Prince William, second in line to the British throne, slept in a cold alley in central London recently to highlight the plight of homeless British teenagers.
“I cannot, after one night, even begin to imagine what it must be like to sleep rough on London streets night after night,” William said.
The story reminded me how in the winter of 1956, as a reporter on the Victoria Daily Colonist, I was assigned to live for a month like an old age pensioner. I wrote a series of articles on what it was like to subsist on approximately $50 a month. In an early column, for example, I wrote, “After getting advice from housewives, nutrition experts and pensioners I’m going to see if I can live for less than one dollar a day on food, eggs, cheese and cereal.”
The plight of the poor and homeless is sad indeed. But it is possible to be “homeless” even though we live in material comfort if we are unaware of the truth of our existence — unaware of the freedom and happiness and peace that already exists at the core of our being.
As long as we search for these things in the external world we are doomed to frustration and futility.
At a certain critical point in my life, when I was about 23 or 24, I had the great good fortune of finding a mentor who exemplified for me the truth that I had been seeking so earnestly ever since I was a teenager.
The name of my mentor was Martin. I trusted him from the moment I first met him. Words were not necessary, in a way. He carried a presence that was palpable and that I felt the moment he got out of his chair to greet me.
I loved what he represented so much that I gave up my life in the external world — including my job at the Daily Colonist – including my boat — to join the spiritual community he had founded some years earlier in the interior of B.C.
I was a member of the community for 35 years. I believed it was home — and would always be home.
But then the unthinkable happened. Martin died, and the community collapsed.
I embarked upon a painful and difficult transition, with no option but to prove for myself the truth Martin portrayed for so many years. (Didn’t he tell us many times not to depend on him, not to put him on a pedestal?)
I find it is a journey that never ends.
But I find it is also very simple. All I have to do is to be still. And in that moment of stillness – there it is. Freedom. Happiness. Wisdom. The awareness of the unchanging, timeless presence that is the true home and destiny of us all.