Honolua Bay, Maui

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I never knew it at the time, but looking back on it now it's clear to me that as a child I was fortunate to grow up in a household environment where my parents never exerted any particular religious influence on me, other than the typical "do this, don't do that" moral teachings. In fact, with the exception of an Easter Sunday service I attended in 1963 with my beloved maternal grandmother (she was a faithful Catholic), I don't think I ever set foot in a church as a kid for anything other than a funeral or a wedding. Unencumbered by any religious affiliations or specific ideologies - and the suffocating dogma that goes with them - I gradually developed a very natural curiosity for spiritual ideas and the meaning or purpose of my life as a youth growing up in the late 1960's and early 1970's.

My earliest and most profound memory of what I would now consider a life-changing event with serious spiritual ramifications came in 1971, when I heard a song called "Imagine" on the radio:

Imagine there's no heaven, it's easy if you try
No hell below us, above us only sky
Imagine all the people, living for today
Imagine there's no countries, it isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too
Imagine all the people, living life in peace
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger, a brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people, sharing all the world
You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one

As a 13-year old with a keen ear tuned for the Pop music of the day, I was familiar with The Beatles and John Lennon. But Imagine was very different - those lyrics struck an inner chord that was far deeper and more compelling than anything I'd ever heard. Of course, John Lennon wasn't the first person to evoke the notion of a "Brotherhood of Man." Mystics, philosophers, and spiritual masters throughout history have repeatedly written and spoken of our inter-connectedness; linking the act of relating to one another as brothers and sisters with the dawn of a great "Golden Age" of humanity. Nonetheless, to my impressionable teenage ears, Lennon's utopian vision was no less sublime than the greatest teachings of the ancient masters.

In the high school years that followed shortly thereafter, my love for music frequently merged with my expanding interest in spiritual ideas, until eventually the two were inextricably bound. After "Imagine" came two more songs that created a profound and lasting impact on my life. In 1974, a song by my favorite band, Chicago, reflected the same sense of a growing deeper meaning I was experiencing in my own life. "(I've Been) Searchin' So Long" quickly became a coming-of-age anthem; and one which has only continued to inspire me in the years since:

As my life goes on I believe, somehow something's changed
Something deep inside, ooh a part of me
There's a strange new light in my eyes, things I've never known
Changing my life, changing me
I've been searchin' so long, to find an answer
Now I know my life has meaning 

In 1975, the "soundtrack" for my path of spirituality broadened again when I discovered the mystical themes explored by Earth, Wind & Fire. The band's name derived from the elements associated with the zodiac signs in leader Maurice White's astrology chart. Powerfully uplifting songs such as "That's The Way Of The World" became my equivalent of sacred hymns for the devout - guiding my ongoing quest and greatly influencing my worldview in the process:

You will find peace of mind
If you look way down in your heart and soul
Don't hesitate 'cause the world seems cold
Stay young at heart 'cause you're never, never old
That's the way of the world
Plant your flower and you'll grow a pearl
A child is born with a heart of gold
Way of the world makes his heart stone cold 

By the time I was 20 years old, I'd taken night classes in Astrology and Psychology, studied past lives and reincarnation, and read many of the spiritual classics, including such perennial favorites as Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet," Hesse's "Siddartha," and Lao-Tsu's "the Tao Te Ching." But still I felt something was missing. No matter how many insights I gained, or influences I absorbed, I sensed somehow that I hadn't found the missing puzzle piece; the key that would allow me to unlock more of my inner self and realize more of my potential as a spiritual being. However, that all changed in 1981...