I called every day for two weeks leading up to my trip, trying to get an extra night at my boutique hotel. Every day, they kindly told me no, in fact they were overbooked. As my trip drew closer, I began calling other hotels in San Francisco, and then in the San Francisco area, with the same sad result. The answer was "no room." I was planning to help out with my favorite spiritual teacher's taping of talks for his website, eckharttolletv. I do it every year, and I feel like it recharges me somehow. His talks are always sold out and eagerly attended by truth seekers from all over the world. But Eckhart couldn't have sold out all of San Francisco! The soundstage simply wasn't that big.
It was then that my friend Nancy told me enthusiastically that she and her girlfriend were coming to Eckhart's talk, and the day before, they had scored tickets to see the Dalai Lama! Her excitement was not unwarranted: I later learned the Dalai Lama was talking three days in a row in the San Francisco area to huge audiences, and every single one was sold out. I was both impressed and mystified at our human appetite for spiritual wisdom. Is spiritual guidance that urgently needed? Yes, I realized, it is.
"Can't you just read a book?" my partner asks me as I pack my bag for my trip. "These teachers aren't saying anything that hasn't been said before. It's all written down." I'm folding my favorite clothes, I realize, comfortable but in lively colors.
"I've read the books," I reply. "But the deepest realizations I've had spiritually have come from being in the presence of and under the guidance of living spiritual masters. They're walking the earth with us. They're dealing with our political issues. They feel global warming. They're watching our lives unfold. They take our questions to heart. And they can guide us through these times. There's an urgency to being alive, and living masters can reflect and guide us through life. It's different. There's also something sacred about being with people who feel the same need for peace, evolution, contemplation."
"Why?" he asks me. "What's the difference? Pick up a telephone, send an email."
"No, you have to be there," I explain. I know I'm right, and I'm not alone. All of San Francisco is sold out. "Even if no words are shared, there's a great feeling to know we're all in this together, we're there together. There's an energetic frequency that I can feel. These masters have a contagious loving, peaceful energy. And like a radio, I feel I tune into making peace a priority energetically."
Now more than ever as we grapple with dire realities such as severe weather changes, political meltdowns, and technological revolutions, there is an urgent need for spiritual guidance. Because no matter how little or great your personal fortune might be, no matter how famous or unknown your name might be, no matter how healthy or close to death you or your loved ones discover yourselves to be, there is always a deep desire for peace, and the happiness peace can unveil. It is human to seek a living spiritual guide, and to find one. To me, it's the best part of being a human being. Without it, aren't we just beasts fighting for survival?