While in high school, he began questioning whether God existed and wondered what the purpose of his life was. Later in college, he experienced an emptiness at the core of his being that made his life seem meaningless. Little did he know that this emptiness was close to a deeper inner spaciousness that would leave him feeling profoundly fulfilled.
In this detailed and far-reaching memoir, Jacobs shares how his extensive journey eventually brings him on a path he never imagined. He grapples with the forces of fear and of faith and sees, again and again, his experiences reflected back to him as abundance and grace. Ultimately, Jacobs' seeking brings him to the understanding that God, guru, and self are one and that his true calling has always been to simply love and serve.
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The Road to Paris
It was shortly after my twenty-second birthday in March 1970 that I flew out of New York's Kennedy Airport, headed for Tel Aviv, with fifteen dollars in my pocket. My parents had no idea I had left with so little money. After landing in Tel Aviv, I easily found an office that placed young men and women on kibbutzim around Israel. I was assigned to one called Tzora, midway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
It was a forty-minute bus ride to Tzora down the highway that connects Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I was dropped on an isolated, country road that led to the kibbutz and walked the mile in with my heavy backpack, arriving in the late afternoon. Tzora was set on a wide expanse of rolling fields and orchards. On my way to the kibbutz office, I passed a cattle barn, some poultry pens, and a large area that was the living quarters for the residents.
Most of the residents of the kibbutz were Jewish expatriates from South Africa, older than I was and interested in little that was interesting to me. However, there were about fifteen men and women staying at the kibbutz from other countries — the U.S., U.K., the Netherlands, Brazil, Germany — who made life interesting. We had our meals together, worked together in the fields, and spent our evenings sharing stories of our home countries while passing around bottles of kosher wine. Some evenings a group of us hitchhiked into Tel Aviv for a night on the town. A café in Tel Aviv catered to the new hippie lifestyle and we flocked there as often as we could. I found no other such place in my time in Israel.
The kibbutz was a healthy break from my past four years stuck on an urban campus surrounded by the cold, gray ghetto of a decaying town. I enjoyed kibbutz life, getting up at four in the morning to feed the cows, working in the wide, sun-drenched fields, and setting irrigation pipes in the fields needing water. It was good physical work and I enjoyed my time with my fellow travelers but I was restless.
Something deep within me had drawn me to take this trip and Paris was my intended destination. I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to know myself and have experiences that would help me find meaning in my life. It seemed that the writers I most admired had spent time in Paris; their experiences there had transformed them and given them the direction they needed. I hoped the alchemy of living in Paris would have the same effect on me.
So, early one morning, after a month on the kibbutz, I said goodbye to my friends, grabbed my bags, and walked the mile back to the highway, where I caught a bus to Jerusalem. Before heading to Paris, I needed funds, my fifteen dollars having long since disappeared. In Jerusalem I found a labor office that placed newly-arrived immigrants. After I answered their most important question correctly — yes, I am a Jew! — I was immediately placed on a job putting up telephone wires in a new section of the city. The work was not difficult. I worked with a crew of six other immigrants from a variety of countries who did what a crew of three could have easily done. I worked there long enough to buy passage on a ship to Greece, with a bit more to last until I could find work in Europe.
Greece was beautiful and cheap and I easily got by on a few dollars a day. I roamed Athens for a week and then took a boat to Crete to explore the island. I hitchhiked across the island to a secluded beach near the town of Vai, on the far western tip, where I carved out an area for my sleeping bag and pack — my room on the beach! There was a group of travelers living there and a tiny restaurant that provided fresh meals and Greek wine. For a week I swam each day and hiked through the countryside. Nearby I found an old, whitewashed Greek Orthodox monastery built around a beautiful courtyard garden filled with flowering bushes and vines. There were only three remaining monks and they were all over eighty. I was fascinated by this beautiful spiritual refuge and found it sad that soon there would be no one left to care for this unique place.
After my week of sun and beach, I started focusing on getting to Paris. My funds were almost gone and I did not want to arrive in Paris without money so I headed to Munich to find work on a U.S. Army base. I hitchhiked through Greece, at each stop writing quotations by Samuel Beckett on traffic signs. I hoped someone would read them. I managed to hitch a ride on a slow-moving train through Austria and eventually made my way into Germany.
A cool and rainy afternoon greeted me on my arrival to Munich. I navigated my way to Schwabing, the hip student section of town near the University of Munich, one of Europe's oldest universities. There, on the wide boulevard near the University, I met a strikingly beautiful, young German woman named Signe who, seeing my backpack and hippie attire, excitedly approached me, assuming I was like one of her heroes — Jack Kerouac. I was reluctant to disappoint her so I briefly recounted my recent travels with some clever exaggerations to make me sound more Kerouac-like. Impressed, she invited me to spend the night at her apartment, where I stayed for a few days.
Being with Signe I was reminded that, along with my search for meaning, I was also searching for a kindred female. In this respect my college years had been disappointing and at times downright depressing. I longed for intimate female company but my confusion about life and my own identity somehow seemed to block what I was looking for. Most of the women I dated or spent time with at college could not relate to my persistent questioning about life, leaving me feeling the odd man out. Many of my friends seemed to easily find relationships.
Upon meeting Signe I hoped that something special would develop between us. She was fascinated by my life on the road and introduced me to her set of friends. They were also fascinated by the Beat writers and seemed to identify me with them. They were also intrigued by the new hippie lifestyle that was just coming to Europe. Signe took me to the home of two of her friends, a pair of architecture students named Kiki and Koko, who had plenty of room in their apartment and offered me a place to stay while I worked in Munich.
The four of us spent many hours together sharing our desires for interesting, exciting, and meaningful lives. They seemed to envy my freedom and my daring to travel wherever I wished. Yet, though they found my choices exciting, they were happy and secure in their university lives. It did not occur to them that they could deviate from their set paths. Again I found a gulf between myself and my friends. Somehow I was always the one who broke from the normal path and sought something different. Because of this gulf, I realized that my relationship with Signe would not go far. I was roaming a bit further off the path than most college students felt safe to go. And I recognized that my inner discontentment would make it difficult for Signe or any woman to stay with me for long if she did not share the same inner longing. I was, after all, wandering this planet because, deep within, I felt incomplete and only occasionally happy. So far life had not seemed to offer me what I needed to be truly content. I wondered what woman would want to hang out with a guy who was, at his core, so dissatisfied.
I took a job for a month at the U.S. Army base in Munich, washing dishes at the main commissary. Finally, after earning what I took to be sufficient funds, I was ready to depart for Paris. On my last night in Munich, Signe, Kiki, and Koko threw a goodbye party for me and, the next morning, drove me to the highway to see me off. It was sad saying goodbye to them. It had been great to have such good friends. I didn't know when I would again connect with such a sympathique group.
I hitchhiked for most of that day, catching one ride after another. Eventually I found myself at an intersection of highways in southern France, where I was stuck for several hours. I began to despair that I would ever get a ride. Finally, a young American driving a tiny sports car stopped and gestured wildly for me to get in. I jumped into the front seat and, as we took off, found out we were headed for Spain, not Paris. I decided this was not a time to be inflexible.
I agreed to accompany him through Barcelona and Madrid for a few days before we headed back to Paris. My new friend's name was Tom and he was a Stanford student taking his summer off to travel around Europe. He'd heard that Spain was cheap in these Franco days and was curious to see what it was like. I remembered that the writer Genet had lived in the barrios of Barcelona, which had provided inspiration for his writings. We eventually found a pension in Barcelona near the old barrios and explored the church of Gaudi. Then we found an equally cheap pension in downtown Madrid and spent a couple of nights there enjoying the food and wine. Spain was fun but Paris was on the horizon.
I don't know why I was certain that Paris would be special for me but I was not mistaken. We finally pulled into Paris on a sunny afternoon in June. Our destination was the Left Bank, the intellectual and artistic seat of Paris, where artists and writers had gathered for years. We drove into the Latin Quarter and parked our car just off the Place Saint-Michel, a block from the river Seine. Spotting a couple of Americans sitting in a cafe nearby, we joined them for a glass of wine. It was a beautiful spring day. The trees along the Boulevard Saint-Michel were in full blossom. I sat in the outdoor cafe surrounded by the sights, smells, and sounds of the Latin Quarter and the excitement of finally being in Paris took over my thoughts and feelings.
The two Americans we sat with were students from Princeton, also spending the summer in Paris. David was a tall, soft-spoken man with a warm smile and twinkling eyes. His friend Len, also outgoing and intelligent, had been crippled by a childhood bout of polio that left him wearing heavy metal leg braces and walking with crutches. His arms and shoulders were enormously strong. Both were friendly, perceptive, and open to my sense of humor, which bonded me to them immediately. David had just rented a studio apartment on a narrow cobblestone street called Rue Saint-André des Arts, a block from the Place Saint-Michel, and invited us to crash there until we found other lodgings.
David's apartment was small, with just a living room and a kitchen, but big enough for several people to sleep on the floor in sleeping bags. Within a few days, eleven of us were living in that studio apartment as more fellow travelers joined our enthusiastic group. From the start the group was international, with young men and women travelers from the U.S., the Netherlands, England, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, and Brazil. A crazy chemistry united us as we roamed the streets and neighborhoods of Paris, had picnics on the Seine, and rejoiced in the springtime vibes of Paris in its most beautiful, intoxicating season.
After two weeks in David's apartment, the landlord discovered that eleven of us were living there and evicted us. Remarkably, that same day we all found rooms at Cité Universitaire, a large complex of dormitories in the southern part of Paris built after World War II for international students. Since it was summer and school was out, rooms were readily available at low student prices. I gambled and spent the rest of what I had earned in Munich for a room in the Maison des États-Unis for the remaining three months of summer. Tom, David, Len, and others who had joined our circle also moved into rooms on the Cité grounds.
Cité Universitaire lay directly across from the sprawling and forested Parc Montsouris and was set on spacious grounds with beautiful lawns and gardens that surrounded our dormitory buildings. Several pathways ran behind the dormitories through the gardens connecting the buildings to athletic fields and cafeterias. I had a bright, spacious room in the Maison des États-Unis and, within a few days, a group of other fellow travelers was encamped in my room with their sleeping bags. The Cité dorms became a destination for young international travelers that summer and appeared to attract every interesting hippie who was visiting Paris.
Hippie culture was at its peak in the spring of 1970. Many of the travelers who converged on Paris that summer with their communal spirit of love, peace, and rock and roll sought out like-minded souls to enjoy the goodwill that flowed so easily in those days. After paying my summer's rent for my room, I had completely exhausted my funds. One of the members of our group was a Danish man named Sven who sang and played guitar. The two of us started playing together at night on one of the narrow tourist-filled streets in the Latin Quarter to make some money. Many of our group joined us there and played kazoos and simple percussive instruments to back up our music.
After playing a few nights, we found that the best way to attract a crowd was to buy a few bottles of wine early in the evening and pass them around as tourists came to see what was going on. As Sven and I started singing and playing, our friends passed around a hat, soliciting francs from appreciative and tipsy onlookers. Our repertoire was small: a couple of Dylan songs, a few by Neil Young, and a couple of cowboy songs that the French thought were very funny. We took in a lot of francs that summer just having fun. A few times the crowd around us swelled to completely block the street and the gendarmes had to come to keep the traffic moving. We performed nearly every night that summer and managed to make sure that everyone in our group had enough money for their daily meals, metro fares, and cafés au lait.
Although our nights were always group events, I began to spend some of my days by myself, exploring on foot the unique neighborhoods of Paris. I spent a lot of time in the Latin Quarter and soon became a fixture at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, run by an old American expat named George who had intimately known many of the writers I most admired — Hemingway, Joyce, and Beckett. His parlor above the bookstore had many autographed photos of the writers who used to hang out and live there and I spent hours at the store in my own studies of these writers. Across the bridge from the bookstore was the Notre-Dame Cathedral, facing the river Seine, that magnificent river that meanders through Paris, dividing it geographically and culturally into east and west banks. Along the river were walking paths dotted with bookstands, merchants selling their wares, and artists busily painting the picturesque scenes along the river.
During those months I read the works of Henry Miller and Anais Nin, who had lived and written in Paris in the 20s, and I sought out the locales they wrote about. Sitting in the parks in the Latin Quarter, I contemplated how to write of my own exploits in Paris. But I wasn't yet ready to begin writing. I was more interested in absorbing all that life in Paris had to offer. I was still unsure of what voice I would assume in writing about my experiences.
I became close friends with David and Len that summer as the three of us explored the nooks and crannies of Paris. Once again, however, I seemed to be the wildcard in our group of friends, the one who stretched the limits a little more, who took more risks than the others. It had been this way in college, where my friends marveled at how I could so flagrantly skip classes and try to live up to my idealistic visions of what life should be. For my friends these months in Paris were an adventure; for me Paris was more than just a summer vacation. I wanted it to be a way of life, one that would open up life's mysteries to me. David and Len and the rest would be returning to college after the summer, but that was not my plan.
And then there was Connie, a pretty blonde American girl also staying at the Maison des États-Unis who somehow always seemed to be there for me late at night after everyone else had gone to sleep. We would sneak into the gardens of the Cité grounds with our sleeping bags and spend the nights lovemaking under the stars. We didn't speak much to each other and during the days we rarely saw each other. But at night we fulfilled those basic human needs that were important to us, regardless of how little we really knew of each other. Our relationship that summer pretty accurately reflected my ability, or lack thereof, to relate to a woman on an intimate level. It was either sensual or intellectual but not both.
During the summer I learned that the Selective Service had drafted men up to lottery number one hundred ninety-five in the month of May but would draft no further. I had escaped it by five. I no longer had to worry about Vietnam and was no longer subject to the draft. I was immensely relieved.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Journey to the Awakened Heart"
Copyright © 2018 Robert Jacobs.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1 The Outer Journey,
Chapter 1 The Road to Paris, 1,
Chapter 2 The Heart of Africa: Sierra Leone, 11,
Chapter 3 Morocco, 21,
Chapter 4 Communauté de l'Arche, 33,
Chapter 5 The Silk Road: Traveling Central Asia, 41,
Chapter 6 India, 51,
Chapter 7 Morocco Revisited, 73,
Part 2 The Inner Journey,
Chapter 8 Arica, 83,
Chapter 9 Guruji, 89,
Chapter 10 Ashram, 97,
Chapter 11 Ashram in India, 103,
Chapter 12 My Dark Night, 111,
Chapter 13 My Expansion, 115,
Chapter 14 Mahasamadhi, 119,
Chapter 15 Miraji, 125,
Chapter 16 Law, 131,
Chapter 17 Return to Navsari, 135,
Chapter 18 Transition, 139,
Part 3 The Journey Home,
Chapter 19 Marriage, 147,
Chapter 20 Family and Law, 153,
Chapter 21 Healing, 159,
Chapter 22 Further Guidance, 165,
Chapter 23 God, Guru, and Self are One, 171,
Chapter 24 Twin Flames, 175,
Chapter 25 New Intentions, 179,