Driving down IH-35 from Austin to San Antonio to attend a Mind Science Foundation board retreat, with the sun-dried fields passing me by, and the faster cars zipping around me with an occasional honk, I uncovered a solution I had been unknowingly seeking since my early 20s. I had not even realized that I had been seeking such an answer until I found it. But, some younger aspect of my present self set an intention long ago to find an answer.
I am assuming that each one of us has discovered some key ingredient, a secret sauce to a delicious recipe once forgotten, or come up with the name that had eluded us at the Arthouse Fundraiser the night before. We hear about stories of people remembering important things while in the shower. Yet, this discovery seemed to me to be a long time coming. It was as though I had once been close to making it, but had been distracted by something, a passing thought, or even a long-term relationship and had never circled back. In his stream of consciousness book, Sometimes a Great Notion (1964), the author Ken Kesey begins his chapters with anecdotes. One such anecdote, in which he is describing a hike through a maze of paths to an old lookout from where he can exuberantly sing “row, row, row your boat” with himself, mentions that we sometimes stray from the main trail and never realize that we have strayed until we come back across the path we thought we were already on.
The previous night my allergies were so bad that I had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep. I had scrolled through my audio books and came upon The Autobiography of a Yogi (1946). I knew that 101 Zen Stories (1919) would send me into a hypnotic trance, as would Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (1970), so I decided to risk Yogananda’s fantastic tales, tales that many scientists would claim to be “from the fringe” at best. I wanted to pass the time being reminded that I was a representative, of not necessarily the specifics Yogananda weaves through his stories in his tales about India, but rather of the spirit behind them. Before walking through the door at my upcoming retreat I wanted to have my mind right. I do this on occasion, and it had been over two years since I had thought to surrender my critical mind and listen to his eloquence.
The drive was relatively easy and I had left early. I decided to take my time. With cruise control set and having adopted a comfortable sitting posture in the driver’s seat, I randomly chose a beginning point at chapter 29. In this chapter, Yogananda speaks of his visit to the Visva-Bharati College, “the communion of the world,” created by Rabindranath Tagore, the polymath, renaissance man of early 20th century India. This poet laureate established the school in the early 1900s as a co-educational institute inside the premises of an ashram. In the chapter, Yogananda cites the inspiration Tagore inspired as the poet read some of his newly written selections, “referring to God in every stanza, yet seldom mentioning the sacred name:”
Mind Without Fear