A few months after I moved to Germany in the summer of 1996, I was living in Frankfurt. I walked past a street and some flute music caught my attention. I continued down the street. At the end of the block, I turned and passing a very small alley, was surprised to hear the same flute. Again it had a very enchanting sound as if calling to me, but I walked on. At the end of the street, I turned again to head home. Once more at the intersection of the cross street, I heard this flute music and was finally compelled to follow it to the source. (Spiritual traditions suggest if something comes in threes, best to react.)
This very nice-looking man was singing and playing. As I listened, he looked at me to acknowledge the fact I was there as everyone else was walking by. I dropped a few coins and continued to listen to his uplifting music. He finished and he asked if I had a match to light a cigarette. We began a conversation about nothing in particular, but one of those connections that seem to be instantly based on trust, respect, and spirit. He told me he was from Columbia, South America, now lived in Amsterdam with a Dutch girlfriend who was at the hotel sleeping after their long trip. After 10 minutes we parted and I went home.
The next day, I was walking in the main pedestrian area of Frankfurt, turned a corner, and ran right into my new friend, Camillo, and his girlfriend Ellen. We were so delighted to see each other again and so soon after our first meeting. We all decided to go to an outdoor cafe to have something to drink and talk. We spent the next 3 hours enjoying each other, the stories of our lives, our passions as well as our fears. As I often do in these sorts of situations, I offered some insights about what I felt. For Camillo, in addition to the beauty and tenderness in his music, there was also much anger and it felt strongly connected to his father. We talked about this, we both had tears come up, we laughed together and were angry together at the way fathers treat sons both in general and our own personal stories. Finally, it was time to go. I invited them to join in one of my yoga weekends and they invited me to visit with them in Amsterdam.
I had 6 false starts getting to Amsterdam to teach yoga, so when it finally looked like I was going to go it seemed like a dream. I called and left a message for Ellen and Camillo on the machine. She called back a few days later and said that she and Camillo would be available to meet me after my yoga seminar. I went with my host in Holland, a nice man named Eric, who came to Santa Fe over 2 years ago wanting to be a yoga teacher. He ended up in my class and insisted that I teach him how to be a Kundalini Yoga teacher. After 4 months, I agreed, and that was my first teacher training.
Eric and I arrive at the apartment to find Ellen alone. She says that she will call Camillo to let him know we are there and for him to come over. She mentions since I had seen them both in Frankfurt, she and Camillo had split up but had just gotten back together. I did not pry into the matter. In a few minutes, Camillo shows up. I look at him and I feel lifted, as if on the wings of angels. Lifted up to a place of such beauty. I smile and say to Camillo, “It’s so nice to see you!”. Camillo says the very same thing to me. Then we all sit and have some tea. After a little conversation, Camillo asks me if Ellen had told the story. I said she only mentioned that you had split up and were now back together, and that was all. Camillo begins to tell me what Ellen had not said.
It seems that my words that night in Frankfurt had a huge impact on Camillo. He felt the anger, the destructive effects it had had on his life, and he felt quite angry by this. He and Ellen began to fight. At the same time, Camillo’s father decided to come from Columbia to Holland for a visit. They had not seen each other for 6 years. The visit went well, but underneath, spirit was weaving its web, with threads of love. One week after Camillo’s father leaves, Camillo goes a bit crazy. Loud, abusive, disruptive. . . . etc. As Camillo is telling this story, Eric and I are in awe at his candor, his tenderness, and the beauty of it all. He was letting us into a very deep and precious place.
As he continues this tale of self-destruction, I could not help but feel a little responsible having first held a light up to this old wound. But there was no blame in Camillo’s voice, only gratitude, which at this point in the story did not really fit with what he was saying. So he goes on to say that the situation involved neighbors, Ellen’s parents, the police and only ended after many days of drinking, where he went so low he finally checked himself into a clinic for help. In a short time, he regained his balance. I would say that he fought with the demons within him, and struggled to let them go or to be free from the grip they had on his life.
He found another place to live, still played his music on the street, and also began painting. (He is a very good painter as well as a talented musician.) They had been apart for months and Ellen had asked Camillo to come to get the rest of his stuff from the apartment. He meets Ellen in town and together they go to the apartment. When they enter, Ellen checks her answering machine and there was a message from me saying that I would be coming to Amsterdam and would love to see them. I mention both their names together on the message, believing that they still were living together. When they heard my voice, saying their names, something changed at that moment and they decided that they would like to try again.
Here it was one week later and I was sitting in what was now Ellen’s apartment, with Camillo and Ellen, now back together. Ellen at that point announced that she had called her parents only that morning to inform them that she and Camillo were back together. Ellen was delighted her mother was surprisingly supportive in spite of all the difficulties Camillo had caused for those many weeks.
Finally, and I must say to his credit without sentimentality, Camillo tells me during his most difficult times when all seemed lost and hopeless, he would remember something I had said to him, which would give him strength and the courage to be victorious. He mentioned 3 or 4 moments when my words came to him exactly when such words were needed. Especially during the first days in the clinic dealing this all the emotional stuff from the present and the old stuff from the past. He was also dealing with the effects of detoxing from the alcoholic binge he had been on for many days.
I represented the knowing part of himself. It was his words he was finding, but I was a reminder of that part of himself. Yet the truly beautiful part was how quickly and completely he let Eric and me into that often private world within. I was touched very deeply and both Camillo and I had tears in our eyes. He keeps smiling at me and saying “It is so nice to see you Gurumarka.” Of course, that is exactly what I kept saying to him as well. Camillo sang a beautiful song with the guitar. Eric and I left.
This was a rare, truly special experience. Don’t misunderstand. I am not referring to external events, but to the fact, I got to ‘know’ what happened, so deeply and so completely. We are often asked to ‘give’ or ‘serve’. Sometimes we do but feel attached to knowing what happens. As if we want proof of the soul’s communication. Most of the time we do not know and it is not important to know how our words and actions affect another. Once in a while, like this time, I/we are given a glimpse of what happens. When we trust and give without attachment or expectation.
Frankfurt, 19 November 1996. Photo Amsterdam.