Pilgrimage to Sturgis: Epilogue

Pilgrimage to Sturgis: Epilogue

Written by B. Jan Montana

The next morning, I rolled over, kissed Melody on the cheek, and told her that I felt the need to hit the road.

“I know,” she said, “you’re a rolling stone. Truth be told, that works for me as well as I start my nursing residency on Monday.”

After packing my gear, I enjoyed a long, leisurely breakfast with Melody’s family and, once they arrived, the folks from the senior home. We parted ways with best wishes and hugs.

Although I’d planned to take the byways, I ended up taking the interstate. Once I’d turned my iron steed west, it just wanted to make a beeline for the barn. We arrived home in a few of days after an uneventful ride.

As I was unpacking, I came across a piece of paper jammed into the pocket of my tank bag. It was a hand-out the Bhagwan had given each of us – a single sheet titled, “The First 10 Steps to Emancipation”:

1. Like snowflakes, each of us is unique.
2. Although snowflakes can transform into ice, water, and vapor, their essence is eternal – as is ours – so we need not fear death as it is only a change of form.
3. As flowing water never becomes snagged on rocks or branches, so our enlightenment must not get snagged on fears, circumstances, desires, emotions, or thoughts.
4. We must control our thoughts as a canal controls water, for thoughts govern feelings, which inform choices and behavior, which determine health, wealth, and happiness.
5. Never fear that which we can’t control; it wastes energy which could be used productively.
6. Happiness is a decision, not a coincidence or consequence.
7. An attitude of gratitude fosters a state of bliss.
8. Love yourself as those you hold in the highest esteem; they are only human too.
9. If your life is no longer of value to you, use it in the service of others.
10. The Creator speaks in a very quiet voice which can be heard only by a still mind, so meditate often, breathe mindfully, and follow your heart.

I sat back and pondered these 10 steps, then pinned them to the wall of my bathroom. I wanted them to be someplace where I’d likely read them every day. I did, until they were memorized. Then I read them till they were part of my consciousness.

When friends told me about the difficulties they were experiencing in life, I’d engage and expand them in an effort to help. For example, when a friend reached middle age, he was particularly disturbed by the prospect of death. #2 came to mind. After a few beers in a saloon on the beach, I walked him to the shoreline, dipped an empty beer glass into the water and asked, “What’s the difference between the water in this glass and the water in the ocean?”

He looked at me quizzically, then answered acerbically, “Nothing of course.”

“You think this is a ridiculous question, don’t you? Let me ask you another one. What’s the difference between a soul contained in a body and a soul returned to its source?”

He didn’t respond, but months later, he told me this analogy had really helped him.

On another occasion, a friend got upset over what he felt was a looming recession. #5 came to mind.

“Let’s assume that it’s inevitable, Ralph. What can you do about it?”

“Absolutely nothing, that’s what’s driving me mad.”

“So why don’t you take your family for a vacation before it hits? At least you’ll have some nice memories to look back on.”

His fears were justified: the economy tanked, along with his business, and he had to declare bankruptcy. But his family had enjoyed a wonderful camping vacation in the National Parks which braced and bonded them for the difficulties which followed. Years later, even his kids thanked me.

Thank the Bhagwan, I thought to myself; I’m just the parrot.

I went out with a girl who seemed to have a serious self-esteem problem. It came to a head one night as we were watching Jeopardy. I was always good at it and answered most of the questions correctly.

“You’re so smart and I’m so stupid,” she exclaimed as she stomped into the kitchen in frustration.

I followed her and asked, “Do you remember that angry customer in your drugstore last week? I don’t know what you told him, but after you talked for a while, I saw you hug him, and he walked out with a smile on his face. I know you think nothing of this, but that takes tremendous talent. How many other people do you know who can do that?”

She thought for a moment and smiled.

“Don’t you think that’s a much more valuable talent than being able to answer trivia questions?”

She smiled again.

#1 came to mind, so I added, “Everyone is unique and has different strengths and weaknesses. Let me give you another example. It looked easy on TV, so I thought I’d put some paneling up on a feature wall of my house. I assumed the walls, ceiling and floor would be square. They weren’t, so there were big gaps when I was done. I had to call my brother, who is a superb carpenter, to come over and fix it. It’s a good thing we all have different talents, don’t you think?”

She gave me a hug.

Spreading the Bhagwan’s wisdom to others has been fulfilling and rewarding.

After her residency, Melody moved from South Dakota to Florida. She said she never again wanted to experience a prairie winter. We corresponded for a few months, but when she fell in love with a radiologist, she said it would be inappropriate for her to stay in touch with a former lover. Although it stung me, I knew she was right. I thanked her for introducing me to the Bhagwan and the delightful experiences we’d shared together.

Her parents told me the following summer that a fall wedding was planned. They had a child the year after. I stayed at her parents’ cabins during several subsequent Black Hills motorcycle rallies and spent as much time there as at the rally itself.  That’s because I was able to talk the renegades into staying there also. It was hilarious to watch them interact with the seniors in the saloon. Seemed like some of them were cut from the same rebellious cloth. I even worked the bar again, which earned me free drinks and accommodations in Melody’s former bedroom.

I rode past Belle Fourche one day to visit the Bhagwan. When I got to the site of his Airstream, there was nothing there. I was told by a nearby farmer that he’d returned to India. He didn’t know if or when the Bhagwan would return. I was profoundly disappointed.

I never saw him again, but am grateful that he inspired me to shake my childhood conditioning and start me on the road to reprogramming myself. There are many more steps on that road, but once I was headed in the right direction, I picked up speed. All during this journey, I’ve endeavored to make my life as fruitful as his to those who are receptive to his wisdom.


This series began in Issue 143, has appeared consecutively in every issue following, and concludes here.

Header image courtesy of Pexels.com/Djordje Petrovic. Image of couple saying goodbye courtesy of Pexels.com/cottonbro studio.

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