I was in Java, having left Britain at the age of twenty-one on a spiritual quest, roaming around Asia. I’d been staying in a sleepy little village. It was your “average” tropical paradise—right on the sea, open beaches, few people. Life was perfect: I had interesting friends, a great place to stay, plenty of ganja to smoke, no debt or obligations, no job I had to go to. I had nothing to do all day but relax and enjoy life. I should have been a happy and free man. But I was miserable. My mind was a mess, confused and full of insecurities—and I couldn’t blame it on anything.
One day I was walking alone down the beach, wondering, Why am I so unhappy? Everything is “right,” so why do I feel so “wrong”? It was getting toward sunset. As I got closer to the cliffs at the end of the beach, I saw a figure sitting up on the rocks in front of the local shaman’s cave. I climbed up the stone steps to where he sat. Seated in full lotus and completely still, with his eyes closed but facing the setting sun, he was bearded, blond, bare-chested and wearing bright turquoise shorts. He wasn’t the textbook wandering sadhu. He was a beach bum, part of my “tribe.”
But this fellow seemed so serene in contrast to my messed-up state. Sunlight was shining on him. There was an aura of peacefulness and composure. He was like a golden statue.
That’s when it hit me: this is what you should be doing. You need to learn how to be still internally. Here was a direct expression of what I realized I needed to find in myself, and it was intuitively clear that meditation was the way.
After a while this fellow opened his eyes. They were the same turquoise blue as his shorts. There was no sense of “look at me” or “I’m a very spiritual person.” Rather, he seemed perfectly at ease and natural, like a divine being.
I couldn’t bring myself to say anything; I felt so small, grubby and pathetic. I didn’t want to mess up his perfect world. I got up and walked back to the village. I hadn’t seen him arrive, neither did I see him leave; I never spoke to him or saw him again. But for me he was a clear sign pointing the way toward what I needed to do in my own life.