On The Road to Enlightenment
By Rob Jacobs
I n late 1991, I ran into a bit of a rough spot on my life path. I guess it just sort of crept up on me because everything didn't happen at once, but I eventually found myself feeling trapped, or in a box. I was working as a psychiatric technician and orderly at one of the local hospitals in Sarasota, Florida, and working part-time at the karate school where I trained, and also had a job at the Ringling School of Art as a part-time model. I attended classes at a local community college for half a day on Saturdays, and I began to feel like I had no time for myself, or any social life. I was a busy lad and all my time was booked; there wasn't much time to relax and play. I had been a student of Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) for a while, and I really hadn't seen any results of the lessons I'd subscribed to by mail. I felt I was missing something; I had that glum feeling of "not getting it," which is not a good place to be. My job began to drag; I was in a rut with it, not learning anything, and I dreaded to go to work some days.
At karate practice in November of that year, I was
called upon to test for my red belt, which is the
level below black belt in the Chinese system of
martial skills I studied. Right off the bat, I
hurt my knee very badly, and completed the test
on one leg. I earned my belt, but my instructor
didn't think I did a good job, "Just efficient,"
he said. He hadn't seen me get hurt because he
looked at his 'test list' at the same time I
pulled my opponent down on top of my knee. A
white-belt mistake, and I paid dearly.
To top it off, in early December my girlfriend moved out on me one night while I worked the evening shift at the hospital. She went back to her ex-husband, and stuck me with the rent and her cat and about 1000 books she had acquired. I would have appreciated it if she would have given me prior notice, rather than coming home to a note on my pillow. Boy, that sucked.
Well, this sort of set the tone for the winter, and I became very stoic and silent; just doing my thing and hanging in there. I had very little joy in my life at that time, going to work and going home and taking care of the cat. I went through the motions of life but wasn't really living. I didn't bother to return to school, and I quit meditating regularly. I went into hermit mode, as a Scorpio is prone to do.
In January, I experienced a day that changed my life. As I arrived at work at the hospital I met a nurse whom I hadn't seen in a couple of years. We stood out in the parking lot and talked a bit, and the subject of faith came up and she testified to me that she had faith in God no matter what happened in her life. She told me that she knew God would take care of her, and He did. She wasn't a member of any organized religion; she just strongly believed in God. She didn't preach, but she told me how it was with her.
As I rode the elevator up to work, I thought about that nurse, and her words stuck in my head, repeating over and over. I went to tend one of my elderly female patients on the floor where I worked, but a nurse shooed her husband and me out of the room so she could do a more private procedure. I stood in the hall with the husband, and as we waited he began to talk. He told me, "You know, I'm 84 years old and I've been married to that woman for over sixty years. When I first laid my eyes on her she was the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen in my life. I asked her to dance and we've never been apart until she got sick this year. I never knew what she saw in me because I was just a skinny kid with big ears, but here we are. If the Lord takes her away from me and I can't bring her home from this hospital, well, I have to consider myself blessed anyway. I've had the greatest life just being with her, so I have to thank God for the time we've had together."
I'd never heard such a speech, and I was so impressed I shook the guy's hand. I remember that man's words to this day, and I can still see his big ears, too. I went on to work, taking vital signs of the patients, thinking about the two people who had spoken to me that day. It was heady and inspiring.
I checked on another female patient, a much younger lady named Kelly who was suffering from a pneumothorax, which is what they call a bubble of air caught in the pleural cavity between the lungs and the pleural membrane. The condition is relieved by inserting a needle between the ribs to suck out the extra air. She had already suffered the needle routine once (it is done while the patient is awake, usually hooked up to a machine in their room) and she was scheduled to have it happen again because the first procedure didn't take.
If it didn't work this time, she would need an operation, so she wasn't a happy camper because there was a chance she could lose a lung. While I was taking her blood pressure and recording her pulse, she told me about the maybe-pending operation, and confessed she was rather scared. "But," she told me, "no matter what happens, I know that God is taking care of me." I could see fear and tension in her face, but strength in her eyes.
This was turning into a pretty busy evening for my poor brain, I certainly had a lot of information to chew over.
Later that evening, I was taking a break in the visitor's lounge, and Kelly's boyfriend Stuart came in. He asked about her, and I gave him what scoop I could, and he told me he was going to propose to her that night. He had made up his mind a long time ago that this would be the night, so come hell or high water he was going to ask that girl to marry him. He reached in his pocket and pulled out an engagement ring that he said had belonged to his great-grandmother, an old family heirloom with a big diamond and fancy antique scrollwork on the gold band. Well, I was impressed, and told him to go for it. "You only live once, Stuart." You only live once.
After lunch, I went to the nurse's station where four of the nurses were sitting and doing their paperwork and chatting. I blurted out, "Hey, that girl down in the end room is going to have another spike jammed through her ribs in the morning, and she's bumming big-time. Her boyfriend just asked her to marry him a while ago and I saw him getting on the elevator with a big smile on his mug, so I reckon she said yes. He gave her a ring that's about a hundred years old so why don't you girls go down and look at it and ooh and ahh or something and try to pick up her spirits?" The nurses all looked at me like I was a crazy man, then they looked at each other. Finally, one of them said, "I want to see that ring," and the four of them put down their pens and got up and walked en masse to Kelly's room.
The nurses all tried on the ring and chatted with Kelly. They French-braided her hair and changed her sheets and got her a clean gown. They spent about fifteen minutes with her (which is a lot of time for a nurse) and talked and laughed and I definitely saw a change in Kelly. She told me before I went home that she was confident things were going to work out, and she was right. The procedure worked the next day and they didn't have to operate.
I went home that night with a sense of encouragement and motivation. I thought about the people I'd met and the things they'd said and I believed God had sent those people to me so I could hear them speak. That night I re-dedicated myself to spiritual growth. I decided I had to get busy and work my way through the doldrums I was experiencing.
I began studying my SRF lessons thoroughly, and I meditated every day.
I went early to karate class and worked with the more experienced students, refining my skills and learning new techniques.
I spent extra time at the art school, staying after class so the students could finish their drawings and projects.
I began my own artwork, drawing mandalas and pictures in a blank book I purchased.
I treated all the patients at the hospital like they were my blood relatives.
In March, I received one of my SRF lessons in the mail, and I read in the lesson the words, "If you are diligent in practicing your meditation techniques, you will begin to notice a ringing in your ears." I had been hearing the ringing noises for the past two weeks every time I meditated, and thought I had tinnitus. I was excited because I had some validation of my path.
In April, I met a young lady who became my girlfriend. Her name was Kate, and she was a professional musician and singer. We used to drive around the barrier islands in the evenings and she would sing to me as we rode the beach highway with the windblown palms on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other.
Also in April, I became the highest paid model at the art school, and the teachers contracted me for outside work at art camps and private studios. There are probably portraits and little nude statues of me all over Florida, if you know where to look.
In late May, I was at karate practice when the owner/instructor called me to the center of the dojo and told me I was ready to take my black belt test. I took my test with all my peers standing up for me, all around the dojo sending me energy. It was the hardest thing I'd ever done, combining the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects of my Self, but the Master was correct and I passed with flying colors. I was 38 years old and I got something I had wanted ever since I was a little boy.
Kate moved away in June, and that was okay. We had our brief time together and we supported each other, and it was good for us both. We loved each other enough to let go. I kissed her goodbye and she drove out of town. In July, I received a lucrative job opportunity in Louisville, Kentucky, and I moved up there in August. But that is a tale for another time.
Several years later, I look back on that time as one of the golden growth periods of my life, and whenever I feel down I think about the people I met in the hospital on that January night and the words they spoke to me. I think about how they inspired me to come out of my cave and buckle down and make something of myself. They motivated me to stay on the high road. I think about the dojo and my karate family, and I think about posing for the wild young art students and their teachers. I think about drawing in my little book and meditating at night in my candle-lit room. Buying 'special' candles and incense.
I think about Kate and her beautiful voice; the songs she sang as we drove down the island road at night.
I imagine there are several morals and lessons to this little story, and a couple of them stick out. Like 'when the going gets tough the tough get going,' or maybe 'Scorpios always get to the bottom before they can climb to the top.' That has been my experience, and I have tried to release that particular lesson.
But I believe the main truth for me is that when times are rough, if you keep faith in yourself and your God and keep your nose to the grindstone, good things will eventually come your way. You will grow and you will learn, and you can become a better person than you ever thought possible.
I know, because it happened to me. (c) Rob Jacobs 1991-1992