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Lions Roar : November 2016
He pointed out the calculations and quadrants that con- firmed this. “‘Diligence’ in the sense of doing one’s duty?” “Yes,” he said, and began explaining every scribble, but to someone who was no longer listening. I knew that diligence was the quality that the Buddha had urged on his disciples in his final breath. But the Royal Astrolo- ger wasn’t a Buddhist, and nor was I. To me, the word smacked of Boy Scout badges and “to do” lists. “I think,” he went on, perhaps sensing our disappointment, “that every month, on the day of the full moon, you should meditate for an hour. And eat no meat all day.” This sounded like the kind of thing my father would say. He’d been a vegetarian all his life and was full of talk of the virtues of stilling the mind and fasting so as to access a deeper wisdom. I negotiated the sage down to fifteen minutes a month and a day without meat, and we filed out. MY FOUR MONTHS WANDERING amidst the conundrums of Asia changed my life more irreversibly than I could have imagined. I went to California to write up my adventures, and when my seven-month leave of absence was over, and I returned to New York City, I knew I could never survive in an office now that I had such a rich sense of how the world could stretch my sense of possibility in every direction. While writing up my droll account of the magicians of Kathmandu—and the others I’d met across the continent—I’d remembered to keep an eye out for the full moon and had sat still for a few minutes once a month, restricting myself for one day every thirty to Panang vegetable curries. It hadn’t seemed to hurt. So now I served notice to my bosses at Time, packed up my things in the elegant office overlooking another 50th Street high-rise, emptied my eleventh-floor apartment on Park Ave- nue South, and moved to a small room on the backstreets of Kyoto without toilet or telephone or, truth be told, visible bed. As I was settling into my cell, on my twentieth week in Japan, I found a letter in my mailbox downstairs. It was from Kristin, in New York. Her father had died suddenly the previous year, she told me. She’d been distraught, hadn’t known where to turn or how to get her longing out, so she’d taken to her desk. Every night, while everyone around her slept, she’d typed— and typed and typed. When her novel was finished, she’d sent it out to publishers. Within hours, Random House had signed her up for a six-figure sum, and by now rights had been sold in a dozen countries around the world; she and her friends were spinning a globe as the number mounted. At twenty-six, she seemed assured of a glorious future. She’d rolled a double six again. A few weeks later, I walked, as I did every Wednesday after- noon, to the little shop across from Kyoto University that Kristin reeled through the bars of the old city, being chatted up by self-styled mystics, before fumbling back to the Hotel Eden. I’d take off a little later to record the bearded sages on the streets peddling every brand of cross-cultural wisdom. LION’S ROAR | NOVEMBER 2016 39