May 18-24 Edition
This story originally appeared in Philippine Panorama, January 2013
I have a friend whose mom is in her 70s but loves reading and her favorite actress is Shirley MacLaine; I have given her a lot of books and some (original) DVD. So it's inevitable that I would come across Out On A Limb. I believe this is not a coincidence.
The best thing about Out On A Limb is Shirley MacLaine's honesty. Anybody can write an memoir, but to open your heart about opening up your mind, that takes a lot of courage -- and a great leap of faith. I'm exhilarated at the many things in this book that resonates in my life.
I have always felt there was more to me than what I knew, that my existence is part of a plan I cannot possibly understand yet I know to be good. Somehow, deep in my heart, I feel that, when bad things happen to good people, it's not a punishment from a vengeful deity; and my most painful experiences did, after all is said and done, made me a better man.
My favorite character is David, a fellow poet, artist and traveler; everything he ever said I instinctively know to be true. I feel he's a kindred spirit, a soul brother like Johnny Depp, in touch with the fundamental truths of why we are here. David is "a sweet, gentle person, with chiseled cheekbones and a kind of soft, sad smile," describes Shirley. They met in art gallery in the Village in New York, the home of bohemians and wandering artists, like the unforgettable characters of my favorite Hollywood movie, Rent.
David is a gypsy soul, "very much at home anywhere because he was an observer of life." His roads have taken him everywhere, from India to Peru to the Himalayas. "He painted and wrote along the way," says Shirley. "It didn't cost him much because he worked his way around the world doing all sorts of odd jobs." I can relate to that, having lived in lots of different places; I often thought about why people leave: perhaps they found a compelling reason to -- or maybe they simply ran out of reasons to stay.
I believe that everything happens for a reason, and every reason has a purpose. There are no accidents in life, he tells her as they take a walk in the beach. Shirley is enlightened enough to realize that "It's hard to know something really deep is missing inside yourself when you feel successful and busy and responsible and creative."
One day after yoga class, David takes Shirley to Bodhi Tree, on Melrose Place near La Cienega, where they have a lot of books about spiritual and metaphysical stuff. "As we walked in," Shirley remembers, "I smelled sandalwood incense filtering through the rooms of the cluttered bookstore." Here is where she learned about Edgar Cayce, Jane Roberts, the great mystics like Emerson, Thoreau, and a lot more. David ignited the most important quest of a woman who has traveled around the world -- the journey within.
At this point comes one of my favorite lines of all time: "For me, real intelligence is open-mindedness," says David. "If you're looking for something, why not give it a shot?"
Fate moves in mysterious ways. Things happen, and someday, if you're lucky, you'll be able to connect the dots, and find something that wasn't there before -- even if it's been there all along. "Looking back," recalls Shirley, "I can say that making that simple, lazy-afternoon decision to visit an unusual bookstore was one of the most important decisions of my life."
David and Shirley would talk about the purpose of being alive. "It was fascinating to me that I had even felt comfortable asking him such a question," marvels Shirley, as David wipes peace juice from his chin and brushes the sand from his sticky fingers. "It was a question I wouldn't even ask Einstein had I known him well enough to sit on the beach slurping peaches." In my own little ways, I'm trying to correct my karmic balance by doing good things, and the sense of fulfillment from the act of something right is a reward in itself. "If we understood our own individual purpose and meaning in relation to God," continues David, then we’ll know “there was no need to be greedy or competitive or afraid and violent."
It all comes down to us -- to you, and to me. "It's easier," says David, "if you first learn who YOU are” because “We are the products of all the lives we have led."
When Shirley seeks refuge from the world, she goes to the Ashram, a spiritually-oriented health camp in the Calabasas mountains, with a breaktaking view of the Pacific Ocean. "Fickle lady of fame," Anne Marie Bennstrom, the founder, calls her, going straight to the core: "You're not really sure you want it, are you?" Still, "Cat," as Shirley calls her, is overjoyed about the fickle lady's new path: "It's so satisfying to be drawn to the spirit, isn't it?"
She tells about a highly evolved entity named Ambres, whose instrument is Sturé Johanssen, a simple carpenter in Stockholm. Within that week, Shirley is on the phone with her boyfriend Gerry, a British politician, trying to work out their relationship. We need to talk, she says, ready to hop to the next plane to London, and was stunned when he tells her that he's going to an economic meeting -- in Stockholm.
Shirley is in profound contemplation after meeting Ambres. "I was aware that I was beginning to feel some preordained plan, unfolding according to my own awareness and willingness to accept what I was ready for."
The insights blew my mind. Shirley's stories gave me strength that, as far as my spiritual journey goes, I'm on the right track -- and that I'm not, never was and never will be, alone in this infinite universe.
Jonathan Aquino's Journal
The books about communicating with angels and channeling spirit guides gave me deeper insights about the nature of my Higher Self. I have decided last night, while reading Shirley MacLaine's Dancing In The Light in my rented room in Lahug City, that connecting with my Higher Self is now my over-riding priority in my quest to achieve ultimate spiritual enlightenment and karmic freedom in my present lifetime.
I am also in the midst of studying another aspect of reality that matters a lot to me: astral projection. I read the volume about it from an encyclopedia of paranormal phenomena. It also contains chapters on reincarnation, the ideas fitting perfectly with what I believe in and also the last two books I read before the library closed: about near-death experiences and past life regression.
I've always had an interest in the occult even when I was a kid, and as the twilight now slowly descends upon everything I physically see, I'm glad and grateful that I still retain that open-mindedness and sense of wonder. I'm still the boy that I was, a traveler and a seeker of deeper truth, and in that sense, I will remain forever young
~May 6, 2013
5:11 p.m., Monday