I woke up smiling, looking forward to the story I am going to write today. I can feel it, building up momentum in some virtual universe somewhere, and can tell that this one is going to be fun to write. I can already feel the sun and the smile on my face as I sit at my favorite café typing it. Some writers, feeling this level of anticipation about a story, might be a bit concerned that they have no earthly idea what the story is going to be about.
Not me. I have come to count on a certain phenomenon that seems to occur for me every time I leave Santa Fe for a work or pleasure Road Trip and then return. My first morning back in town is Creativity Central. I sit down over a cappuccino or an iced coffee and am rarely able to finish it because the ideas start coming fast and furious, demanding to be written down. Being the weak-willed wuss that I am, I tend to give in to their demands. So I'm not worried. I have learned to surf this first-morning-back wave. All I have to do is paddle out and wait - in my case, sit somewhere nice with my megaspiffy new Sony notebook - and the wave will come. Then all I have to do is catch it and try to stay up on the board - in my case, keyboard - for as long a ride as I can manage.
So I shower and meditate and climb into Protector. From long experience, I know that the drive to the café is about two songs long, so I am faced with my first heavy decision of the day - which two songs to listen to? When you are planning a day of writing, this is no trivial choice; the songs you choose will affect your mindstate, and thus set you up for the rest of the day. I ponder the koan for a moment and toy with listening to Ani DiFranco's Everest - twice - but finally decide to skip the vocals and listen instead to a segment of Keith Jarrett's Köln Concert.
The timing is almost perfect. I only have to circle the final block four or five times to arrange things so the last notes are fading out just as I pull into the parking lot. I park and go inside, where I buy my iced coffee, find a table in the courtyard, and set up shop. I pull out the Vaio Te Ching and fire up Microsoft Nerd. I bring up a new document using my RTM template; it uses a particular font that I like and has some copyright stuff at the bottom and placeholders for the title and body text. Because I still have no idea what I am going to write about, while I am waiting for inspiration I start typing this stuff into the body text area, leaving the title blank.
Starting with a blank title would freak out some writers. Starting out with a blank mind would freak out even more. But I'm not worried. I have surfed this spot before, and know that the wave will come, and with it will come the title. When the surf is up, Santa Fe is the Wiamea Bay of creativity. And the surf is up…I can feel it building.
I guess that sounds a little weird to folks whose concept of surfing extends only to surfing on water, liquid or frozen. But anyone who studied with Rama understands that you can also surf the energies of a particular physical environment. He taught us many things over the years, but one of the most fun was how to surf places.
Dr. Frederick Lenz was not the kind of professor who is comfortable teaching only in a classroom. He had field trips. We went to the desert, to museums, to beaches and diving reefs, to cathedrals, to Disneyland. We had elegant dinners at Windows On The World and at exclusive private clubs and at Denny's. Bottom line is, we had the great good fortune to spend some quality time with a spiritual teacher in a wide variety of quality places that were themselves places out of time.
And although these field trips were primarily for fun, because we were dealing with a spiritual teacher they were also a mechanism for teaching. We were there in these places to learn the art of seeing, of using our psychic skills to discern what it is that makes this place special, unique. What are its energies? What is going on here on the inner planes that is not going on in other places I am familiar with? What do I think about when I am here? Do I have many thoughts, period? What aspect of self discovery would this place be useful for; what energies can I surf here that would be beneficial to my meditation or my business or my martial arts or my personal projects?
Rama was a connoisseur of fine energies the way a wine lover is a connoisseur of fine vintages. The oenophile with a cultured palate can sip a wine and tell you not only the grape and the region it comes from but also the winery and the particular hillside the grapes were grown on. It's an artform.
We would go to places of power and Rama's face would light up like a gourmet seeing the wine list at Lucas Carton in Paris for the first time. Pulling up to Carrizo Gorge in his black Turbo, he and Vayu would bound out of the car and the two of them would just stand there for a moment in silence, their faces into the wind, every sense alert to the place and its mysteries. After a while they would start off up the gorge without a word and we would gather up our backpacks and follow them into the sunset. Rama always took the point, with Vayu running around near him acting as scout. We would walk in single file behind them in total silence, our every sense alert to perceive what we could about the place and its mysteries.
Sooner or later, after a mile or two or seven, Rama would find a spot where the energies were conducive to having a cool conversation and we would stop. The students would sit on the sand in a semicircle around him and, after he had waited for everyone to settle down into a receptive mindstate, he would teach us about the place and its energies.
This teaching often took the form of asking us questions about our experience. Rama rarely suggested to us what we should be seeing or feeling. He seemed genuinely more interested in what we actually experienced. So he would ask open-ended questions like, "Ok…so what's the energy like in the gorge tonight? Is the power up or down compared to the last time we were here?" or "Notice anything out of the ordinary on your walk? What did you see?"
He would listen patiently to the answers, answering some with a simple "Ok," but making sure to respond in depth to those perceptions that matched his own. Rama was a master at scanning a power place and being able to tell you about its predominant energies. Who has lived here in this place? What were they like and what did they mainly think about? What is the underlying energy of the place itself? What and where are the interdimensional openings it affords to the serious surfer, and more important, where do they lead? It's an artform, and Rama was a great artist.
As Rama's apprentices, we were trained in this art in some of the coolest places of power on this rock we call Earth. We had these kinds of dialogues with our teacher on the tops of volcanoes in Hawaii, at magnificent places of power in the desert, at black-tie dinners in the finest restaurants of New York, while walking with him along the Seine, over coffee in a seemingly endless series of cafés.
We were fortunate. Not every student of self discovery has the opportunity to interact with the teacher outside the walls of the monastery or meditation hall. In retrospect, these experiences with Rama remind me of another set of real-world teachings I received from my second karate teacher. He was a great martial artist, but he also knew a great deal about life for someone of his tender years. He had grown up Japanese in Hawaii, in a time when that made you stand out, and stand out in a neighborhood where everyone studied martial arts and tended to use those who stood out as punching bags. He developed a lot of street smarts, young. And, although I didn't appreciate it until years later, he tried to pass some of that knowledge along to his students by occasionally inviting them out for a drink after a good workout.
We always wondered about his choice of drinking establishments. They were invariably in really off neighborhoods, places where you felt uneasy walking to the bar and where that sense of uneasiness and danger only heightened once you got inside. Nothing bad ever happened, but at the time I didn't realize that the reason it didn't happen was because a master martial artist was teaching us something. In the dojo he taught us how to fight, and fight well. In the seedy bars, he taught us how to stay out of fights, and never have to fight well. He was one cool frood, easily my favorite of all the martial artists I have studied with.
Anyway, Rama took us to cool places to teach us that same skill - how to blend. He took us to the desert and to mountaintops and to great diving spots to teach us to appreciate pure power and become comfortable with it, so we could blend with its energies and take advantage of them. He took us to some of the finest restaurants in New York and Chicago and London and Paris to teach us to appreciate that kind of power and become comfortable with it, again so we could blend with its energies and take advantage of them.
Rama was very career-oriented and hoped to instill a respect, in students who had come to him to learn the inner arts, for the value of mastering the outer arts as well. In the computer classes he organized for his students he taught us the skills we needed to do a good job in the world of high tech. But in the restaurants he taught us the skills we needed to get the job in the first place. If you can be comfortable enough with the energies at a five-star restaurant to send the snooty wine steward whimpering back to the cellar when he tries to embarrass you in front of your date, aceing a job interview is a snap. It's all a matter of understanding the energies of a place and turning them to your advantage, surfing them as surely as you would a wave in hurricane season or a stretch of new powder at 15,000 feet.
Life at the end of the millennium has a tendency to be gnarly at times, and I am thankful to have had access to an education that enables me not only to survive it, but to survive it with style, hanging ten all the way. A situation comes up in my life, and at first it seems to present an insurmountable problem, but then I find myself flashing back for no rational reason to a conversation I had with Rama at a restaurant in New York called Nirvana. Although I cannot remember the exact words, I somehow remember the energy, the mindstate of the conversation. And for no rational reason that mindstate is exactly the one I need to blend with the current situation and to turn the insurmountable problem into just another challenge, so I do.
And that's why I don't feel too worried about sitting here, six pages into this scribbling, still without a subject or a title for my story. I know they will come, because I have used the skills I learned from Rama to scan this town thoroughly, and become familiar with its best surfing spots. This café is one of them, and today the surf is definitely up, so I know that if I just hang in there long enough I will think of something creative to say, and be able to surf that wave of creativity long enough to say it.
Title, schmitle. I don't have to show you no steenkin' titles. If I just sit here at this keyboard, one will come to me when it is its time to come. But I can tell that this concept - the idea that a writer would sit down to write a story without any idea of its title, much less its subject matter - is bothering some of you. You must not have listened to enough Keith Jarrett. In his solo concerts, Keith walks out on stage and sits at the piano, without a clue as to what he is going to play. But play he does, improvising from first note to last, rocking and moaning over the keyboard with eyes closed as if he is watching some interior movie. Yet somehow he manages to keep enough of himself present in the auditorium to play for us its soundtrack.
I listen to Jarrett a lot, so I am comfortable with an artist winging it in public, and with both the horrible embarrassment and the awesome payoff that this can bring. But because some of you are uneasy with this level of chutzpah, and because I was taught to be compassionate, I will try to come up with at least a title for the story. Hang on. Gimme a minute. Ok…got it. Don't get me wrong…I'm not impatient for a cool story idea or a title. I'm having fun just sitting here writing all this stuff. But I promise you that when one does come along, I'll call it Surfing Santa Fe, just for you.