1978, a man I had known for three days, and had grown to trust,
pulled out a gun and shot me four times. As a student of perennial
philosophy and psychology, and as a lifelong pacifist, I was forced
to question every belief I had.
had believed that I was intuitive. But I did not even suspect
his evil intent. I believed that I would live forever. But looking
down the barrel of his gun, I knew that I would die. I believed
that life had some purpose for me, and although I didn’t
know what it was, I was certain that my destiny lay ahead. I had
never considered the possibility that my destiny was to be killed
by a gunman in the middle of the wilderness. When death looks
you in the face and welcomes you with open arms, all beliefs are
placed face up on the table.
had always believed that we are more than our bodies, and that
our true nature is Spirit. This belief proved itself to be true
as I rose up and out of my body. I felt the spark of light I call
my “self” shining – as a bright sphere of consciousness,
encompassing my crumpled body, my assassin, the van we were in,
and the plants and earth surrounding us. Beliefs dropped away,
irrelevant from that vantage point, as the truth of light and
love overwhelmed all worldly concerns.
I realized that I wasn’t dead, that I had survived being
shot in the head, I found a faith that transcends mere beliefs.
This faith is more akin to trust – that there are forces
beyond us that protect us, that we have a destiny that is stronger
than bullets or wounds, and that love, and not violence, is the
answer to our ills, to our woes, and to our problems.
the years and decades that have passed since that moment, I have
taken it upon myself to study the very nature of beliefs, of the
mind, of consciousness itself. I now understand that beliefs act
like colored filters over our eyes, coloring our experience of
the world by interpreting what actually happens. These filters
can be changed, but only if we are aware that they exist.
beliefs bring structure to my world. If I believe that a person
is beautiful, I can see their beauty shining, regardless of their
appearance. If I believe that there is something wrong with them,
I notice their flaws. If I believe I’m not smart enough,
an authority sounds logical and wise. If I trust myself, I can
question that same authority.
is as if our world is made from our beliefs. When I try on other
people’s beliefs, step into their shoes, and see their world
through their filters, I understand their point of view. I feel
our connection. I am filled with compassion and love. They are
just like me. What makes us different is simply our beliefs.
destiny changed on the day I was shot, as did my beliefs. After
30 years of exploration, I believe more than ever that we are
here to love one another, to understand one another, and to bring
our own individual, unique, and precious light into this world.
400 Upper Road
San Rafael, CA 94903
Note: The full story of this incident, “A Shot in the Light,”
was published in the book “I Thought My Father Was God…
and other true tales from NPR’s National Story Project,”
edited by Paul Auster.
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