobs is young and in India, attracted to the spiritual teachings. Another one later in his life, where it is said that book was the only book he ever kept on his iPad, and would read it once a year, until the end of his life. This had aroused our curiosity enough to find the Yogi audiobook on Audible and add it to our wish list. We both had been in a few yoga classes at our universities, but were no yoga practitioners or followers, by any means.
In the meantime our breakup had occurred. And now a month later, I was rising from the dead, and was starting to feel some of the good sides of being single again—more freed time for myself, for instance. So one day I remembered the Yogi book we had marked together, and downloaded it. That’s why when Nahla’s email about canceling the Audible account came, this was the reply I sent:
“I was thinking to keep the audible account for now since I have more time now to enjoy it…The Yogi book has been a real treat so far!”
Little did I know, at that time, the scope of my words “a real treat”, and its significance to, not just my this lifetime, but my long-ago started soul-journey.
Part 28: Two Transcendental Journeys
It had only been a month or so since our breakup. I didn’t, of course, know it at the time. But all this time Divine Mother had been at work behind the scenes, from multiple angles and avenues. Being the Cosmic Mother, She had allowed some pain to be administered into my being, even if She didn’t want to see me in pain, but only because in Her omnipotence She had also carefully crafted my cosmic “comeback”, out of the “depths of my slumber”.
As I said, I had just started reading the Autobiography of a Yogi book, by way of listening to the audiobook version read by Swami Kriyananda, who is a direct disciple of Yogananda. I was suspicious at first, because the book speaks of miracles and facts I didn’t feel pertained to me. Yet quickly the vibrations of that book grabbed my soul (or is it the other way around?).
The central theme of this book is that God is not to be believed, but experienced. Every single human being, it says, is in fact engineered to do so. God is to be experienced, and ultimately joined with, through direct contact, by way of meditation, and bringing that state to every waking moment as well.
Never having meditated I was intrigued by this stuff, but I wasn’t yet ready for any action. It was just time for me to go through the book first.
Page by page, the book was throwing my world, and everything I knew about life, upside down. It gave a meaning to a life that had never made much sense to me.
But Divine Mother was sending me lifting help from another, unexpected angle. It turned out, not only She had chosen Nahla to be the one who cracks my heart open, but also the soul who lifts me up and shows me the way upward.
You see, this abrupt change which had descended upon my relationship with Nahla, wasn’t only about me and changing me. Nahla’s soul journey had required it as well. In one of her messages she had told me it was “time to go our separate ways”. The only keyword in here that I could see at the time was “separate”. But, in fact, what she really was saying had more to do with the word “ways”, emphasizing that there is a “path” that we are on, which needs to be taken on individually by each soul. And even if we are walking alone “separately” on this path, we might, and as it happened we are, walking in parallel towards the same destination!
As I was steeped in reading the Yogi book, she emerged out of her period of silence, with an occasional sharing on social media some uplifting note about yoga and meditation and finding happiness by it. She had just picked up some meditation challenges by Deepak Chopra and Opera that were coming out at that time, which she shared with me.
This inspired me deeply, especially as I was just reading about meditation in the Yogi book. Nahla, who had shown me the way to love, was now showing me the way to the soul.
I sense that you’re on a path to more and more consciousness and love and bringing these to so many people very soon. I am embracing you with all love I have in your journey.
This is what I sent her in an email then. You can get the sense how much I was inspired and happy to see her taking on the journey into the path of meditation. It was, as I saw it, her conquering the challenging environment and old habits that she had encountered on returning back home.
This is how I took my first dabbles into meditation, by using a meditation app from the Chopra Center, which contained the meditation challenges that Nahla had told me about. I was enjoying their 15-20 minute guided meditations a lot. Soon I noticed I was looking forward to my evening time, when I would turn off the lights and listen to their meditation of the day.
What I sensed was starting to happen, to both of us, was transcendence. All of a sudden, our separation, which but a few weeks ago I had seen as the biggest black whole in the universe, started to seem something more like a big stumble. And now we had both picked ourselves up, and were starting our separate sprints to new territories of consciousness which our two souls had never known before.
The love I felt for Nahla didn’t seem to be diminishing. Instead, it was also undergoing a process of transcendence. A process, which I feel had started when I saw her one last time in Tunisia, was transmuting the form of my love. I started to feel love for her less as some kind of “identification” and “possession” (i.e., “she is my girlfriend” or “my love”) and more as a deep connection we shared, which cannot ever change or go away by circumstances.
This kind of love is powerful. After all, she had already spoken the words “I don’t ‘love’ love you” to my face. But I was finding somewhere deep in my heart a love that was completely untouched and unaffected by what she, on the surface, could tell me.
But how is that potent kind of love possible? Where does it get its power, its hope, its source? Reading the Chapter 2 of Autobiography of a Yogi was giving me an idea.
One of the sweetest, most potent paragraphs in this book for me is when, after years of disheartenment upon losing his mother at the age of 11, the young Mukunda (Yogananda) finally hears the solacing voice of Divine Mother:
It is I who have watched over thee, life after life, in the tenderness of many mothers! See in My gaze the two black eyes, the lost beautiful eyes, thou seekest!
“Her words brought final healing to my suppurating wounds,” Yogananda tells us. He speaks of a “final” healing, not the kind of temporary alleviation from pains, which most of us seek and experience. Rather than the passive and evanescent waiting-to-see-if-ego-is-satisfied kind of healing, it becomes “final” with the power of active and utter conviction and internalization of this truth.
And it was with these words of Divine Mother, through the writing of my guru, that I felt I was in turn brought final healing from the separation I had suffered from my love. I realized that what I was missing wasn’t the form, the personage of my girlfriend. It was the sweetness of Divine Mother, which she reflected with ease, that was the object of my love. She was the reflection, not the source. I understood, deeply, that what I missed was present right within me. I just have to close my eyes at any time, tune in, and the sweetness that I felt she exuded is right here for me to feel. That is because the source of all is accessible from within. Individual souls are just channels and reflectors of that which we seek.
Part 29: Travels Reshuffled, London, UK
End of June-July 2013 arrived. A couple of months before, Nahla, myself and my best friend in London had planned to tour North Africa and then attend some music festivals somewhere in Europe. But now, with our somewhat sudden breakup, the plans had to change. I took my trip to London to see my friend, but then since we were not going to Tunisia, I just extended my time there for another week. After that I would spend a week visiting my family in Iran.
As it so happened, I had recently started the Autobiography of a Yogi book. Even though I wasn’t doing a whole lot in UK (or perhaps because of that) I was having a peaceful, enjoyable, and expansive time there. I would spend some time with my buddy Majid and his girlfriend Ava, but most of the time I was just reading the Yogi book or meditating. Meditation had become my daily practice by then.
We had just taken a short trip to London’s beautiful country side, and I was feeling inspired. This is when I posted an inspirational post on Facebook, on June 28, 2013, something I never used to do. It read:
The moments we’re realizing that we’re all just one, that we’re actually sharing and feeling every laughter and pain every person that we know in our lives is experiencing, everything becomes so simple, so peaceful. Everything becomes okay; Anxiety, jealousy, hate, depression, and all those things seem to wash away so quickly.
Clearly it was a time of expansion for me: expansion of consciousness, of who I am, why I am here, and where I am going. The Yogi book, which I hadn’t even read that much of at that time, was doing its magic on me without my own noticing.
I have to share with you here a funny story about my third and last experience with mind-altering substances. It happened here in London, with the kind help of my buddy Majid.
At the time, as my perceptions were all seemed to be turning upside down, I had this idea that I must think outside of the box about everything. I was especially influenced by Nahla’s ways, because she was the one who had triggered, not only my fall into ego-despair, but also rise to new ways of consciousness. Added to my love, especially because of her inspiring me with her rebound to happiness and picking up yoga and meditation, I had a tremendous amount of reverence and admiration for her, more than before.
At some point, I wrote her this message. It was a sincere feeling I shared:
I feel like I’m on the same path as you, seeking divine. I’m honored and so happy to feel like a classmate and together with you, even though you’re much advanced in this path, reflecting divine’s love, sincere, full, and joyful presence so naturally. I didn’t have good consciousness before to better understand you when I was at your presence. I’m sorry for that and also so happy to have come to see better now…
One of the things Nahla seemed to enjoy was mind-altering substances, such as weed and LSDs. So amidst this reshuffling of consciousness in me, and despite my natural tendency to dislike such things, I had told myself it would do me good to dabble into these a bit.
So I joked enough with Majid that “We need to get us some weed” until he took me seriously and took us to get some! We went to the hippie neighborhood in London, whose name unfortunately escapes me. Majid found a guy who was selling “CDs”. So we followed him through some alleys and finally bought some CD, I mean weed. Majid, himself being a pretty awesome and straight up guy, didn’t seem much experienced into these matters either. Yet he kindly braved through this to get us some cannabis to smoke.
Being total novices, we didn’t even know if we were sold the real thing or not. So Majid mixed some of what we got with some bad old cigarettes he held possession of, and that’s what the three us, Majid, Ava, and I took turns to smoke.
And before we knew it… nothing happened! They must have sold us grass or something, we said regrettably.
The next night, we still had some of the so-called weed left. So we thought let’s just smoke whatever is left, only to pass time. This time Majid didn’t mix it with anything and we made a point to take big inhales!
The results varied this time! Before we knew it the three of us were lying lazily on their bed, each one of us on some corner. A bit later, Majid, who is known for being incredibly social and always talkative and engaging, had this mellow smile on his face sitting on a chair at the corner of the room, not saying much! It was funny seeing him being so different than his normal self.
This was my second time with weed. You have already read about my first dilemma with it, in an earlier part of this blog. But this time, I was getting a bit of enjoyment from it. I was feeling that the whole bed was taking off from the ground.
At this point, I remember Ava started Googling “How do you know if you’re high?” And I remember, I kept thinking “Is it because I’m high that I think what she’s doing is funny or is it funny what she is doing?! Of course we’re high! You don’t have to look it up!” 🙂 Perhaps the herb had affected me a bit more than them, I don’t know.
A strange experience came to me next, which left me with not so much a good feeling. At some point I saw myself come out of my body to turn back and take a look at myself from the front. I remember not recognizing myself, and thinking “Is this what my friends see when they look at me? I’m not sure I recognize, or like, this guy…”
I never understood the significance of that vision, if there was any. But, spiritually, what I can read from it now is the truth that “We’re not this body!”
After that, a milder version of what had happened to me in LA revisited me. I started feeling so dizzy that I had to lay down on the floor. It wasn’t at all enjoyable after that. My friends fed me some cookies, thinking my blood sugar must have dropped. It helped and I recovered after a bit.
My time in London was over, and I was very thankful for this time and having had the company of great friends like Majid and Ava there. Next, I was flying to Iran, transiting through Paris, France.
Part 30: Travels Reshuffled, Nice, France
Before visiting Majid in London, I had been in Madrid meeting with my cousin and my sister there for a few days. Now I was flying to Paris, to connect to my flight to Iran, which had been added to my travel itinerary in the last minute. All this time I was enjoying the ease of traveling with my U.S. passport, which can get you in many places in the world without needing a visa. Just before getting on my plane to Iran, all of a sudden I realized that Iran is one place the U.S. passport won’t get me in! I had forgotten to bring my Iranian passport.
Obviously I didn’t get on that plane. Instead I stayed in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport trying to figure out what I can do. My parents told me they could FedEx my passport, which would take a few days to get to France. So I booked a new flight to Iran a week later, giving myself a day or two extra days there just in case the FedEx arrived late.
But I needed a mailing address to receive it! The only friends I had in France were Imane and Kadin, Nahla’s sister and brother-in-law. I hesitated contacting them, given my severed relationship with Nahla, but then I realized I hadn’t much of a choice. So I emailed Imane, telling her about my situation and asking if I could use her address. She kindly agreed.
So I took my EasyJet to Nice, France. Booked myself an AirBnB near where Imane lived. I ended up staying 5-6 days there. The FedEx package ended up arriving even earlier than expected. During my stay I hung out with Imane and Kadin a couple of times, once in a bar and once a bit of walking and talking with Imane.
We didn’t bring up my breakup with Nahla. I felt my connection with both of them was still there. Being in my phase of wanting to be “out of my box” I did ask Imane for a cigarette, even though I have never smoked in my life. I just wanted to belong and look cool standing by her, as she was smoking outside a bar. Both of them were lovely and energetic as always, and seemed to be doing well.
Something strange happened there. Aside from an email or two just after I had returned from my last flight to Tunisia, I had not been in contact with Nahla, for a whole month. On the very day I landed in Nice, France, even the very first hour, as I was going to go meet with her sister, I received a text message from Nahla, asking me how I was doing! I told her I was in Nice. She was startled, and asked me if I was going to meet with her sister.
It happens many times in our lives. The heart tells you stuff that the physical plane could not have possibly told you. How? She had sensed my visiting her sister, and even though we were no longer in touch, she had felt to reach out to me. I don’t know if it was because of, or just coincidence, but this trip to Nice triggered a reconnection between the two of us.
It was the month of Ramadan, in which the whole mode of activity in many of the Muslim countries shifts. Many places of dining or entertainment stay closed during the day, as many fast, and only open after sunset and the break of the daily fast. Many businesses work on a reduced schedule. It is a time when many people spend more time at home.
For a couple of nights we had very long chats on the WhatsApp messaging app. Being in Ramadan, I guess she had a lot of time on her hands, staying home. Nahla was opening up to me once again. She told me about trying to get off smoking weed. She told me about having lost all her appetite. Even though she was fasting, she didn’t seem to able to eat much after the fasting time. I hadn’t realized to that moment how much she had been suffering, perhaps through all this time. Her tone of voice (or chat) was not upbeat, as her usual self.
As I felt her opening up with me, a new feeling of reconnection and hope overcame me, along with a whole slew of emotions. Looking at our long chat, on the night, I see a line telling her: “I never felt far from you, even though we had become less relevant in each others present times, after your moving back home. At heart I felt close still…” She had replied, “I haven’t felt far from you either. After all that we have lived together it’s normal we feel that way :)”
At some point she referred to our canceled travel plans, telling me “It’s funny. I was free to travel the whole period you were supposed to be here!” and “I hope you’ll come to Tunisia some time.” I badly wanted to reply to her “How am I supposed to show up there, when you had just told me we needed to go our separate ways?!”
But I didn’t. I knew it would do no good. Instead, I left the ego aside and just replied: “Who says I will never come. Who is there to say what happens in the near future.”
I got my Iranian passport and got on my plane to visit my grandparents, about a week later than I had originally planned. I had a tough time there though, trying to justify to my grandmother why I was visiting for only 4 days!
I felt my connection with Nahla rekindled.
Part 31: Messages and Confirmations
We all experience little, seemingly insignificant moments, which later reveal themselves as profound and meaningful. I had one such episode on that 4-day visit to Iran (my personal record for the shortest home-country visit!).
As I said before, at that period of my life I was opening up to the idea of using psychedelics. That was mostly because of what I had experienced with and heard from Nahla, and due to my admiration for her and anything she would say or do. During at least parts of my (three whole times by then!) experience with mind-altering substances, I had felt some kind of expansion, mostly feeling a state of mind which was freer than in my normal self, at that time.
Meeting my cousin in Iran, who is close to my age and a deeply spiritual guy, I mentioned to him about how drugs can take one beyond his normal consciousness. Without any judgment or presumption, he simply told me, “It’s best when you get there naturally.”
Then he and I had an exchange that was not just funny and poetic, but also deep! After his last remark, he added: “But when you get ‘high’, send me a ‘hoo!'” [like “yoo-hoo”]. By that he meant to send him a blessing from that state. Without pause, a funny response came out of me: “And when you get ‘hoo’, send me a ‘hi'”. The significance becomes clear, only if you know that in Persian “Hoo” is a word used to refer to God, meaning “He”, as in “The Spirit”. What he told me then, about getting high naturally, ended up being a prophetic and Self-affirming message for me. Although I didn’t know it at that time, soon I was to enter the spiritual path, and indeed to have the experience of “natural high” many times during our devotional chanting sessions with my fellow devotees.
In any case, soon I was back to life in LA. From here on, as I had finished reading the Autobiography of a Yogi book, I felt I had found my soul-home and guru, even though as far as I knew I hadn’t been looking for one! It felt like I had just hopped on some kind of a bullet train to expansion and higher planes of existence and consciousness.
Regarding my painful heart, I was definitely feeling I was onto something, that my eyes and heart were opening to a new kind of love, even if perhaps only by necessity. This new love lacked physical and sense comfort and fulfillment, such as being able to hold the one you love and feel her heartbeat, breath, and warmth, share a meal together, and so on. On the other hand, it seemed to be able to tap into the source of that joy and happiness, easily all by itself, which I had previously thought could only be triggered through a desirable sense or mental stimulus. And because it was not based on some temporary circumstance, it was infinitely more satisfying to the soul. That’s because the soul doesn’t seek what is temporary and short-lived, since itself is part of something that is timeless.
This is something I shared on Facebook around this time:
When you really love someone, what is it that you love? her smile? his looks? her curves? touch? his kindness and support? None of these. What you really love is the Soul within her/him and the realization that the same Soul is within you. That’s why real love is always mutual. What you love is the reflection of God inside you both. How can you ever lose that?
Despite all this expansion in my consciousness, I still felt hurt at times, when I would read her last messages to me, such as, “I had always felt we eventually have to go our separate ways…” Even if by then it was starting to become clear that Nahla was absolutely correct, I wanted to tell her “But I miss you. Don’t you miss me?” During most of our relationship, she had been the passionate, free-spirited one, with all the emotions. I wasn’t used to her being the “cold voice of reason”. But in her last messages to me, it seemed like that was all I was getting. There was still some leftover confusion and hurt in me, because I felt Nahla had concluded that we must go our separate ways for the reason that we were not a right match for each other, beyond the short circumstances that had brought us together.
But one day, she sent me this quote from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Eat, Pray, Love”, which affirmed my positive perceptions and subdued my negative emotions greatly:
People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake. But to live with a soul mate forever? Nah. Too painful. Soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then leave. A soul mates purpose is to shake you up, tear apart your ego a little bit, show you your obstacles and addictions, break your heart open so new light can get in, make you so desperate and out of control that you have to transform your life, then introduce you to your spiritual master…
Did she, or should I say Elizabeth Gilbert, prophesy my soul journey in this life?! The soul mate, the heart break, and coming to the feet of the guru! I must not be the only one!
I felt that she was referring to me as a soul mate, which warmed my heart so much. The little feeling of hurt was removed from my heart receiving this. It made me feel that she still had her love for me, but she had also accepted the fact that we were not to be living together…
Everything seemed to be falling into place now. Things, even if painful, were now proving themselves as absolutely perfect and necessary, the way they had been. And now, I even had received my confirmation that I had not lost Nahla’s love, that it wasn’t just my desperate attempt to hold onto something that had already lost its life, that a mutual vibration of love still radiated, filling the large space between us.
But have you ever heard of the Ego-Heart Pendulum? Perhaps not, because I probably have just made it up! Yet I’m sure you have experienced it. It’s an internal battle that happens within all of us, perhaps even most of the time. I’ll talk about it in the next part.
Part 32: The Ego-Heart Pendulum
The process of a breakup with someone you have loved deeply is a long-term affair, as it was for me. Maybe even such a process never really does finish entirely. The range of feelings you go through can be so numerous and vastly different: from rock-bottom negative to radiantly positive; from anger and blame to compassion, understanding, and oneness.
As I said, after a month or so had passed since the day I had received Nahla’s breakup email, I started to realize and feel that our mutual love was still alive. I had recognized that she had been guided inwardly to make the decision to separate, despite her wishes, not due to her wishes. Yet my experience, how I felt, varied so much on a day to day, even hour to hour basis.
After I had been able to reconnect with her via chat on WhatsApp, during my unplanned short stay in France, my faith in our deep connection was renewed and strengthened. Such a good and expansive feeling had come over me.
Yet, once in a while, a voice would ruin the beautiful feeling for me, informing me: “You know, she is probably talking to you again, because it must have not worked out with the guy she was going out with.” And all of a sudden, in my mind, she didn’t seem as beautiful of a human being, and nor did I. My heart would shrink inside, and I would feel terrible and small.
And again, after she had sent me that quote about soul mates, my heart was overwhelmed with love. Alas, even with a confirmation like that, another day would find me forgetting about it all, and the thought would drop in my head: “Here you go again, dreaming about some day circumstances will bring Nahla and you together… You idiot! Who knows how many guys she has gone through so far after you!” In my meditations, which I had only recently started, I’d feel her with me, I would sometimes cry or laugh with her. Thousands of miles of separation would vanish in a blink of an eye in such moments. And then, many a weekend, I’d be wondering how she was spending her time, and the voice would kindly remind me: “Your thought doesn’t even busy her mind for a second.”
One reality. And yet two very different internal experiences I was going back and forth to. One warm and beautiful. Another one plain miserable. I don’t think there is a more plain way to experience the truth said by many sages: “Circumstances are neutral. It is in our mind that we turn them into pleasure and joy, or else colossal suffering.” What causes this disconnect between “what is”, that one reality, and how we perceive and experience it, on a given day and hour?
I call it the “ego-heart pendulum”. Within each one of us, there is a radio receiver of thought-waves. The ego, which specializes in our self-identity, therefore separation from all else, has a tendency to tune into thought-waves existing in the ether which affirm its ideas—anything that makes us seem separate, only a body and mind, and small. Yogananda taught that the ego is associated with a physical part of our body: the Medulla Oblongata, which is at the base of the brain. The closest place to it you can touch is that soft little dip at the back of the neck.
On the other hand, the heart energy center, at the center of the chest, near the heart organ, is capable of tuning into and feeling divine perceptions and vibrations, those of unity, intuitive wisdom, and love.
Yogananda also taught that thoughts don’t get created by individuals. They are universal and already existing in the ether, in the causal universe, which is behind the energetic and then the physical creation. Each thought belongs to a certain thought-plane, accordingly to its energy, whether divine, uplifting, or down-pulling and ego and maya (delusion) affirming.
This is where it gets interesting, and scary. There is a force, external to ourselves, which tries at all times to make our radio receivers tune only into lower thoughts, anything that affirms our separateness from the divine. That force is Satan. Of course, we are not talking here about some red devil with a long tail.
In fact, a while ago I mentioned something about Satan to Nahla, and she responded that she felt it’s likely a depiction of the human mind and its ability to go all over the place, whether good or bad. Indeed, this would be a conclusion which a modern person, free of the old dogmatic religious beliefs, and with common sense and an open mind would come to.
But Swami Kriyananda has written: “To prepare the mind for so vast an expansion, one cannot simply keep an open mind and go along for the ride.” Open-mindedness is a great start, but we also have to realize at some point we need the help of an enlightened master to carry us forward.
What Nahla was pointing out is in a way true, because the choice remains with us, whether to listen to it, or tell it “Get thee behind me!” as Jesus Christ once did say to Satan. Her concern was that calling it external would be an excuse not to realize we can do something about it. But I feel it is actually empowering to truly know your enemy, to know what kind of power you’re dealing with! It’s more than just a distracted mind…
I used to think Satan was only a human invention, but now I know, and add my testimony to that of all those who have gone before me, that Satan is a reality. He is a universal, conscious force whose sole aim is to keep all beings bound to the wheel of delusion.
So if we say that we don’t believe in Satan, we will be essentially also saying we don’t believe in saints either, because we would contradict what they have told us. Indeed, there are saints, like Jesus, Saint Anthony, and even recent ones like Padre Pio, who have even had encounters with the Satan appearing in a physical form. Should we then say those saints were saying that because they hadn’t yet trained their minds to meditate deeply?
There are others who would say: “What difference does it make? It’s still darkness which is experienced within us. So we have to know both our darkness and light inside.” But there is a distinction! Our truest self is our soul, which is a pure part of God. No part of God can have darkness! Darkness is not ours. It’s cast upon us by the illusory physical manifestation. Focusing on the darkness inside can affirm it, and give it more reality rather than vanishing it.
How do we combat the ego-heart pendulum? Definitely not by focusing on and thinking about the darkness and matters that brought its experience.
Like anything else, conscious practice is the answer.
Meditate and calm the breath and the mind, and practice consciously returning to the heart. Keep your consciousness at the center between the eyebrows, which is our gateway to the our Divine Self, as well as your heart center. Chant, sing, and dance, any practice to bring you to the heart and the present moment. If you are a thinking kind of a person, like I am, train yourself to understand that the mind is a tool you can use, rather than yourself being a tool of the mind!
There is always one reality: the “what is”. The choice is ours to tune into the positive thoughts and stay with the love and the joy, or accept the invitation of that conscious force to dabble into a whole slew of downward pulling things, which make us feel miserable. The choice is ours, at any given minute.
How many hours and days of feeling miserable and petty and sending out low vibrations could I have saved, if I had had the courage to stay with the beautiful feeling of our love, which I knew was accessible to me as I felt it all the other times?
And if someone told me “Hey those times you were feeling good was just because of something you were imagining in your head!” I would respond, “Even if so, what difference does it make?! Isn’t our internal experience the only thing that matters after all? Isn’t feeling unconditionally happy the goal of my existence after all?”
Part 33: How I Came to Love the Deer Who Ate My Little Sweet Plant
Nahla had been in the U.S. as an international student. But that wasn’t the only reason that she kept very little posessions. At times I was embarassed to notice my closet had way more clothes in it than she had in hers, though I didn’t bring it up! I only saw her wearing makeup probabaly a couple times, and one of those times was at her sister’s wedding. She definitely has some gypsy-hippie in her. And I loved that about her. It matches her purity inside and presence in the time now well, free from layers of superficiality, of many sorts.
When she left the U.S. for good, she didn’t have much to get rid of. The main thing she left with me was a plant I had myself once brought her. Naturally, this plant has been so dear and very special to me. That’s because it is a real soul, left from Nahla with me, which, fortunately, isn’t a real kid! I have called this plant the Sweet Little Plant.
She has been my sole companion for the past few years. I have lived with her in at least ten homes by now, as I have moved from one place to another so frequently through these past years. Here is a current picture of her, having her second ever baby flower blossom right now.
Sweet Little Plant was with me during my post-breakup and spiritual transition times. I am not even sure this kind of plant is supposed to live this long. But I have loved her. I have practiced Sun Salutations next to her, listening to Gayatri Mantra in the background. I have kissed and AUM’ed her routinely. I have no doubt that has something to do with her extraordinary ability to adapt and grow and stay beautiful.
A few years ago I made this video, called Devotion, featuring this plant. As my unshaken faith kept the flames of my love lit, free from conditions and circumstances, I felt as if the plant was responding with its ever increasing beauty and vibration. Here it is:
There is a cute story I have to tell you about this plant.
A couple of years ago, with hesitation and concern for her health, I brought her to Ananda Village’s Seva House (an ashram/home for those in the Karma Yoga program here), when I moved here from Los Angeles. She had never been in cold areas and I wasn’t sure she could withstand the below freezing days that we had this past winter, here in the foothills of Sierra Nevada Mountains. My shared room with bunk beds was too small, and I had to leave her at the entrance corridor. But she has vibrantly survived and thrived, as beautiful as ever, as if wanting to support me in my recent new life steps.
A year or so ago, I came home to see my Little Sweet Plant reduced to only a few leaves. When I found her there, I was a little sad to think about taking a photo. But a few days later I took the snapshot that you see here.
Since we were then finally in warm beautiful sunny days, though she is an indoor plant, one day I decided to let her camp outside to enjoy some sun. It was a couple of days after, when I came home to see that her leaves were all gone.
Most probably, a deer or two, our beautiful dear neighbors and companions here at Ananda Village, had come across the Little Sweet Plant and thought “what a beautiful breakfast!”
After some shock and remorse, I noticed a peculiar thing. As you see in the photo, the deer had intentionally, no doubt, left a few of the best looking leaves untouched. I bet the deer had said to her: “I know you’re probably the Little Sweet Plant of someone and we don’t want you to be stripped all naked. But you know Divine Mother told us to eat some of you. But we will leave some of your leaves so you’d still look pretty while your stems will surely start making new little beautiful leaves soon!”
Sure enough, as you see in the photo, a beautiful new young leaf was born a couple of days later.
Animals know how they’re part of life and how to sustain life. They never think that they are apart from any of it.
This episode made me think about how there are no animals out there, save humans, who can ever think they’re alone and separate. Animals, always in their natural “being”, somehow never forget the truth that they’re never alone, always part of a larger “one” reality.
It is interesting that it is only expected from the most evolved souls, human beings, in their great range of consciousness, to fall as deep into dark realms of unconsciousness, such as taking at the expense of others.
Part 34: Divine Gifts
By the time I had finished the Autobiography of a Yogi book, I knew about the concept of disciples and devotees of a guru. But it hadn’t occurred to me that, in this present day, many many more souls, just like me, right here in Los Angeles, must have been taken by the same book and guru, and formed a community. It turned out that they had.
After searching online for Yogananda locally, I had come across a meditation class from a group called Ananda in West Hollywood, which claimed a connection to Yogananda. Curious, without looking much into who this group was, I just showed up for the class.
I never forget the moment as I entered the door of the private house, which was at the time serving as Ananda’s LA ashram. As I entered in, a man, which I knew later to be Narayan—one of the directors of that center—seemed to me to push away other people from a far distance just to approach and greet me. His greeting was so friendly and naturally kind, that for a moment I wondered “do we know each other?” And although perhaps not in this life, it did and always does feel to me that we have been friends, perhaps gurubhais (devotees of the same guru) in past lives.
This is how Ananda, and that group of people I met, felt to me that very first day I visited that large Los Angeles suburban house: Home. And everyday after that (and I kept going more and more often) whether there or later in other centers and finally at Ananda Village, it has felt the same to me: as a soul’s home. I say soul’s home also because now it’s clear to me that I was inwardly guided there.
I had started the weekly Learn to Meditate class with the Ananda LA group, but one Sunday I had my first experience attending an Ananda “Sunday Service”. I didn’t know what to expect, but just showed up for the event, which was held in the backyard of a large house. I remember being so uplifted afterward, with its joyful people and music, and an inspiring talk which was able to speak to my soul. Though I wasn’t much in contact with Nahla at that time anymore, I sent her a text saying “I wish you had been here.”
Soon I was to be a usual participant at any class or event that Ananda LA offered throughout the week. Some months later, I discussed my love story with Narayan, and he told me to do something which was already happening: to expand that love to all. That is, to God, the Divine Mother.
September 24th 2013 marked two years since the day of Nahla’s visiting me for the first time in Los Angeles. For that occasion, I felt to send Nahla a present, even though I wasn’t sure how she would respond, if at all. I wanted it to represent an impersonal kind of love, unconditional and free of ego definitions. The result was beautiful: From a video footage of her, from our time in France, I captured many stills of her face, as it started with a normal look, then transforming into a big smile as she turned her head toward me. I arranged the stills into a collage, capturing and animating her beautiful smile from start to finish. I wish I could show you.
She did reply to that email and present, with this message:
“Two years ago, I was riding that train to come see you and I lived a very beautiful romance with you. I remember our sweet conversations, our sweet little habits and our time together, the discoveries we made, the lessons we taught each other and the growth we experienced together, and I’m so grateful for I had the opportunity to live such a wonderful experience with you. Fills me up with joy and warmth. I wanted to thank you for having been such a sweet companion during that year we spent together, and for still being such a beautiful friend. I carry you in my heart and thoughts, and I pray for your happiness and well being.
I know it has been hard for you at the beginning to accept that we would part, but I always thought that we needed to each go on our own way at some point in our life. And I’m sorry if that has been harsh on you for some time, and if I didn’t find the right words then to ease your pain and be there for you. I hope you forgive me. I know we are connected on many different levels, and I’m happy that we are on the same path seeking enlightenment. I just started reading the Autobiography of a Yogi and I’m so excited about all the other audiobooks that you got on audible. I feel more in sync with the universe lately, that time when I got back home was very hard on me. It was difficult for me to separate from you as well, and I felt lost for a long period of time. Now I’m more in peace and I know it’s partly because I feel your peace.”
That last sentence especially touched my heart deeply, as it confirmed to me what I was experiencing inside: that our true connection and way to affect each other happens within, and is undeterred and untouched by physical and worldly phenomena, such as distance or circumstances.
Later on Nahla mentioned that she hadn’t been able to complete the Yogi book, something that, as usual, I had already felt and needed no mention. She wasn’t grabbed by the book the way I was. As she said herself, perhaps it hadn’t been time, or perhaps hers is a different path.
Several months later, well before her birthday, I decided to send her a little gift. It was a tiny AUM silver bracelet. I FedEx’ed it thinking it would be getting there way too early for her birthday. As it happened, it didn’t arrive to her by her birthday, and not even afterwards. Here I told myself this was a clear sign that I shouldn’t have sent her any gifts. A few months later, I received a strange call (or email I cannot remember) saying that the package has been sitting in some shipping backroom in Tunis, asking for a crazy amount of money to “find” it. It seems that in Tunisia and many countries in the region there is a (probably government) business of holding and making money off packages that seem to contain valuables. I actually had to pay FedEx some hundred or two dollars, I can’t remember, for something that had cost some $20 to buy, to release the item and ship it to its destination.
Nahla did eventually receive her birthday gift, some three months late! She said she loved it “so so much!”
In some ways, the episode with the never arriving gift symbolized how I felt my connection with Nahla stood. Am I a sad mistake to keep my love alive? Or is what we had, as I felt, so precious? Am I being guided to cut her off, or reach out?
Part 35: Parallel Life Journeys
At the start of our post-separation lives, it had taken me a month or so to come to grips with the divine flow that was making all the shifts happen. But soon after I started to notice how Nahla and I seemed to be taken along separate yet similar and parallel life journeys.
It had started with her picking up meditation, and through her social media posts inspiring me to do the same. Some time later she started a regular yoga practice, and once shared with me a photo of her in headstand–her latest skill. Some years earlier I had gone to some yoga classes, but I hadn’t continued. Now, again, I got inspired to pick up a yoga practice, and guess what, within a month I had my own headstand shot, though on the wall, to share with her!
All the while I was very aware that something much more significant than the event of just another guy taking on a meditation and yoga practice was happening to me. I was diving head-first into the spiritual life and teachings and discipleship of Paramhansa Yogananda. Some half a year had passed since reading his autobiography and finding the spiritual community of Ananda. What was happening is that I was now willingly pushing aside my agendas and ideas in life, and inviting my inner guidance and guru to lead me the way.
For a year and half or so I continued a parallel life. I would do my daily yoga and meditation practices, participate in various events at the Ananda center in LA, and also continue my full-time programming research job, which I loved. In the meantime, Nahla had taken an engineering job at a software company and was quickly promoted towards a management position. We weren’t really in contact, and all I knew was by following her online presence, from Facebook and Instagram posts, LinkedIn profile, etc.
One Spring night in 2015, as I was driving I had a sudden idea to leave my job for good, in order to make time for delving more into the yoga and spiritual life. I loved my job and group, but I felt now I had connected with something much more grand, that was beckoning my focused attention. I had also started a set of creative work, such as spiritual writings and translations, and felt the want to work on them beyond just the weekends.
During that Summer I was sent by Narayan and Dharmadevi–the directors of Ananda LA–to a month-long yoga instructor training program at Ananda Village in Northern California. That way I could lead the yoga classes at our center. In a different blog (https://fearlessjoyblog.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/how-i-came-to-live-in-a-spiritual-community-called-ananda-village/) I shared how that eventually led to my quickly moving my life there and becoming a resident of Ananda Village.
Some months later, I was so delighted to see that Nahla was in Bali, doing her yoga teacher training. Apparently, she too at some point had decided to let go of her technical career. I was especially happy to see that she was receiving her training from people who were devotees of a true spiritual path, and followed Mooji, and his guru’s guru the great master Ramana Maharshi.
Later from her Facebook posts I saw that she spent an extended time in the city of Rishikesh, in India, where the holy Ganges river runs. There she attened daily satsangs (talk and spiritual gathering) with the spiritual teacher Mooji.
Our exchanges have been very little. Once she responded to a Facebook post I had shared, something about the guru, exclaiming and wondering whether one can go deep spiritually on their own, without calling someone “the guru”. This is a natural question any spiritual seeker will wonder at some point, but everyone’s experience is unique also. I think I did the right thing, by only responding, “Let your own life experiences be the answer to that question.”
Mine was interesting, because as soon as I learned about the concept of a guru and the spiritual path, I found myself already a full devotee of my guru Yogananda. It all happened from reading his autobiography and taking a few classes at the Ananda center. There was no tough decisions to make! I think that is probably because I’m simply resuming a discipleship path which I was already on, in past lives.
In the case of Nahla, as far as I know, this deep connection with a particular path and line of gurus and teachings hasn’t occurred yet in this lifetime. From her comments, too, I sensed a bit of pushback and distrust for the idea of a student-guru relationship. This too might be the result of a past-life experience, perhaps having an experience of being forced into obedience to someone, or following a path and teacher that didn’t lead her to her higher Self.
Indeed, it is probably the case that, out of every thousand of those who call themselves a “guru”, only one is true master or “satguru,” meaning one who has entirely released the ego, and is simply a perfect reflector of the divine will and wisdom. Yogananda has said “It takes very very very good karma even to want to know God!” Now imagine what karma (past life soul progress) is needed to become a true devotee of a true master.
Interestingly, my life trajectory has recently taken me back to my career of computer science and programming, in the form of creating apps and teaching programming in classrooms and online. Life seems to want me to keep one leg in my technical field! The holy grail for me is to strike the balance, bringing yoga into work, and take work into yoga! Wonder if Nahla, too, has not received guidance to add back some computer science into her life!
Over the past years, there was some exchanges between us, once in a while one of us exclaiming “It’s been a while. Let’s catch up soon!” And we did try once or twice. But somehow it doesn’t seem to happen. And perhaps there’s not much sense to it anyway, at the present moment. I am not sure…
I admit, I’m not yet free in my energy body of attachment and whirlpools of feelings. With a mere suggestion of her name, a whole set of emotions can still take me over. Old feelings visit. I wonder if it’s the same for her.
In our last exchange, several months ago, I mentioned to her that “I may be becoming a monk soon!” I might have startled her, or perhaps not. All she replied was: “Sounds like you are on quite a journey. I hope you are happy.” In the next part I’ll talk about where that idea came from.
Part 36: Becoming a Monk
I’m going to come clean.
I’ve looked upon the renunciates–the monks–who wear yellow or orange robes, with not so slight amounts of judgment. Especially when I saw a brahmachari/brahmacharini (man/woman monk) struggle on worldly stuff; if I see anger, frustrations, or frailty in them, I felt a kind of pity for them: Poor person! They’re weak; they’re using whatever outward form they can find to keep themselves protected from spiritual falling, repeating vows before others, wearing monk clothes, running away from all world temptations. Yet one way or another this suppression and internal unbalance comes out for everyone to see!
If anything, the little I did know about renunciation, to willingly give the ego away and let God live through you, sounded an internal thing to me, and things like wearing certain color or repeating vows out loud seemed superficial to me. I’m stronger, more real, than that…
Until a year or so ago that is.
Two years ago I left my life in Los Angeles and came to live in the spiritual community of Ananda Village, where hundreds of devotees of Yogananda live and thousands visit each year to retreat and learn about yoga. Ananda is, for the most part, a household yogi community. But we do have a monastery here, and some monks and nuns among us.
A while after arriving here I received certain guidances that transformed my view of monkhood. It shifted my understanding of renunciation as something for others, as service to humanity, rather than for me. This made it aligned with my nature and I came to a realization how it is right and admired for me.
In this blog I have shared with you my experience of a beautiful human love relationship with a beautiful soul. It had to end, however. The pain I endured from that experience led me to inquiry for meaning and purpose of life. With that, the great gurus recognized that I was ready for living the spiritual path.
I never felt that I had lost the love, even if it wasn’t on the physical plane anymore. As I have said, I feel as if this was my first and last one, a love of my life, a desire that was beautifully fulfilled. I never did feel the need to add to it, or replace it with a new experience.
I don’t in any way judge anybody for desiring romance and an experience of true love, or even sexual fulfillment. I wish anyone with a sincere desire for this beautiful experience to get to live it. I feel that you can’t skip it. Neither did I. I didn’t transcend the desire, I satisfied it, to get to this place of not wanting it.
I also don’t blame those who always seem to be moving from one relationship to the next. I don’t think most do that because they’re greedy or never contented. I assume they do that simply because they haven’t yet been able to experience that one love relationship that their heart so desires.
Most of us wouldn’t really understand this. The desire and need for a companion is considered human nature, as it is in other animals, and we don’t think it ever goes away. Sure, it’s nature, but, unlike animals, humans are designed to eventually evolve beyond nature. Ultimately humans have the potential, and the single goal, to merge entirely into the unmanifested Spirit beyond the creation and nature. (It is the same with vegetarianism, by the way. Those of us who like to eat meat argue “Look, it’s in the nature, animals eat other animals.” Again, yes, but as human beings we have the choice to rise above other animals in consciousness, or stay where we are as just another animal species.)
There is a fascinating story about a student of Swami Sri Yukteswar. The guru had seen that the young man’s life is one of discipleship and renunciation. But he could also see that the student had a long-standing unfulfilled desire for human love. One day Sri Yukteswar told him “Divine Mother will give you a blessing today.” As they were seated in a train, the guru instructed the boy to look through the window. At that time another train passed in the opposite direction, where the student saw a brief glimpse of a girl looking at him. Swami Sri Yukteswar says with that split-second encounter the disciple had forever fulfilled his desire for human love.
Well, I needed a bit more than that to satisfy my desire. But still I feel very very blessed to have the karma to be able to fulfill and get passed the desire for a companion within this lifetime.
Of course, every soul’s journey and dharma is unique. Many souls live a life of partnership and marriage because it is in their karma and righteous duty to do so. Two of the yoga masters in my own line of gurus, Lahiri Mahasaya and Swami Sri Yukteswar were householders. A liberated soul can manifest equally as much in a married person as in a monk.
I have practically lived a life of a monk since then. Rather, I set my mind to expand the love to everyone, all life. First, I came to love the trees. My walking commutes to work became longer and longer as I would stop often to commune with the trees and flowers. And I got to work later and later in the morning! I gradually opened myself more to other people. I have tried to give myself, my attention, my friendship, my energy, to the best of my ability, without discrimination.
In my first year at Ananda Village I was part of the karma yoga team, serving and taking classes at the Expanding Light retreat here. As I was a karma yogi planning to live here, whereas most people come to visit and stay temporarily, I met many many souls who came and left.
It was a tremendously expansive time for me. For one, simple service brought me the joy of being alive in the present moment, a feeling which I had lost long long time ago. I also offered my friendship and presence to everyone I would meet, as much as I could.
But I realized sometimes my intentions may not be clear to people whom I meet, those who might not know me well. I visited the nearby Ananda Meditation Retreat to visit my friend a few times, enthusiastically asking people where she was. Later she told me she was asked by people if she was in a relationship with me.
Another time one of my fellow karma yogi friends asked to go on a walk with me around the village. During the walk I noticed she seemed upset. She scolded me for “giving energy and then turning cold.” I realized she had interpreted our going on a walk as a date. Realizing it was a misunderstanding, we cleared it away and continued the walk. At some point we sat on a bench in front of the beautiful lotus lake at Ananda Village.
Then she said she wanted to give me a healing experience and asked me to put my head on her lap. If this was a case where I felt weak or tempted, I would have refused. But because I was centered, I decided to go along, as a way to be there for her. That lasted about half a minute.
Guess what, we do live in a village here! The next day, at our market, someone came to me and said: “So… So and so told me they saw you yesterday with a WOMAN!”
He said “woman” as if I was seen with a Bigfoot or something! I responded: “Ehh, Yeah! I go on walks with WOMEN.”
So I felt a few cases like these were some part of the guidance I was receiving to make my being a monk an outer reality.
I have learned that we happen to live in exciting times in the course of humanity’s evolution. We are just out of Kali Yuga, the dark age of human consciousness. Spirituality, a deeper knowing of what God means, is coming to modern societies and even science. Religion as we have known it is shifting into something actually enlightened, a true understanding of God and ourselves as part of one consciousness that is that.
I feel elated to be a part of this generation, to be in a group as spearheads for this shift in consciousness of an entire race. With this in mind, I see wearing the garb of renunciates of the new age, with my fellow brothers and sisters, as a service to humanity. To be an example to the broader population of what is going to come. To make a statement that light, love, and joy is coming, and greed and darkness, at least for a few thousand years, will be dimming away!
For this, to make my intentions as clear outwardly, for others, as clearly as it is inwardly for me, and to be a servant, a humble example for my other brothers and sisters who will soon be awakened from the delusions of the world, I will happily wear a monk’s garb.
With this conclusion, I announced my plan. My parents bought and sent a bunch of yellow clothes for me! I went to ask to be initiated into our brahmachari order and to join our other monks at the Ananda monastery here.
The Nayaswami in charge advised me to stick with plan to live in our group house for a while, as most new residents at the village do, and practice being a monk inwardly first. I feel Nayaswami had the deep attunement, without knowing me much personally, to receive the guidance of the masters to make me wait. This, as it should be, I’ve seen is handled on a case by case basis.
I had a couple of chats with another Nayaswami who leads the monks at our monastery. I have a deep respect for him and I consider all our brother monks here my good and close friends. Regardless, the more we talked the more I felt my heart was trying to deter me from going in this direction. Something was inwardly guiding me to go the other way, towards independence, rather than under a greater deal of discipline.
Although I felt I would benefit from a bit more discipline, I worried that I might receive more than I can handle, and rebel. That would be contractive, rather than expansive, and might cause me backtrack in my spiritual growth.
I was loving living at the group house, which gave me a nice balance between discipline (we had some scheduled early morning and evening meditations and satsangs), and freedom and independence. I felt I was growing well there, spiritually. I realized that the truth “Don’t try to fix it if ain’t broken!” applied here for me. So I decided to just wait it up. I figured if my guru wants me to take the steps to become a brahmachari, he would give me more guidance and messages! I prayed to Yogananda, “Guruji, I’m kind of slow! You’re going to have to keep telling me, if you want it for me!” At the same time, at least in my mind, I remained confused and at odds about myself and becoming a monk.
So I made an appointment to meet with our village astrologer, to specifically ask about monkhood for me. Wise man that he is, he didn’t really argue one way or another, and simply agreed with me about the pros and cons of going each way. Yet he mentioned in passing a something that resonated with me so much.
He said seeing people of Ananda for all these years, he had noticed many of them had renunciate/monk tendencies, yet they tended to be falling into two distinct groups… Some had characteristics of “European” kind of monk. Picture catholic monasteries, discipline, order, monks praying and walking and eating in unison… The other kind, he said, are more like “Indian” wandering monks, or “sadhus”: they tend to go alone and don’t play well with order, working with the group, neatness, and form.
Instantly I recognized myself as the second type of monk! That’s why I was being inwardly deterred from going towards the formality of taking vows and joining the order of monks. I noticed how I tend to always run away from any form of rigid “form” and “formality”, at least in some matters.
As it happened, rather than joining the monastery, after my period of living at the group house ended, I ended up taking an opportunity to live more of an independent life. I moved into a house a couple of miles outside of our village, living with a family.
At least for this period of my life, I feel pulled towards this kind of freer living. I still consider myself a monk, but have given up the idea of the formal aspect of it all. I call myself a “free monk”. A while back, inspired by these events and realizations, I even wrote a poem:
I am a free monk.
I will be, I was, a free monk.
I am a renunciate.
I have renounced
the dogmatic ways of the mind,
who seeks to place God,
in a box-full of dos and donts;
the one who measures God realization,
by the self-proclaimed number of years on the path,
or the count of hours sat in meditation,
the one who labels the dry dweller of the temple as a man of God,
and she who dances naked by the sea as one without.
I don’t aspire to walk in unison,
dine in silence, sleep, eat and meditate at the sharp hour,
together with my band of brother monks.
I’m a sadhu of the East.
I roam freely,
and when I feel the grip of form forming around me,
I flee to the nearest tree,
my true renunciate brother and sister,
and continue on my road of free Being.
I am free.
I am, a renunciate.
Clear as the summer sky,
sensitive as the autumn breeze,
my Divine Mother is calling me always.
Nothing else I see.
Sense pleasures hold me no more.
Not because I cannot enjoy what is good,
or fear the judgment call of a Creator,
or if I await a better enjoyment in an afterlife.
I slight them, as I know they pale compared to my bliss,
awaiting me to discover deep within my own Self,
when I withdraw from the bondage of the senses.
Lust is weakness.
Why affirm attachment to the external stimulation?
I have set my mind free from the illusion
that joy comes from somewhere outside me.
Let me live alone.
I know I own no one and need no one.
No one owns me or need me.
I am blissful in my supreme freedom.
I need no monastery walls,
to guard my divine communion,
and blessings upon the world.
I bestow my blessings,
in the open air,
in the way of the new age,
of ascension, expansion,
of coming together,
and universal embrace.
I embrace the nature outside me,
as it is not but my Mother Divine.
I engage, enthusiastically.
The world is awaiting me,
and wants my attention,
understanding, and love.
It’s no longer time to stay confined,
to protect the light of my sadhana,
from a world indifferent, ignorant, or defiant to the truth.
The world is thirsting for it now.
It wants to know me, and join me,
in my divine walk to our Mother.
It’s no time to hide.
I shall not prison myself in the confines of the Kali age.
And if a beautiful face comes this way,
I shall not go hiding in my cell.
I will go forth rather,
to greet the beauty with a big smile and sparkling eyes,
and admire her stunning ways,
reminding me of my Mother’s beauty.
What do I have to fear,
If I know my love can never again
descend back down to the narrow ways
of conditional wanting?
And I will look dashing, myself,
and inspire other eyes.
A perfected being reflects beauty in all planes.
my Divine Mother is sexy.
If your eyes catch glimpse
of a thing more desirable than my Mother,
do inform me.
Is not uniting with Her our only dream?
Part 37: The End of Love
Earlier I shared a racy memory I have with Nahla, when we woke up from an afternoon nap, finding ourselves in each other’s arms and completely naked. What’s interesting is that this is what has remained in my memory, and not the sex that we might have had before falling asleep together.
In the end, no matter how much the society, our minds, and our hormones would like to tell us, it’s not the fleeting joys we seek. The object of our seeking is the unconditioned Joy which is always there.
Some 4-5 years have passed since the last time I saw Nahla. No matter how hard I try to remember and visualize moments of making love with her, I don’t feel anything. Nothing comes back. I can’t bring back the fleeting joy. But to this day, any time I want, I can close my eyes and feel her embrace and the real warmth and joy of our love, which is ever present in my heart.
One might tell me, “You’re just reliving a memory. It’s not the real thing.” And I will reply, “You are confusing the sign post to the ocean with the ocean itself…” What we get from a physical stimulation is just a trigger that nudges us to remember a joy we already have inside. The joy isn’t transferred into us from anywhere. It’s already within us.
But as we become more sensitive to our inner being, we realize we no longer need that external trigger to access that love and joy inside. So what I can access isn’t just a memory of the love that I so cherish, rather it is the real love. In fact, it’s more pure, because it is free from the illusion that it’s coming from an external source.
Divine Mother had chosen Nahla to ultimately bring me to the feet of my guru, and the spiritual journey. She was the one that had worked into the will and feelings of Nahla to initiate the thought that we must go our separate paths. Why so soon? Simply because I was meant to enter the spiritual path in my early thirties, rather than later in life.
What Divine Mother brings is sometimes not easy to stomach, for a while at least. Ultimately, however, we learn it is easier to embrace it than resist it, and that there is no higher love than Hers.
I feel Yogananda–my guru–also had to endure Divine Mother’s planning, when he experienced losing his mother at the age of 11. Yogananda talks about his mother as his closest friend then. So, I think, the will of Divine Mother was partly to make it easier for him to leave India at a young age.
So there you have the story of my sweet pumpkin love, and its transformation to Sweet Mother love. Will I see Nahla again, in this life? It hardly matters. Whatever it will be for me, and for her, be it so. As I mentioned it in the beginning, ours is a soul bond through lifetimes.
As I told you before, we have not really kept in touch, and much less so in the past couple of years. While I do feel I can sense her overall well being and energy, I don’t know any specifics about her life, or even where in the world she currently is. She rarely shares anything on Facebook, etc. anymore.
Not long ago, I had a desire to know how she was doing, more concretely. So I prayed to Divine Mother to bring me a vision of her, as she is now. Some time later she came into my dream one night. In it, she was kindly and calmly spending time with me. She was helping me practice French. Once in a while, in my dream, I would get intimate and playful, and go to kiss her ears or something. And she would retract and refuse my gesture. She then would continue to spend time with me, in a cordial and somewhat impersonal way.
I would like to end with this story from Autobiography of a Yogi, about the saint Ananda Moyi Ma–the Joy-Permeated Mother. Here she is replying to Yogananda’s request to tell him about her life:
“Father, there is little to tell.” She spread her graceful hands in a deprecatory gesture. “My consciousness has never associated itself with this temporary body. Before I came on this earth, Father, ‘I was the same.’ As a little girl, ‘I was the same.’ I grew into womanhood, but still ‘I was the same.’ When the family in which I had been born made arrangements to have this body married, ‘I was the same.’ And when, passion-drunk, my husband came to me and murmured endearing words, lightly touching my body, he received a violent shock, as if struck by lightning, for even then ‘I was the same.’
“My husband knelt before me, folded his hands, and implored my pardon.
“‘Mother,’ he said, ‘because I have desecrated your bodily temple by touching it with the thought of lust—not knowing that within it dwelt not my wife but the Divine Mother—I take this solemn vow: I shall be your disciple, a celibate follower, ever caring for you in silence as a servant, never speaking to anyone again as long as I live. May I thus atone for the sin I have today committed against you, my guru.’
“Even when I quietly accepted this proposal of my husband’s, ‘I was the same.’ And, Father, in front of you now, ‘I am the same.’ Ever afterward, though the dance of creation change around me in the hall of eternity, ‘I shall be the same.'”
And I only can hope you, my dear, can recognize and feel that I can state the same thing as Ananda Moyi Ma, about my love story. You see, this “I”, which I told you stories about in this blog, was only watching a series of events unfold in front of his eyes, but itself was never involved or touched. It was never elated, and never suffered:
When I greeted that Tunisian girl in a simple, gray, loose dress and open hair and big smile, that afternoon at the Union Station in LA, “I was the same.” And when I opened my eyes to see us embraced and fully naked, “I was the same.” And when we vacationed in Hawaii and my mind was everywhere but in the present moment with her, yet again, “I was the same.” And when I was weeping in front of her eyes, admiring her beauty to Julio Iglesias’s song, “I was the same.” And that horrid day when she emailed me her desire for us to part, even though I wouldn’t know it then, “I was the same”. And now that I am sitting on my bed typing away this story on my laptop, “I am the same consciousness, a part of God’s, just observing a series of fleeting show of “light and shade”, as they pass through my eyes. It is my mind who makes the understandable mistake that it is “me” who is being satisfied, or saddened, or fulfilled. It is our job to recognize that we are only the “I” which is unrelated and unidentified with what happens.
Yogananda likened life to the movies screen. The purpose, he said, is to break away from those who are so consumed by the show on the screen, and turn back and look at the projector beam, realizing it’s the light source which is causing all that’s on the screen to seem real.
May we awaken together to that ever-present unconditional love and joy, which we all are swimming in right this minute. Only if we open our inner eyes…
During these 3-4 years of transformation, when this story was taking place, I scribbled down little reflections and understandings as they came to me, giving me a sense of clarification. I shared these on Social Media. To end this book, I offer you a few of my thoughts during these times. May it be useful to you. But remember, you have to come to your individual inner understanding, unique to your own nature and soul-journey. Namaste!
Reflections on the Mind
- If you think you’re free, then you will be free. Then you want nothing more!
- Others don’t really exist. It’s only you and your mind out there. It’s Divine Mother’s unique dream through you. Make yourself comfortable.
- When you’re having a beautiful time in the present moment and all of a sudden a nagging worrying shadow descends upon you, when you’re concentrating in the quietness of your meditation and next thing you know you’re playing out a five-way sex scene in your mind, when you’re thinking kind thoughts and all of a sudden you feel an urge to punch a wall, don’t just say “oh well, that’s also a part of me that needs to express itself.” (That is a common mistake stemming from thinking we are solid separate entities and our thoughts are ours, whereas we’re in fact a fluid energy mix of thoughts and qualities constantly flowing and mixing with others.) NO, THAT IS NOT A PART OF YOU. Know that it is the conscious God-created force external to you whose job it is to pull you down from elevating yourself and reverse your spiritual progress. Its purpose is to bring your consciousness back into the lowest spheres of thought and being. Yogananda said that he used to think Satan was some mental concept, but he said he had found that Satan is a real conscious external force that is actively trying to pull us down to the mud of delusion. The more you advance spiritually, in fact, the more the Satan ups the ante. Great saints, like Jesus, St. Anthony, and Padre Pio were constantly tormented by visions of Satan. But they never let in. So next time you get a visit don’t let in, but don’t struggle either. Simply don’t give it a welcome and energy. Simply hold your gaze at the light of the spiritual eye, between the eyebrows. It’s by ignoring and belittling it that it’ll just go away.
- It’s not the world that needs fixing. It is my understanding that does.
- The only thing that finally snaps me out of the times I sink into thinking something is wrong is remembering that the only thing that’s wrong is my thinking that something is wrong. Everything is perfect, going exactly as Divine Mother is planning it so. The only thing to let go of is the mind’s idea of how things should be or go. There lies the freedom.
- True fulfillment comes from circumstances, not outer but inner ones. It comes from inner circumstances that result from inner work, rather than from outer circumstances.
- There’s no past. There’s no future. There only always is the eternal now. Past and future are only in the head. They have no essential reality. Have you ever heard of a great peace of art being created in the past or future? Joy, laughter, or life happening in the past or future? Enlightenment happening in a time other than the present moment? No! Those only unfold when full presence in the now is embraced! Only now is beyond the head. We could say that time is an illusion of the mind. You may have a memory or a film of the past. But note that those themselves aren’t the real thing, just some association in the head.
- The moment you let go of the mind is the moment you lived. Not induced, but with your own will and understanding.
- Be in the moment, it has lots it wants to show you!
- Interesting that the intention is more important than the action. For example, intention to kill is far worst than killing. Because killing can be just if it’s to avoid a worst thing, but to intend to kill is always evil. Same with all thoughts. Having positive or negative thoughts about someone is far more significant and influential than verbally telling them. So be very very attentive of your silent thoughts. Keep them beautiful. Keep them graceful. You’ll feel the results!
- Have you noticed this about the days you have a good day: It’s not that you have a good day first, then you have a good mood. You have a good mood, then you’ll have a good day.
- When sorrow or anxiety come, something is wrong, or things just aren’t going well, there is always exactly one thing to change: Change the idea of the mind that something is wrong! Let go of the thought that you shouldn’t feel that way, or what you are experiencing is bad. Everything in front of us is simply always perfect. It is exactly what needs to happen for our own highest good. The mind is simply not able to see how could it be that what we are facing is perfect as it is. Its vision is too narrow and limited. But that’s OK. We don’t need to understand! The universe is simply taking care of us.
- Enlightenment is ridding oneself of all things that one is not. Children are closer to that state of being true with oneself. As adults we are covered pretty heavily. Words have power in them. Don’t say things just to say something.
- Forget everything you ever heard about how you should be. What should you want or not want. Others, despite their good intentions and love, cannot know what you’re about. They put labels on you, they tell you that you need to do this thing, take that thing, improve this, not do that, etc. This is your dream: it’s only you and everything and everybody else is really just a projection around you. You know yourself, what you desire, and need nobody else to tell you that. I used to feel bad and sorry for myself for not liking to dance, or not wanting to socialize, or be excited about traveling. Now I understand… I’m not here to dance! I’m not here to socialize! I’m not here to discover the four corners of the world. Then how can we know the answers without others to tell us? Well we have to get still! We have to calm down, meditate, and listen! The answers are there within and there only.
Reflections on the Heart
- God’s will for each of us is to fulfill our heart’s deepest desire. That’s why She gave us each a unique heart.
- Be fearless to speak your heart.
- I think, in the subtle energy body, the eyes are deeply connected to the heart center. I noticed every time I feel a strong energy movement and shifting vibrations in the heart, I am feeling the same sensations in the area of my eyes. Could this be why we shed tears out of the eyes, rather than another place?
- Have you had moments of the experience of your heart opening? It feels so so good! It happens primarily in the energy body, but when it’s intense, you’ll also feel it physically. There is an intoxicating warm, buzzing flow of energy at the center of your chest, as the ties in the heart chakra open and let kundalini flow upward… May you experience this blissful state often. Thank you Divine Mother. You make me cry for joy!
- Never mind where you are, where your level is, how far the road seems to be. Never compare your current abilities and qualities with someone else. What matters is the direction you’re looking into, and the purity of your heart’s intention. The rest, including the jetpack, the universe will provide.
- The heart center—Anahata chakra—is the center of intuitive perception. Unfortunately, it’s also where we store our likes or dislikes, our ideas how the outside world around us should be or should not be. And it’s easy to confuse impulsive emotions and thoughts with true intuition of the heart. A restless mind, actually starts in a restless heart, where likes and dislikes keep signaling the reality is in conflict with us and thus agitation and anxiety signals are sent out. Daily meditation is the only tool to calm the surface jitters of the heart so its true guidance deep can be heard.
- “Success is achieving what one really wants.” –Swami Kriyananda. It’s not necessarily having a large bank account, a beautiful partner, and a nice family. Dig deep. Refuse society, family, even your own scattered and distracted thoughts and wants. Your heart knows but it’s buried deep under a lot of rubble. You need to meditate routinely to calm down and listen to it. Pray to the universe for guidance. It’s not your mind who figures it out!
- When we have sincere questions of the heart, the universe sends answers. But be attentive, these don’t come in the form of, “Hey the answer to your question blah is blah blah!” Instead, they come in terms of little symbols: a random, seemingly nothing image that catches your eye for a second, a thing you hear or overhear in the street, an irrelevant response you get from a stranger. I have no doubt about this! Within a couple of days I received answers to two questions that were troubling my heart; both answers came in symbols. Both had to do with a doubt about something I am doing: Why am I doing this? Who gave me the right to do it? Who cares? etc. Anyway the key is to pay attention to any symbols.
- Restlessness may be in the mind, but actually is generated in the heart, by our feelings, desires, likes, and dislikes. Liberation into eternal unconditional bliss comes as we gradually learn how not to be a slave of them, not to let them sway us left and right. Do not identify with them, and channel them all up through the spine in meditation, to the divinity through the spiritual eye at the point in between the eyebrows. This is why “yoga is the neutralization of the vortices of feeling” is a better translation of Patanjali’s second yoga sutra.
- “If the path before you is clear, you are probably on someone else’s.” –Joseph Campbell. Be true to your own heart not other people’s expectations, sometimes not even to common sense!
Reflections on Love
- We’re born to love.
- Why not just live love?
- If your heart isn’t soft and raw from bruises and breaks, of conditions, how is it ever going to learn to love unconditionally?
- This is how I know if I’m on the right track along my spiritual path: As I walk along my day, how many total minutes or hours of the day am I looking to show compassion and love to all whom I meet, and how many remaining minutes or hours am I thinking of myself and my wants and problems.
- “Don’t fall in love. Rise in love,” a friend said. If we find our love is restricting and limiting, including some but excluding others, then it’s missing something, it’s not expansive. There’s ego there.
- “[O Muhammad,] If you had spent all that is in the earth, you could not have united their hearts, but Allah has united their hearts.” -Quran surah: “Spoils of War”. Love is what binds us together, which is the recognition of God within each one us. When that is seen, we are all so so so much the same than different!
- When we know and love someone, we continue to communicate and stay connected even if bodies are separated or passed on from this life. Two entangled souls can affect each other deeply, much deeper than the physical level, and send each other positive healing light or downward pulling energy. They thus continue to have a hand in each other’s journey into enlightenment. It doesn’t matter if your body is or isn’t near your loved one. It doesn’t matter if they are alive or not. You can and you should both send to and receive from them powerful positive energy, light and love.
- Offer yourself fully to serve and love others, resist your ego mind who wants to focus on your problems that all rise from its insisting you are separate and different than others. Embrace your heart who knows you are one with all! In it you will experience your glorious Self.
- “Love casts all fear.” –Bible, New Testament. Highest powers come with the realization of oneness with all, which is true love. The illusion of separation is the cause of fears.
- Without human love and without losing your love (doesn’t need to be a physical loss) you won’t know a higher love. If your small cup doesn’t break, you won’t be given a bigger bowl to fill with love! Expand it to the whole universe! Don’t holdback loving, giving your everything. Start with loving your man or woman love of life! See life of Rumi.
- This will come as a shock to many, due to society’s and Hollywood brainwashing, and is sure to piss off many of my friends. But I believe awareness of it is good for young people before the common definitions get engrained in their minds: No marriage is based on love. Marriage’s deepest goals root in the need for family continuity, procreation, protection, preservation, sustenance of species, status, self image, etc. A marriage is an agreement between two individuals. A heathy marriage is based on compatibility on most important “wants”: “I want you and you want me,” “I want children and so do you,” “I want a hippie lifestyle and you too.” But marriage cannot be defined by love: Love at its true sense is the realization that two separate forms are in their essence one. One spirit. It has no relation to gender and sexuality. It has nothing to do with the idea of “I” or “you”: the ego. It’s entirely selfless and unconditional. It operates at a non-physical plane. It never says “I love her and nobody else.” It’s expansive. It embraces all in its love… It so happens that some married couples do share a beautiful real human love, that is selfless and unconditional love, but that is an orthogonal thing and won’t be exclusive. That is, that real love will love a stranger abandoned child just the same.
- When you really love someone, what is it that you love? her smile? his looks? her curves? touch? his kindness and support? None of these. What you really love is the Soul within her/him and the realization that the same Soul is within you. That’s why real love is always mutual. What you love is the reflection of God inside you both. How can you ever lose that?
- Have you been in love? Do you know that feeling of being one with your beloved… Now imagine feeling one with all that’s in the universe at the same time. So is bliss and that’s where you and I are headed! Can one ever want more?
- The moments we’re realizing that we’re all just one, that we’re actually sharing and feeling every laughter and pain every person that we know in our lives is experiencing, everything becomes so simple, so peaceful. Everything becomes okay… Anxiety, jealousy, hate, depression, and all those things seem to wash away so quickly.
- Align yourself with, become, and radiate the most powerful force in the universe: Love, that is, awareness of oneness with all there is. No power on earth can then touch you.
- Devotion is the way to Bliss. Love every atom in the universe.
- My Mother, how sweet you are to me! My Master, how much love you give to me! Say these words until ecstasy comes, from your heart. There isn’t anything else in life that matters. All this play of life is preparation for the moment of ecstasy, when you complete the circle of love back to the Creator, and so you receive and give Her love in an infinite loop.