The Bridge to Wholeness

The English country lane was everywhere I ever wanted to be. Summer had come like a breath that washed my soul of all harsh memory and regret. My head was clear and my heart was light. Now everything I ever needed was here with me as I walked aimlessly alongside the rugged stone walls that divided the Surrey meadows, reminding me of my birthplace, Ireland. Wild flowers grew from the crevices between the stones and overhanging the walls were wild blackberry bushes alive with the hum of honeybees. The intoxicating fragrance of honeysuckle mixed with clover seemed to enter my very pores, filling me with the feeling that nothing had ever gone wrong anywhere since time began. My senses were exploding. I knew I’d never truly smelled, nor heard or felt before in my life. I was twenty six, I was unemployed for the first time in my life, and two months earlier, I had started meditating.

Over the preceding year and a half, vague feelings of unrest had grown into frightening dissatisfaction. The irony was that all my dreams were coming true, at least, all the dreams I’d been told were worth dreaming. I was a well-respected musician playing with a successful Irish Showband and making more money than I knew what to do with. I was well-known almost everywhere I went in Ireland, had a fancy car, dozens of friends and a investment in some prime real estate which promised to set me on the road to a life of comfort. But the really scary thing was that these successes weren’t accompanied by the expected happiness or sense of fulfillment. What frightened me even more was the abiding sense that I was a fake, that all my ‘accomplishments’ were an effort to cover up something broken inside.  Slowly, everything ceased to have meaning for me and I became very depressed. The fact that I barely understood what depression was didn’t protect me from it. I seemed to lose all spontaneity and couldn’t find solace in work or sleep as my thoughts attacked me day and night. Even music herself seemed stale and, for the first time, she seemed unable—maybe even unwilling—to patch me back together.
I met her out on a stormy sea,
She sailed right up close to me
Close enough to see my sail was torn
She tried and tried to all her might
To patch the wind and stitch the night
But the best that she could do was find me gone
Then for Christmas, 1972, someone gave me a copy of Yogananda’s classic book, “Autobiography of a Yogi.” At first, I was very skeptical; the Hindu cosmology, terminology and mythology were all very alien to me. But as I read on something started to sing inside me. I drank in Yogananda’s beautiful prose like nectar. I read that all suffering was because mankind was out of touch with its original Divine nature. We simply don’t know who we are and the pain of that ignorance is tearing humanity apart. All yearning and longing, Yogananda said, sprung from a primal urge to return, to unite with our Source, and deluded mankind mistook that urge as desire for accomplishment and ego-fulfillment that only made things worse. I was stunned! Although an avid reader, I’d never come across anything like this in my twenty-six years on the planet.

I’d called myself “a recovering Catholic”. As the remnants of a childhood devotion for an old man in the sky wrestled with common sense and the abuses I’d seen as a lad in a Dublin orphanage, I was torn apart. But Yogananda’s book took the old man out of God, and God out of the sky—and placed him firmly within my own heart. The idea that the primal energy of Source was coursing through my body looking for itself, shone the clearest light on my disillusionment and depression: The answer was as simple as it was clear; All suffering sprung from the fracturing ignorance of one’s true nature. This explained my feelings that I was a fake and all my ‘achievements’ a cover-up. Everything started to make sense. An old feeling of belonging, long forgotten, awoke in me filling me with hope.

I was always a bit of a dreamer and I’d had tiny glimpses of this sense of belonging many times as a young boy; most startlingly while lying on the orphanage playground one night gazing up into the starlight. My gaze seemed to be captured by light as I lay mesmerized by the beauty of the heavens on a clear winter’s night. I knew that light wasn’t merely out there. I felt, as I lay on the cold concrete playground, that the ghostly effulgence which danced across the December sky was somehow inside me, maybe even part of my soul.

Of course, I’d forgotten this in the mad rush to grow up, to join society, desperate to appear “normal” after the scallywag wheeling and dealing of the orphanage milieu. But Yogananda’s book brought the memory of that starlit transcendence back like a long-lost friend. I embraced an old vision with a new language. A language that straddled the borders of reason and ardor.  A language I could live with—for the moment.
The true Self, Yogananda said, was the pure light of consciousness itself, the background of clarity and stillness behind the troubled thoughts that assail us. What? I couldn’t believe what my eyes were reading. His words, rich with beauty and truth, seemed to dispel a lifetime of doubt and confusion. I am not my thoughts! This idea filled me with such hope that I could barely contain myself. I am not my doubts, my anger or fear, my hesitation or pretenses, my vices nor virtues. I’m not even my cocky self-confidence, hard won on the orphanage playground but which came and went like the Irish weather. The pure light of consciousness! What a relief!

Yogananda also spoke of how meditation could take one deeper into that Consciousness, the Perfect One inside. I knew I simply had to learn meditation. The time had come!

After inquiries, I found a meditation group in Blackrock, a sedate Dublin suburb. There, simple Dublin folk with shining faces talked of the light and love within and I knew I was on my way. Not a moment too soon, I learned to meditate and threw myself into it like my life depended on it.
Within a week of beginning meditation, I was convinced my life needed a drastic change. A deep peace crept over me which only served to highlight how exhausted I was after ten years of five–hour gigs in smoky dance halls and driving the treacherous Irish roads. One night, while meditating, I had a life-changing experience which I’ll explore later. For the inexpressible, there’s only the forgiving latitude of poetry and metaphor.
I felt no distance there was Nothing in between
No Signs, no Seasons, Nowhere to be seen
Some silent question vanished from the heart’s deep well
No prayer unanswered underneath Your vast Cathedral of Love 
What can one say about a moment before which all previous moments line up in awe. This experience, of the light of my own consciousness, gave me the courage to make the drastic changes I knew I must make. Over time, other experiences, often less dramatic but every bit as deep and real, brought a broader perspective, but that first awakening remains the single most important event of my life. 

I knew I had to make room for the fragrance of that meditation experience to permeate my whole life. The very next day, to my astonishment and that of my band-mates, I gave in my notice. I left what was probably the best–paying sideman gig in Ireland, gave away my car, mohair suits and record collection, left my friends and my beloved Dublin City, to go England. On the boat trip across the Irish Channel, I met some old friends from the Irish show-band scene who, listening to my stories of meditation and awakening, thought I had simply gone stark raving mad. I resolved there and then to keep my meditation experiences to myself and for the most part continued to do so until this writing.  

After a week in the Surrey countryside, where the heart-breaking beauty of the English summer peeled back the years of road-weariness from my soul, I went to London to work as a volunteer for the headquarters of the meditation group I had joined. I slept on new-found friend’s floors in a sleeping bag and eat vegetarian food. When I needed money I busked on the West End streets and subways and generally enjoyed the heck out of life. After ten years of being a minor star I was an absolute nobody again and I loved it. For the first time in my life I felt free and genuinely happy. Daily I rode the busses and subways delighting in a perspective of humanity denied me by my life on the road and dance-hall stages. It seemed inconceivable to me that I could ever be unhappy again.

Of course, I was spectacularly wrong.

The difference between having an ‘awakening’ experience and integrating one’s personality, actions and thinking with it was for me, a journey of decades. That journey I call Passaggio.

I had a grand frown once I was very proud of, I felt like I looked fierce and brave
Then I heard your laughter and saw your sweet smile
And I knew in shame
That standing too tall is for fools who imagine danger
And warriors who need conflict to stand at all
Laughter is the only response to One who sees Everything
And meekness is a virtue in front of You
Who has black holes for breakfast 

I was born into a fractured family at a fractured time. I grew up on the tough back-streets of Dublin where the grinding, non-stop struggle for survival left neither time nor inclination for fine or elegant sensibilities. Work was scarce, education was scrappy and in my part of town, understanding of the needs of children, for love and nurture, was practically non-existent. Even as I buried it and became as rough and ready as the environment demanded, I remember well the feeling that something was very wrong.

I grew up on the side of town
Where they make you tough so they can knock you down
They'd talk of God and knock you down some more

But in Halson Street Church on Sunday morning, the promise of something better was there in the smell of the incense, the flickering light of the candles, the subdued demeanor and humble faces of the congregation. The profound look of sincere surrender on the faces of those who, on the streets, easily took a stick to your legs or a fist to your ears or fell down drunk on the pavement on their way home from the corner pub, filled me with the feeling that somewhere there was something beyond the squalor, the violence and the poverty.

My six year old street urchin mind didn’t know what to make of this Sunday morning incongruity; “Would ya just look at old Peadar Kearney,  you’d think butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth. That nasty old so-and-so tore my arse up yesterday with his belt and now he’s crying like he’s just found his long-lost puppy. What happened to the poor bastard to make him so mean?” Although I didn’t understand why, I knew that this softness in Kearney was more real than the unbridled viciousness which characterized his ‘normal’ self. Later when my family broke apart and I was interred in a brutal orphanage on the outskirts of Dublin, I would see the same paradox; the senseless cruelty of the Irish Christian Brothers juxtaposed  with their genuine love for God and desire to serve humanity. Again, I sensed that something had gone wrong somewhere and everybody, maybe through no fault of their own, was simply lost, lost, lost. Even in the face of the most terrifying display of inhumanity from the good brothers of the orphanage, that feeling—that violence and unkindness was an aberration—never left me. I never knew why that was. It wasn’t until I started a daily meditation practice that I began to understand something very fundamental: The implications of not knowing who we are, are very far-reaching indeed. And the very first effect, of even the slightest glimpse of our true nature, brings compassion and understanding first for oneself and thereafter for those who are blind to that nature. 
A Thief in my own Shop

I became a thief in my own shop
And stole something I already owned
Cast out on the street by my own security guard
I cried, banging outside on my own door
Forgetting that I held the key in my hand
To the lock I’d installed myself
Seemingly from behind the door
I heard a laughter
So full of helpless abandon
That my tears stopped suddenly
I caught the faintest scent of rose on the breeze
That whispered something complete and incoherent
The laughter got louder
Till almost frightened by it
I realized it came from my own chest
Still laughing I found I was back inside the shop where
The price tags had disappeared from


What on earth does he mean by Passaggio? Click here for more info.