Jnana Yoga

So I decided I should try dropping alcohol altogether and see how it worked. Since I was married at the time, I had to tell my then-wife about my plans to stop drinking. Knowing how much the French enjoy their wine I was a bit apprehensive about her reaction. To my relief, she just said that it was fine with her and that she would make an effort and would also try to avoid drinking as much as she could.

Sometime later I also proposed to stop eating red meat and poultry, to which she also agreed rather promptly. I proposed this to keep at least a certain measure of yoga orthodoxy in my practice and as a means to strengthen my disciplinary capability. But the benefits of this decision extended beyond my expectations, as the mind actually becomes at least a tad more ethereal when we ingest food that contains less toxins and that is less difficult for the body to digest. Thus, with the help of these small but useful developments, the path to follow became clearer still. My next step would be to finally set foot into the sanctity of the Vedanta Center in Olema.

The Vedanta Center in Olema

Gaining admittance to the Vedanta Center was again something I had not planned in advance. I had first noticed the center’s existence during my trips to Point Reyes, a state park located up in Drake’s Bay, about one hour drive north of San Francisco on Highway 1. There are some oyster farms in that area and my ex-wife and I used to drive up there in our camper to spend the weekend having oysters and some local dishes such as oven-roasted duck with plums and other similar delicacies.

When driving by the tiny town of Olema I had always noticed a short dirt road on one side of the highway which lead to a wooden ranch-style gate that had a wooden sign standing beside it. The sign said “Vedanta Center. No Trespassing.” But the road always looked open. Whenever we went to Point Reyes I would look at the road twice, once as we were going North towards Drake’s Bay and once as we were going South back home. And each time I was left wondering about it.

The thing is that well over a year into my Yoga practice I went to bed one Sunday night seriously thinking about the Vedanta Center. The following morning I woke up with the clear intention to go up there that very same day and go right in past the “No Trespassing” sign. So I called a friend and asked him to join me on my little trip north of San Francisco, to which he responded affirmatively. After all, the drive from Palo Alto to Olema is a rather pleasant one, not only because of the part involving Hwy 280, which in my view is the most beautiful section of that freeway, but because of the beauty that surrounds the road that leads from Sausalito to Point Reyes as well.

We must have arrived at the Vedanta Center around high noon, right under a bright sunny blue sky. I turned left very slowly into the little dirt road only to find the wooden gate wide open. I liked the place as soon as I crossed the gate. Before me was a quarter-mile stretch of straight dirt road partially under the shade of two equally long lines of Oak trees, one line on each side of the road. It was a beautiful sight to see. The dirt on the road was even and dry, so the drive was rather smooth, particularly since we were moving at barely 5 miles an hour. When reaching the inner end of the road there appeared before us a big, white, two-storied Victorian house with a large L-shaped porch around its façade.

I just kept driving till I got a bit closer to it and parked my car. In front of the house, across a span of white dirt and green grass about one hundred meters wide, there stood a green structure that looked like a barn. Beside the structure there were some old-looking trucks and some other machinery that looked like for farming purposes. There were also some trees between the white house and the barn which gave the white house a good level of privacy. It was a beautiful sunny Northern California winter day and there did not seem to be anybody on the premises, except my friend and me.

So we rather respectfully looked around, walked towards the house and walked around it a little bit, but did not go inside. We turned around and walked on the inbound part of the road towards the hills in the near distance. On our way to the hills I saw something I had never seen before: White Deer; some of them with quite large Antlers. We must have walked for about a half hour in those beautiful grounds and then headed back to the house and the car, where there was a bold, rather tall Caucasian man in his mid sixties, wearing work boots and spectacles, dressed in blue overalls over a worn-out reddish shirt, sort of waiting for us.

We said hello and I immediately told the man how impressed I was by the beauty of the place. He made some comments about it and then I mentioned I had never seen white deer in my life, to which he responded with explanations about the deer origins and how they had gotten there. I had not thus far detected any signs from the part of the man that would indicate he disagreed with our being there at all, so I asked him what was the Vedanta Center all about, to which he responded rather simply that that place in particular was a center for either guided or personal retreats.

All through the conversation I had been growing internally elated about the whole situation. The day was absolutely gorgeous, the place was undeniably beautiful, the gentleman before me was very kind and talkative and now it seemed like the Center was a place that I might be allowed to visit every once in a while. So I asked the man what was it that I had to do to gain admittance to the center, to which he answered that all I needed to do was to make an appointment with a certain Swami at the San Francisco Vedanta Center, go talk to him and ask him to grant me permission to come stay at the house.

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