I knew, yet didn’t know, that I was about to find love.
My lack of concern about destiny gave me the ability to divine, and I had seen that in love I would have two options I could choose between: one woman who was older but incredibly compatible, or another who was younger but needed cultivating. However, I did not know when I was supposed to meet them, and I knew I had a few things to resolve in my life first that would take me time and attention.
I was very young when I decided to undertake a very demanding spiritual life. When I started out as a novice monk, I didn’t know that Zen Buddhism would allow me to have girlfriends, marry, or even have an active and curious sex life. I had thought it would be more ‘Cistercian’.
Zen monastic life consists in total, continuous discipline, extremely powerful because it is so concentrated, without respite. There is no space for doubt, and yet this has nothing to do with ‘faith’. In Zen, literally, you are destined to carve out your own spiritual throne and become - nobody. To compare enlightenment as experienced by those who cultivate a deep Zen practice, to help Christians understand, I could cite Saint Paul on the road to Damascus when he is struck by lightning and falls off his horse; but in Buddhism there is no Jesus, no Buddha, nor anyone else, and there is no conversion but limitless freedom, realized with strength and determination. And so, when you are completely dead to the world, that is when you can get married, because nothing will detach you from the awakened state that you have realized placing all of your fire into living life.
I have had many, and in some cases unforgettable sentimental relationships, almost always with women worthy of the highest admiration. Intelligent, beautiful, cultured, lovely, sensual women. Even those who ended up being troubled attracted me in any case for their intelligence and energy. I have never been attracted to ordinary women, or dolls devoid of interior beauty; I have always shunned that kind of futility.
I remember one in particular, of whom I cherish a singular memory, as if in her I had encountered a goddess, a rare archetype, so unusual as to be incomprehensible to most. But when you meet, in her obvious purity, the Feminine, it is easy to get confused - and the highest peaks do not always correspond with the best experiences, neither for you, nor for Her. Misunderstandings, unpleasant reactions, confusion can arise in anyone, and if the moment is not right, it will be uphill all the way, and in that case life does not unite but divides the lovers. I missed my chance, missed what would have been the love of my life, or rather the love that seemed to manifest itself in the most powerful, seductive, total fashion. It was a painful breakup. For ever after, I am sure, both she and I have kept this sensation of profound connection in our hearts.
In the meanwhile I had met yet another marvellous, wise, stunning woman, with whom I was together for a bit, but then for some reason split up. Some of my girlfriends are still part of my family - they are wonderful people, and I always think of them with affection. I will always be there for them. Others have been swallowed up by life and have forgotten everything, perhaps in order not to perceive so acutely what a gift our meeting was, or perhaps so as not to perceive themselves. Every relationship is serious for me: that is how I am, just as for me Spirit is all, without any drama.
And yet I did not know I was still seeking Her. I wouldn’t even have liked the idea. But it wasn’t an idea, I later understood. If it had been just an idea, an expectation, this idea of a soulmate would be a total disappointment! Plato put together a fair collection of tales, as he was a good writer and knew how to tell a good story, but he was no Parmenides or Heraclitus, not a proper philosopher, or at least his contemporaries did not consider him such. About his dialogues - the one on Atlantis, or the one about that spherical being made up of male and female together - it is hard to say whether they are symbols, archetypical memories, or fantasies to entertain the public.
The fact is that two dear friends of mine had told me that this other healer was going to come to my seminar. Begging pardon, as I am obviously biased, not that I consider myself the prince of healers, but it is true that I have seen in all sorts of things in this field that is in such rapid expansion, and I am more than certain that the ‘charismatic’ healer has no reason to exist any more. In Zen we say, “Great master, great swindler”; we do not cultivate myths, but hard, continuous meditation. Looking around me, it was with difficulty that I could see anyone who had completed, or at least begun a transformative spiritual voyage, enough to allow them truly, completely, to help others. Many healers try to help people with the best of intentions, but without ever working on themselves, and which is unfortunately true also for many doctors and health professionals. Aesculapius or the Buddha of Medicine have rarely appeared to me in human form - and I cherish their memory even today - I consider only very few worthy. I have always been one who considers himself sincere, a simple Zen monk, before being a healer.
My friends let on that they sensed that there was something fated about this meeting, and they told me that this American healer was a special person. Nobody told me that she had, in one of her sessions, actually pronounced my name, without ever having met me, or knowing that I was coming, or that I even existed. It was summer, and the room was warm but comfortable, as also the presence of the other guests was pleasurable.
As I prepared myself to speak and show what I can do, in She came.
Shattering the air. I cannot say more.
I had just concluded my ‘American’ phase, returning rather disappointed from six years spent in the US, forced to admit to my inability to help this nation, ailing, medicated to the tip of every hair, hyper-vaccinated, convinced that they NEED everything that is least necessary, and incapable of any conscious self-application. In spite of several magnificent encounters with remarkable, genial people, America seemed to be living an adolescent, technologised Medieval period, stuffed with prostheses and totally devoid of love. A friend of mine who had been there said to me, ‘remember, all the Americans want is this: a solid gold toilet’. Furthermore, I believed that the Italians were intolerant of authority, even the most loving, devoted, and courageous, but I was forced to change my mind.
This American woman, who had grown up only a few kilometres away from where I had lived for years in California, entered, lighting up the whole room, and my jaw dropped. Beautiful. She emanated joy and light, leaning gracefully on two strange trekking sticks, dragging her feet in what to me seemed to me a dance. A cloud of hair floated around her vibrant presence - a characteristic of Americans I have always adored - did this strike me because I am bald? And I realized something else, very vividly: that light was not the same as what will show up on your next power bill, nor was it a glued-on halo. This was Light Light. This was the light that Buddha saw in the morning star, and that I saw in a dandelion, the first time I ever really saw a dandelion. This was the light of enlightenment.
And in fact she told me about her experience of satori, the state in which one becomes the universe, and one’s awareness, one’s face opens out like a flower - the moment in which you understand definitively that we were never born, nor do we die, and that everything is perfect, since a time without beginning. The center of my whole life, enlightenment, was before me, in flesh and blood, in the person of a woman who was exciting me.
In deafening silence, all the things I wanted to tell her flashed through my mind, but I saw immediately that they would make no sense. I was taken by her, spiritually and sensually; I could see the entwinement that already tied her to me. A few days later I even confessed some fantasies I had had in that first instant, when she entered the fateful space of our first meeting wearing cut-off shorts and an airy blouse.
And she, when I confessed my thoughts to her, smiled like a cat - the first time she ever smiled at me like a cat.
Calm, connected with the whole universe, without problems.
This is how our life is, no matter what challenges we encounter. It, too, joyous, luminous, airy.