I met this crazy old man in a New York coffee shop.
His 300 pounds lumbered in, wearing nothing but raggedy slacks and plentiful chest hair; his beard stored a winters’ provisions of crumbs.
We had coffee.
He changed my life.
David Pearlman was a member of our Gurdjieffian group of spiritual seekers. Because of his gnarly appearance and rather nasty demeanor, many would navigate around his perimeter.
He took me aside one evening and told me there was something he had to tell me. So here I sat at the Lexington Avenue café .
“What are your three gods?” He demanded.
“Huh?” Or something equally profound dribbled, with my java, out of my mouth.
He stirred his coffee, looking up at me. “Go home tonight and think about the three most important things in your life. Or three most imperative things you want in your life. The three things that you want to evoke, to devote yourself entirely to for the rest of your life. Come back with this list of three things.”
I didn’t have to wait a week. I was, in his presence, clear of heart and mind. I had been struggling for years with the demons thrashing in the chasm between the life I was living and the man I wished to become. I beat myself up a lot for not living up to my own expectations. I was a morning meditation master who drank gin and tonics to oblivion every night.
“I want inner peace.” I blurted.
I was tired of being fired yearly for not caring about work. Even as a photographer in the biggest city on Earth, I couldn’t see a future in it. I failed to see the point of shooting rock stars until I died of liver failure. I wanted to feel good about my job. I wanted to be self-supporting and do something I loved, so I added, “I want love.”
The man I saw within me was deep and creative and had something—god knows what—to share with the world.
I wanted to write a novel, create sculpture or lead my own cult. I wanted to leave a lasting positive impression on the world. I wanted to spread joy. “I want joy!” I sang.
There they were, my three gods before me: peace, love and joy.
“Okay, whatever they are. Write it down. You need to write it down. If it changes, okay, but don’t forget them. From now on serve these gods in everything you do, every little thing.”
He leered at me through bushes of brows, “Now before you do anything, ask yourself, does this serve my first God? Does it help me nurture this important thing of mine, or does it hinder it, even in the least.”
Now do this, ask this question with every little thing you do, whether to have that next cup of coffee, whether to allow this person in your life, or do this job. If what you’re about to do serves your first god, great. If it doesn’t, even in the slightest, cut it out like a cancerous cell.”
Then go down the line and ask it about the second god and so on.”
I got what he was saying. If somehow guzzling another gin didn’t serve my inner peace, I would stop. If feeling negative around negative people didn’t inspire me, I’d stop hanging out with them.
It was a more myopic focus on conscious intention. I took this present with both hands.
In the next few weeks I lobbed off several cancerous friendships. I quit my dead end job. I stopped doing anything that didn’t feel warm and fuzzy inside—awesome.
I shared this simple formula with everyone I met. It was so simple but explained in such a way that was sustainable and applicable.
But is it always so simple?
When my ex wife starts dating my friends, after I sober up, I see that this particular pain is not caused by their actions. My pain is caused by attachment and limiting beliefs. It’s not external, it’s internal. I can avoid those people, but I cannot avoid myself.
One thing I have learned in the many years since meeting David Pearlman is that much of what I’m experiencing around me is a reflection of whatever I’m creating inside. The outside experience is often just a symptom a dis-ease within. What do I lob off then?
Walking away from my troubles can sometimes feel better in the short term, but it’s often taking aspirin for cancer.
It relieves me of the pain for a moment but the dis-ease continues to grow within me. Some things are placed on my path, not for me to avoid but to walk through. Not all uncomfortable situations should be avoided.
It’s uncomfortable when my daughter throws a tantrum in the middle of the aisle at Whole Foods. But it probably doesn’t serve my god to sever my ties with her. With self-reflection this might be an opportunity to find unconditional love.
It’s uncomfortable to get up to go to work. Yet it would serve my goal of supporting myself to get out of bed anyway. With self-reflection this might be an opportunity to develop gratitude.
It’s uncomfortable to sit still and meditate without thinking about cheese, and car insurance and that girl in those lulu lemon shorts at yoga class this morning. But It serves all of my gods to know inner peace. Serving my three gods must include self-reflection.
Over the years, I have occasionally checked in to see if my gods have different names.
I found and lost inner peace many times over and found peace in that. I developed several self sustaining careers that I loved and I’ve learned that every time my children smile, I’ve created a masterpiece.
Now, my deep inner peace is a shelter for others to find comfort in. Now my job is love. Now I am creating a whole world of joyousness, awakening the God-Self in others, healing many and helping others to become healers themselves.
I still serve the same three gods.
I still thank that nasty ol’ Pearlman guy. I always remember that Spirit sends us messages in many forms, I listen to those who posses that light, even if they’re in the shadows.
We never know what our next guru will look like.
Author: Michael St. Cole
Apprentice Editor: Kristen Bagwill; Editor: Khara-Jade Warren