|When I was 10, I found myself at loose
ends in Barbers Book Store in Fort Worth. My family was on one of its irregular
shopping trips to the city from the series of small towns in West Texas where my childhood
took place. These were the days before everything was available everywhere, certainly not
in Sweetwater, Goodlet, Canadian, Dalhart, Dublin, and the like. Off wed go to Fort
Worth (Dallas, though only 30 miles farther to the east was hardly a western city and was
entirely out of the question) to stock up on clothes and whatever else was needed.
Id be given some money, ten dollars as I recall, having demonstrated repeatedly that
I was trustworthy, and left to my own devices. Which meant bookstore and movie.
These were also the days when a child could be safely left to wander
about an American downtown. On this particular day when I was 10, I was looking in sorrow
at the Hardy Boys shelf at Barbers, aware that I had read my way through Franklin W.
Dixons rather sizeable output. Nearby, Nancy Drew also offered nothing new. And I
was way past the Bobbsey Twins. Long West Texas nights with nothing but staticky radio
broadcasts loomed ahead. I needed books.
Memory is blank about how long and where I browsed in the
store but then provides a crystal-sharp image: Im standing in front of a shelf
containing a long row of small hardbacks, uniformly bound in a cheap, dull purplish blue
cotton, with titles and an odd triangular symbol in gold on their spines. I pull one out,
leaf through it, pull another, leaf through it, and buy both.
A long way from Franklin W. Dixon, and a long where from
here. The books, which are in front of me now, still, were "Hatha Yoga" and
"Yoga Philosophy," put out by the Yoga Publication Society in London.
Ive often wondered what words in the few pages I
looked at spoke to that strangely hungry ten-year-old Texas boy. I wish I could say that I
rushed back to Muleshoe or Bracketville or Round Rock or wherever and immediately read
them through and re-read them. That didnt happen. I tried, but could not make sense
of them. But, on all my familys many subsequent moves and my own wanderings since,
the books have never been far away. And I always knew where they were. At a certain age, I
did finally read them. And then many more like them. And even began to put what I read
What follows here is the rather surprising place where that
West Texas boy wound up, and what he wound up with, which is, I suppose, a kind of Texas
Tao. The path, which has its most readily identifiable starting point at that bookshelf in
Barbers, has allowed me to develop a kind of practice, a meditation technique, a
mental discipline, perhaps even a non-sectarian mode of prayerwhatever you want to
call itwhich is in ways I dont clearly understand a distillation, or better, a
late American emulation of pages, paths, and practices which began that day in Fort Worth.
Nothing new here. Old wine, new bottles, thats all.
But is the mockingbirds song any less beautiful for being unoriginal? I can only
hope not, while trusting that the slight variations I have worked into these ancient ideas
can perhaps make them just a bit more accessible and useful now, at a time when, immersed
in greed, intolerance, and rampant reductive materialism, we seem to need them more than
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