Story 1: Can you be enlightened too young?
Updated: Feb 6, 2022
My father had started me in Aikido classes with the first teacher to bring it from Japan (Shuji Maruyama). Aikido is a form of martial art (judo, karate), but it uses the mind to flow "Ki" energy. So this was my first exposure to Ki and to meditation.
My spiritual curiosity was enlivened by this experience. I would read any books I could find on Buddhism–Zen in particular. I remember reading D.T. Suzuki when I was 13. My young mind couldn't grasp much of it, but I became keenly interested in experiencing something referred to as enlightenment.
I started practicing my own brand of Zen quite intensely. Of course, I didn't have a teacher, so I would take up what practices I could understand from the books I was reading. I spent hours each day bringing my mind to the present moment, always returning to it, again and again, similar to the mindfulness practice of today.
The park was my second home. It was a place to ponder, walk deep into the woods, and perhaps meditate by the stream - classic Zen stuff!
Being an intense seeker at an early age has disadvantages, especially if no one knows you're into such things. Not that I was a loner, I had a lot of friends, but being an only child, I was okay with alone-time.
By the time I was fifteen, I had enough spiritual practice to open my mind to spiritual ideas. Still, my heart was innocent and inexperienced at personal love. As a result, I wasn't well equipped to process a meltdown of the heart.
Enlightenment at fifteen is radical. But, looking behind me now, I would have given back the experience...if I could.
My enlightenment experience was triggered by a breakup from my first true love, a young girl who, for some reason, took a liking to a shy and introverted kid like myself. However, it wasn't meant to be, and the news from her that she had found someone else, well, it was devastating.
I was despondent, hurt, and confused, and was too young to be able to process so much emotion.
Angrily I took off on my