One of my favorite childhood memories, besides being ignorant of the very existence of stupers (short, once more, for earnestly stupid persons) recalls visits to a breathtakingly beautiful and serene sanctuary. This Shangri-La showcased a swan-laden lake, flanked by soft pathways winding around lush green gardens sheltering fragrant, multi-hued flowers. Did I mention the quaint windmill chapel? The gurgling waterfalls?
The Self-Realization Fellowship and Lake Shrine is a haven that welcomes people of all faiths, promoting quiet introspection and appreciation, as well as escape from the raw frets of everyday life and exasperating bouts with stupidity. The Center is to seekers of harmony and tranquility what Las Vegas is to chain-smoking, whiskey-toting, greasy-pawed gamblers.
Fast-forward a few decades.
Husband, Son #2 and I happened to be in Los Angeles, near the Shrine. We paid a visit. It was even more stunningly picturesque than I remembered. I felt a major comforting, spiritual vibe.
A few months later, Husband and I once again paid the Shrine a visit. We arrived at 4:15 p.m. on a gorgeous Saturday.
“Sorry,” said the nice, droopy mustached, parking lot gatekeeper. “I can’t you let in. We close in fifteen minutes.”
“You close at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon during the summer?” I asked just to make sure we understood each other.
“We close at 4:30 everyday,” the sweet, young man declared with a friendly grin.
Two days later, on Monday, we returned in the late morning hours. They were closed. The gates are locked every Monday.
Several months after that, I happened to be in the vicinity and tried again, persistent seeker of peace that I am, toting Mom and Son #2. I gingerly drove into the parking lot on a bright Saturday, around noon. The very pleasant gatekeeper waved one hand in greeting while the other displayed a large sign like this,
“We’re having a special event today,” he graciously announced.
“So you’re closed?” I asked, with little surprise and several tons of annoyance.
“Only the parking lot is closed. You’re still welcome to visit,” he laughingly explained. “Just go out the driveway, make a right, then make another left on the first street on your left and there should be parking two or three blocks down.”
This is the part where I tell my dear readers that I did a donut with my car in the freshly asphalted, ample-size Shrine parking lot, but alas, I did not. My highly impressionable teen for whom I must perpetually set a good example sat in my vehicle, as well as Mom, who probably would have enjoyed the amateur automotive theatrics. By the way, there were plenty of empty spaces in the lot.
For those of you unfamiliar with Southern California, permit me to explain why I would not and could not park up the street or anywhere outside of the Shrine grounds. The Shrine is located on Sunset Boulevard on a blind corner. Sunset, at times, is the rough equivalent of the German Autobahn. It’s true; I sought peace, but I did not want to rest in peace just yet. Crossing Sunset without benefit of traffic lights or police escort was on my never to do list.
A soothing mecca should be readily available to the spiritually needy. Otherwise, what’s the point? This slice of paradise in the city was not easily accessible by the proletariat or anyone overloaded by stress. But more importantly for now, what is my point?
In modern times and throughout human history, a struggle has existed between humans, their activities, desires and ambitions. Why the struggle? Because most of us seek answers outside of ourselves. Of course, stupers don’t even seek answers. But the rest of us do. I felt I needed to be in a particular setting to find harmony. But peace of mind is something that already exists within each of us.
Mental tranquility can’t be won over by brief or superficial efforts. We need to weed out bitter thoughts on a regular basis and plant loving ones instead. Then we create our own lush gardens that follow us wherever we go.
Think only the best thoughts.