To Robert, a Sage in Arizona – PART TWO

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This is the story of a pilgrimage in 1996 to Robert Adams – PART TWO.   He died the following year.   Born in New York, he “woke” into the atoms at 14, during a school math class.  Then he met Yogananda.  In early 1950, still in his teens, he went to India, sat with Ramana Maharshi (December 1879-April 1950) and ran wild on Arunachala for a while.  Back home, he became a silent and reclusive wanderer, but people always found him again, so he taught them Self-enquiry.   The drawings and portraits in this memoire, are all posthumous – done shortly after his mahasamadhi.   People were very generous, and gave me  photos –  around Robert, these were rare.

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Robert and Friend

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Give the gift to Him.  As soon as I fall to silence, love comes.

Mr Swiftie took his passengers along a long and very bumpy road around the mountain fringes of the Secret Wilderness.  We would not have time on this visit to explore the Secret Trail itself, which is quite long.  We walked up instead through a pine forested dry valley trail to Vultee Arch, a single web strand of sandstone stretched by the wind over a precipitous gully.  Ja clambered up the steep hillside to sit on it and take a photograph.  Aj lay down comfortably at the foot of a tree to sleep.

Returning to Sedona, Aj and Mr Swiftie dropped Ja off at the end of Soldiers Pass Road so she could go for an adventure on the “Coffee Pot Vortex”, and then prospect a better way back to the tent from there, than she’d managed the day before.  This rock, which is more like an Indian eagle, is spectacular, leading a row of terracotta pinnacles out from the “Thunder Mountain” like giant molars set in a landscaped jaw bone.   At first it seemed very difficult to reach.  Ja had not consulted the map, and was set down at the wrong place, and had to negotiate a settlement of pretty painted villas.

But then I sat quiet for a bit, and gave in.  Just as I was about to walk home, I spotted some small friendly stone signals which, when followed one to another, some of them difficult to find, led me back, up and through to the wonderful high place with the setting sun glowing through it.   The terrain everywhere is a mixture of stony red earth and hills, with a varying density of green juniper and impoverished conifers, and you have to watch out for cacti.   It is navigable in the cross-country sense, but the strong ecological consciousness of the region makes me want to keep to the paths, wherever there are any.

The earth is red, dry and gritty, but looks and feels as if it recently received the dew.  It is hard to tell in places like this, which are human paths, and which were made by a coyote or mountain lion, which follow no human sense of purpose.  But a gentle pilgrim had left, to blaze the trail, a small pile of two or three stones in every doubtful place, to beckon and direct.  It uplifted me, like finding an angel, to come upon this, and lean upon the enchanting guidance.    The adventure around and along the contour of the glorious great rock at twilight, was secret, privileged and beautiful.  The cross country hike back to our tent, encountering some deep feline footprints, was lit by a silver splendour of shredded storm.  In the night there was strong wind, rain and sleety ice.  It was noisy in the tent.

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Every morning, just before sunup, we hear the coyotes in dawn chorus, a haunting cacophony of little shrill barks and howls.  It is rather a wonderful sound, as soon as I know it is not a kennel.  We saw a coyote at night, lean and grey, crossing the suburban road.  Nobody worries about rattlesnakes, as they are very shy, and so are the mountain lion and bobcat.  The ring of bright mountains is no limit to the wilderness.  All the Arizona desert is there.  Solid birds of bright plumage chaff one another solemnly in the juniper, and large rabbits go about their business.

We explored many long trails.   We visited Cathedral Rock.  I enjoyed another long and arduous rocky climb, while Aj snoozed gently with Gems from Bhagavan near the waters in the shade.  Cathedral Rock is much bigger than it looks:   the ascent up the massive rugged shoulders to where the pillars begin to soar like organ pipes, was guided by discreet cairns from place to space.  The sunshine blossomed bright with birdsong, and melted pockets of snow.   One night as we turned in – the comet is moving away now – I noticed the exceptional brilliance of the evening star.  Her gloaming brightness shone greater than Jupiter.  She catches a spark of the hidden Sun in her web.

Starlight points to Self-light,  and at moments among my sleep I saw this Star on a clear and soft blue radiance, like that which falls among the hills at twilight.  The Star and hint of elven blue – like the moon blue lotus of Ramana’s look in Ramana Gita – help me to Self remember.   Aj is astonished at himself.  He has not read one of the dozen or so books he brought with him, and they are still tied up in a bundle in the tent.  He wrote, “As everybody starts early here, in Robert’s Kingdom of Sedonia, where even the ordinary citizens behave like hobbits in a childrens’ picture book, greeting all and everyone whenever they pass, we landed outside the Satsang house at 6pm, to get a place upfront … “

They played a wordless voice to God, like a bird and a cello, a Yogananda song.   There were readings, pointedly,  from Arthur Osborne, Lex Hickson on Zen, and Rumi.  Robert entered the room in a white tracksuit, shades and no cap, reached for the mike and began his bird song:  the sphurana began to glow…    At the end of Satsang, Robert announced – through Richard – “a special warm welcome for Ja and Aj, our visitors from Ramana Foundation in England, they are the editors of the quarterly journal Self Enquiry, and it is a wunnerful magazine” – Richard held up a copy of the Winter issue.   I was in no condition to deal with the sudden stampede for new Subs – had come to Robert’s Satsang without address book, receipt or pen …

At Dennys, which is open all night, we enjoyed the company of Mrs Rich, an old flame of Robert’s from LA.  She came and sat with us affectionately, dressed all in white, with white hair, white straw hat, face like an old apple, and round blue eyes.   She seems to be a lady of some mobility and means, and said she is a Desert Person really.  She is not fond of valleys or water, and needs to build her new house high up on the mesa.   As a visit to Poonjaji is on our vague agenda, Mrs Rich beamed at us, opened her purse, and gave us ten dollars.  Aj contorted into a polite British “No please, really.”   “Go on, go on honey, take it, it’s a Present!”

We retired to our tent behind Keren’s, much refreshed by the Sedona Night Life.

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We saw some art in the local galleries.   The standard varied, but helped me to perceive more clearly how holy these rocks and sky are, in the native-Amerikan spiritual culture, as subtle intermediaries, half creature, half angel.  Eagles, coyotes and legendary medicine men soar out of the “crack between the worlds.”   These rocks have homely and banal domestic-American names, but a hundred years ago they were cryptic messengers and gods in the wild wilderness – no houses, roads or Safeways – and I review the Mystery.  The script is written by the wind in the stone.  Sedona is a place of power, now settled by affluent New Age soothsayers.   Any settlement here, breathes in the colour of the land, its geology and colliding frames of the Dream Time consciousness.  As I read all the Carlos Castaneda books at an early stage in my sadhana, I recognize the Sonora desert resonances of not-doing and seeing the space between the leaves.  Any sensitive sojourn here, involves a great deal more than just looking at the view.

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At supper, someone took my camera and kindly snapped me trying to understand Robert’s whisper in my ear, through the jolly voices all around.  Robert said Don’t publish pictures of him in our Journal;  then the words from him began to fade, to run together indistinct, like the rain, and I couldn’t hear.   Could it possibly be “you can camp in our garden next time”?    Again and again the words, the husky, rapid whispered sound from wide eyes of a fearless child who has all the time, urgency and endless patience in the world to make me understand, a word at a time, but I still can’t understand, I’m so sorry.   Is this physically painful for him?  Then he smiles and lets it go for now.   Some things translate only with pain and diffculty into the crude cradle of speech or writing.   The universe has something to spell, and I am distracted by the sounds of the table.

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There was some lively discussion around Robert, that with “I-am-no-body”, the preordained idea of our physicality disappears.  Everything is preordained, and set up so long as we are identified with our mind-body’s Karma.  As soon as this identification discontinues, then there is no preordination, nothing.  This moment changes everything.

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One of our new friends – Rolfing Rob – invited us to come for a hike with him and his dog Wolfie.  We followed him to his rented house for him to change into his blue baseball hat, bumbag, clean socks and sneakers.  He emerged like an angel, carrying water.   We left the cars in Dry Creek wilderness, and climbed a very steep and little used trail towards Lost Canyon.  We never saw Lost Canyon, because we had a wonderful time on the path, doing Douglas Harding experiments.   Only a star can perceive a star.  Atoms.  Every word we say comes straight from the Sun – think of that!   The Sun speaks through the food-chain hierarchy.  He that is in you  …   now feel in here the endless, bottomless no-centre of His radiance.  We also practiced Forest walking – attending to the seer who smooths out the bumps – and Upside-down-ness on the precipitous path.  Aj fell down and sprained his wrist.   Rob held and completely healed it with a Rolf technique of concentration and pressure.  The Rolf massage “reinvents” the landscape of the inner body, and dissolves structural tensions.   It is a scientific manipulation of the collagen fascia, or connective tissue, and the body’s innate ability to let go of protective armouring.

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We looked out from our highest point over the vast basin of the mountain-ringed Secret Wilderness, and didn’t complete the trail.   I found this a useful exercise in dispassion.

“Our way becomes clear, and what we need to do becomes apparent.  We no longer exult in our personal darkness, but accept the Divine Will in life, and its orientation of our life towards the light.  We learn to shine in the presence rather than to dwell in the darkness of our personal thoughts and emotions based on memory.  We learn to have faith in life, to love and to accept the truth, to be open and humble and giving to a reality that is pure grace.”

Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley), Wisdom of the Ancient Seers

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I have pre-conceptions about the simple and unworldly nature of the Jnani’s residence, within walking distance of the supermarket – no doubt based on Annamalai Swami’s little ashram in Tiru.   Perhaps I imagined a relaxed and scruffy sort of place, like one of those outback bungalows in Phoenix.

The famous Tea for the English visitors was at Robert’s house…  We gasped and entered his living-space, Vogue-interior designed, white-washed, teak timbered, booming with New Age quadraphonic sounds, plump blue furnishings on a cool expanse of powder-blue carpet.  We saw pairs of gold swans, giant posters of Robert and Ramana, candles, vast plants and framed family snapshots on glass shelves:  Nicole welcomed us:  ‘It looks much larger than it is’.   The model English tea party laid out on the dining table, with the famous cucumber sandwiches, a mountainous strawberry cream cake, two big round hedgehogs of cheese and fruit bits on cocktail sticks, and an array of gold rimmed cups, saucers, knives and spoons, with a special little jar of marmalade placed right at the edge for our “English taste”, would put Fortnams to shame.  I thought Robert was an old hippy like me  – he’s lived in the jungle –  and visualized comfy stuffed old chairs and dog hairs.  It bemused me almost to tears, and a painful shyness.  “You see, I didn’t forget the marmalade!”  cried Nicole joyously.  “What do you think of the cucumber sandwiches?” said Adele, who always glows – “I put chilli in them!”   I couldn’t eat a thing, and was terrified of breaking something.   With everyone swanning around and effortlessly at ease with the jnani, I sat paralysed on the carpet and let Robert’s fluffy dog Dmitri wash my hands.

In shock, I managed to join a girly chit chat at the table, with their daughters.  Nicole said she was born in Grand Cayman – I thought she said “I was born in the Grand Canyon” – and she got a work permit for two years to the States.  The permit was inexplicably renewed – “do you think a certain Indian gentleman with a white beard and a walking stick had anything to do with it?” – and then she dreamed about Robert three times, and met him a day or two later.   This was 42 years ago.   “It was enormous love, darling, not just romantic,” she said, “since then, I’ve been learning to become less selfish.”

Don’t try to prevent your thoughts.  There’ll always be thoughts, just watch and let them pass, and do not belong to them.  Presently you’ll discover none of them have anything to do with YOU.  Let the beggars be.   Robert, like the sea, is a private mirror to everyone.   Mine – after he hugged us – is a childlike sharing of a happy secret.  When he turns to Aj his manner re-shapes to something more solid and man to man;  they could be talking football.

There are no EGGOS, not even a recalcitrant one.  As the Self never moves, and as you have taken the Jnani into consciousness, and he has taken you into his, he never leaves you, wherever you are.  Step behind your spine.  Let the body walk and move and be touching ground in This.

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Sedona town was named in 1908 by a Dutch settler after his wife, the fair Sedona Schnebly.  They built their house down by the Oak Creek.  We went a little way up towards Schnebly Hill, but not as far as the wonderful Ravine.  In an otherwise unremarkable spot, I met a young black New Yorker with cultured dreadlocks who desperately needed a pair of tweezers.  A big chunky wood splinter had gone in by his thumb nail.  Surprisingly, I had one in my bag, and I sat with him during the operation which, after about ten minutes or so of intense pain, patient curses and stoic bravery, was successful.  It is nice when time and place are precise for a need to be met.  Our Sedona adventure politely claimed its due.

Robert arrived at Satsang dressed in blue like the sea, with cassettes from his piles of sounds and love-songs to the Lord.  I wept, like a well running over, because we were leaving tomorrow.  Robert’s speech was clearer today, and he played with us and made us repeat after him:  I am Brahman.  I am That.  I am awareness. You’re  not what you think you are.  Feel free.  Be quiet.   All is well.   Rivers joined – the Los Angeles students with the Sedona people.   A lady asked, “How to deal with fear?”   “You don’t,” he said shortly.  “You don’t deal with fear.”  Much laughter from those at the end of the road, who are pushed by him in the chest, straight into silence …   the silence between the words, from which they arise, into which they vanish.

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“Supper” was at Enchantment, the rich little resort at the mouth of Boynton Canyon – a very swish bar with a panoramic view of the roseate cliffs, sheer and glowing, and twin pinnacles high above, which like Ardhanarishvara – the Lord whose half is Woman – focus the shakti energy.  I longed to go for a walk.   The loving-kindness of our new friends eased a place for us next to Robert.  I couldn’t manage small talk, but fortunately Nicole was there, telling us how she spent all morning yesterday cleaning that fine blue carpet for the tea party, because Robert’s small dog Dmitri is very old, and chronically incontinent.    As soon as Aj moved into his chair next to Robert, I found it easier to converse, my block diminished;  we ate yet another fine feast with the gods, and discussed the difficulties of the British Royal Family, whom Nicole and Robert adore.   Nicole is essence-exuberant:  Robert said he married her “because she looked like Rita Hayworth”.   Aj got to talk with her, and I love her.   What a couple.

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The mountains as we said goodbye, were like wild flowers in sunset.  It spilled the well again.  All you can do with Advaita is eat it, taste and enjoy.  Perhaps the British stiff upper lip makes it difficult to talk of Love, but the heart is being it, all the time.

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There is nothing I have to do right now;  I am helpless.

Wide, slow, in-singing song of the heart is planted here

of its own accord. 

There is nothing I have to do right now.

Right now I am everything I ever want to be. 

Right now I am the Self, right now this moment.

Let it all go.

Let this fill my helplessness.

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“It’s like paper and the print on the paper.  When you read a newspaper, you look at the print, you do not think of the paper the print is on.  You were concentrating on the print only, the words.  Yet, without the paper, there would not be any print, don’t you see?

“So it is with the Self, with REALITY.  REALITY is like the paper;  the print is like the people, places and things on the paper.  Only, you are the paper, and you identify with the paper, and you KNOW you’re the paper, and the print has nothing to do with you.  It cannot influence you or do anything to you, for you know that without you, there’s no Universe.  There’s no ink, there are no words, there is no alphabet, no alphabetical letters.  You have become free.”

Robert Adams 1928-1997

 

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photo by Hale Dwoskin

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 Ramana Maharshi with cow Lakshmi on Arunachala

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Drawings, text & pictures copyright (c) Jane Adams 1996-2012

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My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books) – along with many other creations in house.  

I write, illustrate, design and print my books.   Watch this space.

 

4 thoughts on “To Robert, a Sage in Arizona – PART TWO

  1. Your words and the drawings of your experience with Robert are clearly filled with grace.
    I deeply enjoyed reading this and thank you for sharing this post.

  2. Lovely! I was listening to one of Robert’s talks today and it wiped the slate clean once more. May you rest in bliss Robert. I am indebted… Truly.

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