Instead of going to college, I became a mystic.
What it means to be a mystic is to trust that the inner life is a portal to wisdom greater than ourselves. Cultivating the inner life leads to an expanded awareness of the outside world and of our own nature.
I moved to Spain at age of nineteen, because I knew I was too naive to go anywhere besides Europe alone. I was good at many things and interested in even more. I wanted to be of service, so I set out seeking a better understanding of the issues in the world before I jumped into pursuing a career. I knew nothing about Spain at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to connect with the spirit of the times we live in. Strangely, the more I learned, the less I seemed to know.
There are no problems on earth not caused by humans. Humans are not rational beings. We often do not think things through well, and even when we do, we don’t always walk our own talk. Nor do we do what is best for our physical health much of the time. Humans are governed by emotions, by the things we love, the things we fear and desire, by the stories we tell ourselves. Self-development is the process of developing the will, caring for the body, and training the mind so that the emotions which drive us are as balanced as possible. I decided my life’s work would focus on the evolution of human consciousness, the only thing that can save us from ourselves.
I devoted myself primarily to making art, because art is the most direct way to contact people on an emotional level and perhaps actually make a difference, affirm, challenge, uplift. I lived out of a backpack and painted on the floor of every place I stayed. Most of my artwork ended up in dumpsters as I traveled on.
During my three years in Spain, I sold art in the street to get by, and lived with professional flamenco musicians and dancers in the gypsy neighborhood of Granada, spent a year and a half in the Alpujarra Mountains as a cheese maker and an artist, and then I moved to Catalunia and rented a gigantic 900 year old farmhouse beside the Girone River. I gardened everywhere I went, and every time I cooked I always prepared enough for ten people at least. Our home was always a gathering place for artists, neighbors, and a wide circle of friends.
My gap year turned into two, then three, then four, just like worried parents tell their kids who don’t go straight to college.
I wasn’t blowing off becoming a responsible adult by learning from the school of life. I studied the history of Spain, which is completely different from the rest of Europe because it was ruled by the Moors for over 700 years. Four different languages are spoken in Spain, and the culture and climate are very diverse. Spain has been home to the largest most viable anarchist movement in the world, and it is also the squatting capital in the world, two social phenomenons I find fascinating and very relevant to the global turmoil the world faces today.
Living in Spain was equivalent to getting a higher education for me, since bringing art and spirituality into daily life has always been my main interest and forte. The people I was friends with, and the culture I was immersed in, allowed me to experience how community, art, and spirituality are so valuable to soul life.
After experiencing these things in real life, I did go on and study them further in academic settings. I earned my Bachelors degree in Teaching and Fine Arts, my Waldorf High School Art Teaching Certificate, and a Masters Degree in Counseling by the time I was thirty four. It is not my credentials but the blessings I received from following my own intuition that qualify me most to share my gifts with others.
The pivotal reason living in Spain was so significant in my life is because two great teachers entered my path and changed the course of my life.
Julio Donat, a psychotherapist, herbal healer, and teacher adopted me into his simple life in the Alpujarra Mountains outside Granada. He became my role model for being the change he wanted to see in the world.
Jorge Aguilera was my painting mentor. He is a wellspring of knowledge about Art, Music, Science, History, Philosophy, Architecture, Anthropology, Psychology, Mineralogy, Astrology, and the sacred and occult. This dignified man and superior artist took me under his wing and made it clear that all fields of study are part of the same living multidimensional truth. To be a good artist, one must be a student of all wisdom.
Julio and Jorge did not get paid to work with me, but both men knew they were my teachers. Without them my life could have gone a different way; I could easily be mentally unstable or arrogant, like artists who believe that “anything goes.” Many of you reading this post have been on the giving or the receiving end of such an informal student/teacher pact. It is one of the most precious things in life. Empowering others is karmic work that is never in vain.
Many young people sense that there is more to life than memorizing information, choosing a school, then a career, and living up to all the demands of our capitalist, egoistic civilization. Mysticism is about finding the mystery (my-story) in the world, trusting the hunch that there is more to life than this. So very much.
Finding a good mentor can aid greatly in this self-initiation. Whatever the scope of your vision is, we you free to dream it. Simultaneously you are responsible for the consequences. I am very thankful to the people whose own liberation illuminated my path and who time to see me and reflect back who I truly am.
My novel-in-progress Other Wise is an homage to this kind of relationship, the relationship first to the self, then to the teacher, then to Spirit.
I need your help to bring this novel into the hands of readers.