August 12, 2013

The Summer of Jesus Versus Buddha. (Part 5 of 5)

See: Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4.

In April of 2005, I had a nervous breakdown, caused in part by my experience with Christopher during our steamy, spiritually-confused summer together.

I don’t remember all the details of my break with reality, but a friend who was there to witness much of it tells me I was convinced that I was pregnant with the second coming of Jesus Christ…via immaculate conception.

I spent ten days at the mental hospital as men in white lab coats and sad-faced nurses cured my craziness with pharmaceutical potions.

I never saw Christopher again, but I did hear about his fate.

Two years later, for spring break of 2007, I took off on a solo road trip to attend a yoga and writing retreat in Taos, New Mexico. The other eight female participants and I spent our days taking workshops led by Jeff Davis, an author and teacher whose “Yoga as Muse” technique involves practicing specific yoga sequences coupled with self-set writing intentions.

At the time, I was working on a novel manuscript. As my “fiction” always tended to be, it was highly semi-autobiographical. One day, I was working with particular intensity on a scene in which my heroine, “Margot” was struggling to salvage her relationship with “Joshua,” a Fundamentalist Christian.

After an intense day of writing and reading an excerpt aloud and getting feedback from the group, I went to sleep in my cozy cabin there at the Mabel Dodge Luhan ranch where the retreat was held. At three o’clock in the morning, my phone rang. I thought I’d turned it off before going to sleep.

When I looked at the screen, bleary-eyed, the caller ID told me it was Christopher calling from California. We hadn’t spoken in months.

I answered to discover it was not my ex-boyfriend but rather his fiancé, Alicia. Distraught, she asked me if I’d known anything about Christopher’s involvement with three particular girls from his church community.

“No. Those names don’t ring a bell,” I said. “Why? What’s going on?”

He’d been arrested. One of his own brothers had turned him in to the authorities. Evidently, Christopher was a pedophile.

I was stunned. An emotional maelstrom swirled within me—disgust, pity, confusion, repulsion, and serious gratefulness that our relationship had ended as quickly and abruptly as it did.

The next morning, I woke up and wondered if the bizarre conversation had been a lucid dream or a crazy coincidence of writing and reality overlapping.

Turns out, it was true. The self-proclaimed virgin had repressed his natural sexual instincts since adolescence – other than the two months he spent with me – but they’d emerged in detrimental, perverse acts with eight different girls he’d abused over the span of a decade.

The next time I went out to visit friends in the Bay Area, Alicia and I met for lunch. We commiserated. We chatted. It was nice. She told me that Christopher was ultimately convicted of eight counts of inappropriate involvement with a minor and sentenced to fifteen years at San Quentin, the second most infamous Bay area prison after Alcatraz.

Because of Christopher, I grappled with religion and spiritual beliefs that fateful summer when we were in love. I had gone from Catholic child to atheistic teen rebel to wannabe Buddhist to Buddhist Christian. Now, I am nothing. I am here, now. I am breathing and trying my best to be kind to myself and everyone else.

My attitude toward conservative Christians has evolved from cynical to hateful to judgmental to curious to compassionate to confused to indifferent.

Through this experience I have learned that it doesn’t help to judge the judgers.

That Jesus is in my heart whether I invite him there or not.

That Buddha and Jesus co-habitate my heart center and live there together in perfect harmony.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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