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Vagabond Tales

in search of light and life

A Spiritual Journey from author Pleasant DeSpain

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I see it now. This world is swiftly passing.
~The warrior Karna from the Mahabharata~

VAGABOND MOVES FROM PLACE to place, going wherever impulse leads. The word’s origin is from the Latin word vagary, to wander. A restless soul, I’ve wandered nearly my entire life, visited thirty-seven countries, lived in eight US states, and created home and hearth thirty-nine times. I’ve explored most of the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central America and Thailand. A true vagabond, I’ve usually traveled alone, with a mission to seek and find. My lasting treasures, discovered throughout my travels, are traditional and true stories of near and far.

Along the way, I helped create the modern profession of storyteller who makes a living sharing stories, old and new, made-up and true, aloud to listeners of most any age and enriching imaginations.

Along the way, I discovered meditation, going deeply within, and transcending our three-dimensional existence.

Along the way, I’ve met and befriended hundreds of like-minded souls. I’ve questioned the reasons people are born in these bodies, belong to a specific family, or grow up in Western or Eastern culture. I’ve always wanted to know how to best evolve as a human being, being human, and perhaps like you, I continue to seek answers to many eternal questions.

What is the role of karma in my everyday life?
What is free in free will?
Do I live many lives, perpetually searching for answers?
Is happiness an illusion?
Must I find my soul mate to feel complete?
Is suffering a requirement of enlightenment?
What’s the story here?

I don’t have the answers for everyone, nor should I. Your truths are as hard won as mine. My goal is to share my experiences. If you find a kindred spirit within these tales, let’s smile together, realizing once again, we are never alone on our quest for light and life.

Thus, during the autumn of 1943, in the city of Denver, Colorado, I was born into this body. I inhaled deeply and let out a loud cry… the beginning of hardship, joy, and discovery.

[Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.]

~ ~ ~

BIRTH: Chapter One

A child is born

on the day and hour

when the celestial rays of light

are in mathematical

harmony with his

or her karma.

~Sri Yukteswar~

The Story


Long ago in the fabled city of Alexandria, a young king gathered his philosophers, architects, scientists, and artists in the grand and resplendent throne room. “Travel throughout the world,” he proclaimed as he stretched out his arms. “Gather knowledge and bring it back to me. I wish to rule wisely.”

Twenty years passed before the scholars returned with their discoveries and prepared their presentation in the royal palace. The number of books, artworks, specimens, and exhibits overwhelmed the middle-aged king.

“Ruling the kingdom takes much time and energy.” He sighed and shook his head. “Condense this knowledge into a single volume. Then I’ll read it and obtain the wisdom I seek.”

Working day and night, his scholars required twenty more years to complete the project. Finally, they presented the aged king a heavy, leather-bound book containing hundreds of pages, inked on both sides.

The king received it with gladness, as well as sadness. “I’m old and tired and my legs no longer support me. My breath is short, and my eyes are weak. Bring me the storyteller.”

Soon the teller of tales arrived and kneeled in front of the throne.

“Read this immense book, then come back and tell me the story,” said the king. “I want the wisdom of the world before I die.”

A week later, the storyteller returned to the palace and was led to the royal bedroom. Sitting on a simple wooden stool next to the bed, he told the frail king his tale. “My king, people are born, and they live. They learn and love along the way. They experience sorrow. They know joy. Some die young. Like you, many grow old before dying. Then once again, my king… they are born.”

Moments after the tale was told and silence reigned in the room, the king passed away with a contented smile on his face.

~ ~ ~

The Pool

April 1983, San Diego, California

truly believe we arrive on this earth with a karmic story, a heavy weight on our hearts. For a fortunate few, it isn’t a burden. For most of us, it’s a necessary hardship.

On a blistering, Southern California afternoon, eight adults, women and men, were in the shallow end of a backyard swimming pool in the suburbs. I was nearly 40 years old and wearing a Speedo. We practiced “connected breathing,” a difficult breath form requiring months of supervised experience in preparation for Rebirthing. You learn to connect both the inhalation and exhalation in a circular breath.

Four of us hoped to relive our actual births in this life. We would have been naked but for the neighbor’s sight lines. Rebirthing is better without clothing.

Stephanie was one of four breath coaches. I’d worked with her for a year, refining my connected breathing in an attempt to understand several mysteries of my current incarnation and resolve them. We both concluded I was ready for the final push—my birth experience.

Stephanie cradles my body in her strong arms, holding me so only my face remains above the sun-warmed water. I inhale a long, smooth breath to the count of seven heartbeats, and then exhale to seven more. At the bottom of each breath release, I begin the next inhale.

This breath form takes you out of your everyday existence. With clear intention, you can discover answers to complicated, personal questions. It’s hard work, which requires focus, effort and a strong will. After ten to fifteen minutes, the breath takes over. Your breath breathes you rather than you doing the breathing. The release from the body, like an effortless detachment from three-dimensional reality, happens spontaneously, without drama. Breath carries consciousness to a larger dimension of your whole self, often dealing with the stated intention for the session. Your intentions need be clear, wise, solid, and true. It’s a powerful and potentially dangerous practice, but with power comes risk, and with risk, there must be trust.

I trust Stephanie. She holds me close as I breathe consciously, over and over. Aware of being safe in her arms, suspended in the womb-warm water, I leave my physical being and travel to a place of complete surrender.

I’m lying in a canoe tethered to shore with a long, ever-expanding rope. I’m safe in these waters, pushing forward. Every cell rejoices in the freedom of flowing beyond my body. I’m alive!

Stephanie speaks softly. “All right, Pleasant?”

“Right.” It is right.

My intention floats into an awareness of my birth. Without pause, I’m in a different time and space. My body is gone. I’m in the State of Soul, completely aware. I’m not alone. Inundated by light, five guardians surround me—male and female, young and old, their bodies translucent. We’re on a shelf of light high above Earth. Energy builds within. I’m returning to another life on Earth. Feelings of intense joy overwhelm me, but I’m confident.

“I’m ready. Let’s go, let’s go!” I hear myself say. I have no fear. Progress lay ahead.

My loving guides shower me with light. The lead guardian, male in form and feeling, whispers, “Your time is close. There will be difficulties. The road ahead is not easy. You’re strong. Remember your goal. You will never be alone. We are with you, always.”

The five embrace me with love. An electric current pulses throughout my being. My soul spirals down, down, toward our planet.

My physical body reacts in the pool as I wrap my arms tightly around my chest until I can hardly breathe. I feel a massive constriction along with a head-first, downward movement. I’m being born, fully aware of what’s happening.

I’m thrilled, filled with energy and hope. The moment I’m pulled from my mother’s body, my arms open wide in the pool. I re-experience my first inhalation, Inspiritus, taking spirit into my new existence.

The older male doctor hands me to a nurse and says, “He’s small, but has all the right parts.”

The nurse cleans my new body with a rough cloth, and then places me in my mother’s arms. I grow cold but feel my mother’s warm, welcome, unbounded love.

My father isn’t at the hospital. I sense his disappointment in me since he was expecting a daughter. My brother had been born the year before. My father’s disappointment will grow, culminating in a murderous rage many years later. That, however, is another story.

My awareness begins to fade. I cry out. “Aaaaiiee…”

“Good lungs,” says the doctor.

My new life, karma included, had begun.

~ ~ ~