My friend and I are a lot a like. Of course there are noticeable differences which have always played a key part in our friendship, but those things that we share in style and interests are most assuredly the things that has kept our friendship going. I would be remiss though if I didn't point out that the common bonds that we share mutually now, were simply not there for me when we first met.
I began my spiritual journey several wasted and unconscious thoughts ago. Calling myself spiritual early on was easy for me. After all,I had bought all of the right books and carefully placed them on my bookshelf for the world to see. I had unpeeled the catch phrase laden bumper stickers and mounted them to the back of my VW. Hell, I even went through ministerial training and found myself at the top of my class.
Quickly embedded in the church, I found myself preaching and comforting all that came through the door. I was well received and told regularly by the blue haired ladies in the front row that I had "it". I didn't know what "it" was but I definitely knew exactly what to say to make them feel better about themselves when they left, even when the words I so eloquently shared had little or no effect at all upon my personal feelings toward myself.
But making others feel good about themselves resonated with me. It seemingly made me happy. It made them happy. And more specifically it made the leader of the church happy enough to be able to finally afford the vintage Mercedes she had always wanted.
I had spent so much of my youth feeling rejected and unwanted that I convinced myself that sharing the joys of spirituality with others, even with no real connection to it within myself, was something I could do to feel accepted by others. At the same time I realized that my words had monetary value to those seeking what I simply could not afford to give myself.
I had probably been ministering about a year when I was given my first opportunity to reap some of the financial benefits for the gifts I had been sharing for everyone else's benefit. The community room near my house was having a spirituality fair and I had been told that in order to recruit people to the church, it would be advantageous for me to get a table and offer Spiritual Coaching to the masses. I was not exactly sure what was required to be considered a Spiritual Coach in the State of California, but I knew that I did have a gift for making people feel better about themselves.
So I bought myself a small folding table and set out one Saturday morning for the spirituality fair. I had made sure to bring along with me a nice yin and yang themed tablecloth along with a couple of buddhas, good luck kitties and some of those books that I never read just to make me look the part.
Upon the arrival the hall was a bustle. There were psychics, tarot readers and fortune tellers everywhere I looked. There were even doTerra Essential oil reps place strategically around the room. There was a makeshift snack bar and eating area complete with nachos and snow cones available, just in case the work of discovering spirituality made people tired and famished. And of course, much to my delight since this was long before Square had been invented, there was an ATM within steps from my table space.
I was a bit taken by how many people were in attendance, but even more amazed how many people were declaring themselves to be everything from clairvoyance to chakra cleaners. It was not that I didn't doubt the validity of these peoples claims, it was me whom I felt had no real place amongst these purveyors of dreams and personal enlightenment.
I of course smiled and nodded at both merchants and attendees and I even managed to get a few folks to march to the ATM to bring me back a token of their appreciation for the spirituality I had allegedly given them. It was definitely a unique experience and one that I am still a bit dubious to this day, but I now find myself grateful for my first exposure to the real desires of people to find support, guidance and real spirituality in ways that I simply had not thought of before.
Within my eyesight of my table, beyond the crystal balls and the oversized self stuffed enticement tip jars, was a door leading to a place that I was definitely not familiar with. There was a crudely duct taped to the door sign that had the words "Sound Bath" scribbled on it with an almost dried up Marks-A-Lot pen. I can share this now with a bit of laughter, but at the time I was ashamed to admit that I truly had no idea what a sound bath was.
Of course in between customers I allowed myself all kinds of creative ways to envision what a sound bath was. I thought perhaps there were hot tubs filled with healing waters that allowed one to float while listening to music behind the door. Or that maybe there were people chanting and having water drizzled on them by a shaman of sorts. I seriously had no idea.
But since most everything else was new to me that day I decided that at some point I would make my way past the day old pastries and recycling bin filled with Shasta cola cans to discover exactly what an actual sound bath was.
Eventually I made way to the door, stopping to knock and await an invitation to enter. The invite never came. So there I was waiting for someone I did not know to let me into something I had never heard of for a reason that I was definitely not clear of. Eventually, just as I was about to return to my fortune kitties, the door open and there he was. My soon to be friend.
He open the door apologizing for taking so long to invite me in. He was around my age, handsome and lean, dressed in the tank top that I would see him in for so many years to come. His arms were muscular like those of a drummer and face had lines that told a story that I wasn't prepared to read yet.
He invited me in, asking me to take a seat on a purple and gold round pillow that was nestled beside a series of brass gongs and salt-like crystal bowls. He was gentle to help me sit and try to balance on the way too small and overstuffed dragon festooned silk cloud. He explained that I was being seated on meditation pillow but that as the bath commenced I might find it more comfortable to lay down down and used it under my head.
He took his position in front of the largest gong and welcomed me to his sound bath. He introduced himself briefly, not saying much about him, but every detail possible from the weight of the gongs to the one off color crystal bowl that was now replacing the one he'd accidentally dropped the week before on his way to Joshua Tree.
I had no idea of what a sound bath was but I did not that the many presented in front of me was very passionate about it. He went on to finally explain, again in great detail, exactly what a sound bath was and entailed. He told me that he would understand if I had wanted to leave if it was "too out there" for me. Only and hour earlier I had seen Madame Shariff throw chicken bones on the floor just before accepting a $20 bill so I assured him that this was definitely not too out there for me.
He proceeded to invite me to close my eyes and simply bask in what was about to happen. I remember questioning him if I was going to the be the only one present for the bath and quipped jokingly "Indeed not. I am here, am I not?"
Without another word until the the sound batch was over, except to tell an accidental intruder that the bathroom was on the other side of them building, he went about conducting the sound bath as if he were leading a full orchestra. His arms flourished and his head swayed back and forth. His shoulders were dropped and his legs were established pretzel style. You can probably tell form my description of his posture that I had not heeded his command to close my eyes, but while it was not too out there for me, it was indeed little out there.
Upon the conclusion of the sound bath he looked directly at me, took in a deep breath, and asked directly "So what did you think?".
I had no idea what I thought so instead I simply offered a hesitant "I thought it was great. I thought you were great."
He smiled and chuckled. "I see" he said. "I guess I didn't do it right."
Apologetically I quickly replied "I said I thought it was great. I thought you really were great".
"That disappoints me" he said. "I was hoping that you didn't think anything. That is the purpose of a sound bath. To not think, but instead just be. I will try harder next time".
I went on to explain that I had no idea when I arrived what a sound bath was when I arrived. I even went on reveal that I felt I was a sham for even presenting myself at the fair as a spirituality coach.
"You are Lee Friend, correct?" he asked.
"Oh great. Not only is this dude a musician" I thought, "but now I'm learning that he is also a psychic."
I confirmed my identity and apologized for wasting his time.
" I have heard a lot about you Mr. Friend. Everyone has been talking about you lately," he said. ""My name is Greg and I've seen you at church a few times."
I was embarrassed that I did not recognize him at first, but I quickly forgave myself when it occurred to me that he probably had never attended my sermons while wearing a muscle tank with the words "Bang Your Gong" emblazoned on the front. I immediately apologized for having not recognized him.
He assured me that he understood and that he often never even notices when most of the people attend his sound baths. "The people love what I do for them" he said somewhat quietly. "They have no idea that I don't do it for them. I do it for myself. And I can see you do the same".
""What do you mean?" I asked as a non believer.
"You share your message with others but you did it because it brings you joy. Like me. It is our purpose to share our gifts with others" he smiled.
"You know what you are doing" I said. "And you believe in what you are doing".
"And you don't?" he asked raising his eyebrow while revealing a scar underneath it.
"I believe I share a nice message and I think it helps people. But I don't really think I am the right guy to share it. I just do it because I am good at it. I don't even believe in spirituality most of the time".
"Of course you believe. You are at a fucking Spiritual Fair dude. You wouldn't be here if you didn't believe just a little" he insisted.
"I came here to talk get people to come to church and make a little money in the process" I argued.
"Let me ask you this. I saw you when you were setting up. Did you go out and buy the buddhas on the table? Did you pick up those ugly cat statues in the parking lot on the way in. Of course you didn't. You had them already, because you believe that they have some power in them. And you believe you do too. You are just like I was. I always believed. I just didn't realize I did and I sure as fuck didn't know how convince others I was legit". He was really serious.
"But you play music" I responded. "You play amazing music that I know heals people. I can't sing and I can play a single instrument".
"It's not about the music" he laughed. "It's about the vibration. It's about the energy that I, no, that WE put out.
"What do you mean vibration?" I asked. "I heard the music but I didn't feel any vibration. I sat there still, listening to the music but I didn't feel a vibration. I didn't feel anything".
"Let me get this right" he questioned "all you did was sat there silently listening to my music with out feeling anything?"
I was terrified to answer because I was sure by saying "nope, not a thing" that he'd feel like a failure. So instead I simply barely shook my head side to side.
"Awesome" he laughed "that's the point of what I do. It's called mindfulness."
He went onto explain that day, and for many years to come, what mindfulness was. He helped me along the way to discover mindfulness and my own place in the spiritual world.
He introduced me to Tibetan chimes top help me ground myself. I use them every day to teach mindfulness, using the tools he gave me.
When I met him for the first time I had no idea who he was, but had already saw something in me that I had not.
I didn't know he struggled with depression. Like me.
I didn't know he had so much self doubt. Like me.
I had no idea that he overcame an alcohol addiction. Like me.
I had no idea that he had overcome an attempted suicide. Like me.
But as time progressed we learned so much about and from one another. All the things we had in common and all the things we did not. At one point in each of our lives we found that we considered ourselves each as not the right people to share our messages of hope, peace and love. We discovered so much together, but he was the one who started my on the path to where I am now.
Every now and then, when I would question why I had any business thinking I could teach spirituality or mindfulness to heal people he would always say " We don't heal people. We give them permission to heal themselves."
My friend and I are a lot a like.
Except yesterday he chose to kill himself and leave the world without his vibration.
Today, because of him, I choose differently. I promise, I will ring my chimes, every day to raise his vibration for others to experience.