At the last moment, I turned right instead of driving straight. “I think we should have some really clean food instead,” I said as I headed down the road to one of our other favorite places. Within a few minutes, we were already there.
The manager greeted us warmly and loudly. You know that comedy show, “Cheers”? Kind of like that, but instead of this place being packed with beer-bellied Republicans, it catered more to the very far Left. Very far.
As we placed our orders, my husband looked at the women on the couch next to ours. “Oh, what a cute dog,” he said. The woman was wearing an almost see-through long skirt, and a knitted hat. “He assists with healing,” she said.
She must have seen the perplexed look on my face, and she began to explain. “He works with cancer patients sometimes, or whatever is needed,” she said. “He takes on the energy of the person he is healing. I named him Buddha,” she added as an afterthought. My husband chuckled and replied, “yes, of course,” half-joking.
I asked the woman about her work. “I’m actually a nun,” she said. “Well, not really – a Swami in the Tibetan lineage, from a specific area in the Himalayas. Soon I’ll be a Parmahansa, and then a Llama after that. Well, maybe. I haven’t decided.”
“Wow, that’s amazing!” I replied. I had no idea it was so “easy” to become a Llama, as it were.
The nun changed subjects somewhat. “I think there may be a big earthquake coming, and my mother is freaking out about that. It’s true, I did predict 9/11 months before it happened,” she said. I kept dreaming about plane crashes. My friends dismissed me as nuts.” She looked vindicated in a way.
At that moment, a friend we knew from our dance class walked in the restaurant. She was in from New York, and we thought we’d missed the chance to say goodbye before she went back. I suddenly remembered my “moment of insight” when I decided to come here rather than the other restaurant, and at the same time I knew this was why the nun’s story interested me so much – life is so much richer when it is lived in the world of possibility rather than the world of the acceptable or “normal”.
While my friend and I chatted, the nun just sat and watched us, eating her food. After my friend left, I told the nun a little about our dance classes.
Her face lit up. “Oh, I dance everyday,” she replied. “I used to be a ballet dancer, you see.” Ha, a Parmahansa ballerina! What a curious mental image that produced.
I asked her about her hair, because I know that many monks and nuns shave as their religion requires. She took of her hat, and she was completely bald underneath. “It’s not required of me anymore, now that I’m a Swami,” she said, “but it’s easier to keep like this anyway!” Hair or not, she still looked nice, which made me wonder something else.
“What about having a boyfriend?” I asked.
“Sure,” she replied, “it’s okay as long as you’re a Parmahansa and he is a priest in the same order. When you teach, your boyfriend must also be a teacher,” she explained. That made sense to me.
As we finished our food and asked for the check, our nun started on a new topic. “I grew up on a cattle farm…” she began, and all at once the absurdity of it all hit me. Here she was, a Parmahansa ballerina, predicting 9/11 but not the big earthquake, with a mother who is paranoid and who raised her on a cattle farm, whose dog heals the sick, and who wears sheer skirts in freezing cold weather.
We got up to leave, and she invited us to come to the temple to see her. “I teach classes there, you should stop by!” she said. We hugged our new friend and then made our way to the car.
As we rode toward home, we speculated what it would be like to create an entire new teaching lineage. Maybe you could begin as a Llama, and then as time went on you would lose rank, let your hair grow, get a boyfriend, and then… eventually you get to enlightenment and completely release from the self! California is amazing!