Living A Conscious Life, Part IV
The Adventures of Aviva- or is it The Perils of Pauline?!

-by Aviva Snyder

Hola (Hello) to readers of the Way Fourth !

It is your traveling correspondent Aviva writing to you all after a long two-year growth period. In my last entry I described my idyllically sweet life in Ajijic, Mexico. If you can remember back that far, I was following my life’s healing work: doing massage work, holding energy workshops and lecturing at the Spiritual Center. The sun shone brightly on this student of earth school. But just when you think you have it all dialed in, your path can take a sudden and dramatic change. I was offered the job of a lifetime – back in California.

I was to finally come out of my psychic closet and be the resident energy worker at a company in San Francisco. I was to do readings on the company and the personnel for the CEO, as well as aid in the hiring of new employees, and even teach those interested in bringing their own psychic powers to light. The salary was super and the stock options appealing. Of course I accepted, of course, wouldn’t anyone? But being privileged (?) to see glimpses of the future I caught sight of a problem. In my pre-trip meditations I clearly saw a female energy whose intention was to burst my bubble. Nevertheless, during several international phone conversations with my new employer I was assured that everyone was just “thrilled” I was coming. Putting my concerns on the back burner (money can blur the most profound premonitions), I drove out of my haven of Ajijic exactly one year from the date I had left California the year before.

For those of you who read my second Way Fourth entry, and know of the drama that surrounded my journey to Mexico, my trip back to the United States will not disappoint.

Yes, there was another “adventure” that began only nine hours into my trip. Just before dusk, my car skidded off a rain-slick railroad crossing at 65 miles an hour. All four tires blew out, the oil pan of the car was demolished, and the car came to rest on the precipice of a giant pit. Two naked tire rims held my poor little car from crashing head first into the abyss. Almost two years later I still remember that bone-chilling moment when I looked down into that rocky grave and suddenly thought that I would never again eat Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. But my angel held the car on its perch until a bevy of helpful Mexican men lassoed my little car and pulled it back on solid ground.

Of course, as a student of earth school, making dumb decisions is my job. The particular mistake of this moment was my refusal to be driven to the nearest refuge – the town of Saltillo an hour’s drive away. Being a stupid-human-materialist-gringa, I opted to stay with my poor little damaged car and wait for the promised tow truck. Ah, what fools these mortals be!! Of course you already know there would be no tow truck that evening; and that I would be stranded in the dead of night by the side of the road, sitting in my tire-less little car. And of course the rain would come down harder and harder, accompanied by great bolts of lightening and huge claps of thunder.

Was it when that strange man came out of the woods and banged on my window that I decided to look for a place to hide? He was dressed in tattered clothes; one dirt-encrusted hand covered his mouth. His flat eyed vacant stare sent fear shooting through my body, as he pressed his face against the window. Or was it later when the roar of the thunder and the bolts of lightening came closer and closer together, as I gripped the steering wheel, wracking my brain trying to remember if not having rubber on my tires would make my car a better target for lightening? The time sequence has been lost to me now, nearly two years later, but the one impression that has stayed with me was the smell of my own fear that choked me as I realized that I was truly in a very unsafe position.

Having been a self defense teacher for eighteen years, the whole situation reeked of danger: I was alone on a deserted Mexican road, in the dead of night, sitting in a disabled car with US license plates, loaded to the ceiling with visible possessions. As I stumbled out of the car my one thought was to find a place to hide from the lightening and from any would-be thieves. Perhaps there would be a railroad car on the tracks near the crossing; even the prospect of a cave would have appealed to me at that moment.

The rain was relentless, and the dirt around my car had turned to thick wet mud. I took two steps and tripped over a rock hidden under the mud. Bleeding from cuts on both knees and my hands, I wildly looked around and saw flickering candlelight coming from a small glass-enclosed building on the other side of a ravine. I waded through the mud, down through the now water-filled ravine, and up the other side in the direction of the light. It occurred to me that the light might be a mirage brought on by the shock from the accident. Or perhaps, I remember thinking, I was already dead and this was the light I’d heard so much about. But lo and behold, as I inched closer I could make out two real glass doors. The doors opened easily as I pushed against them.

The room was dry and warm with six candles on a small cement altar. Two statues looked down at me. One looked like a spiffy, young Jesus (I found out later it was Saint Judas), and the other was the Virgin of Guadalupe. I was in a chapel, complete with a kneeler and cement walls and floor. It was probably only about 8x6 feet but it seemed huge in comparison to the cramped quarters of my car. I sat on the kneeler and checked out my wounds. Blood was running out of my torn jeans at my knees, and the palms of my hands looked as though they’d been put through a meat grinder. I knew I had to clean the cuts. So off I went back to my car to get my water bottle and first aid kit. Eventually I made four trips to the car during the next few hours for blankets, pillows, a change of clothes, and food that I had packed for the trip.

The hours that I spent in the little chapel – this place of remembrance for all the drivers that had in fact crashed and died in the pit – were an amazing combination of abject fear and sweet surrender. After I tended my wounds, I dosed myself with tons of vitamins and Chinese medicinal herbs, to ward off all of the diseases I was sure were embedded in my wounds. Finally I pulled myself together enough to pray and meditate. I found myself reciting a famous psalm. The more I chanted it, the more the pictures came, fast and furious: “The Lord is my shepherd…He maketh me lie down in green pastures” (the meadow I found in an abandoned seminary where I first learned how to meditate), “He leadeth me beside the still waters” (Lake Chapala in Mexico).

When I got to the part of the psalm about not fearing death I had to think about that. I decided it wasn’t death per se that I was worried about; rather, it was the fashion of my death that frightened me. To die lying in my bed, with my loved ones all around me, was one thing, but to have one’s throat cut on the side of a road was totally something else. At this point I thought that it would be a good idea to write a farewell note, just in case I didn’t make it out of the little nightmare I had created. I wanted people to know what a doofus I had been. But also I wanted to say goodbye to those dear people that I loved and who would be saddened by my death. Of course they would have tons of questions, and I hoped my note would lighten their hearts by describing the fine and grounded state that I was hoping to achieve before my grisly death scene.

As I sat and wrote the rain stopped. I peeked outside and saw the moon in beaming, glorious splendor and decided that I didn’t want to spend the last hours of my life in hiding. I gathered my blankets around me and went outside. I sat down on the small cement curb and leaned against the outside walls of the chapel. The night was breathtakingly beautiful, still and calm, with a refreshing chill in the air. Millions of stars dotted the velvet black sky. I sat and sang a few old songs, smoked a few cigarettes, sipped water and smiled into the darkness. I was at peace for the first time in seven hours. A peace, however, that was very short lived.

As I sat there two Broncos pulled up and four men got out with flashlights. The vehicle headlights shone on them as they peered into my car and then walked to the edge of the pit. They were searching for me; there was no doubt about that. I wondered if the roving railroad guards that I had spoken to hours before, had finally figured out my pathetic Spanish, and had called for help. They had impatiently told me their radio was not connected to the outside world, and then had driven off, leaving me swaying in the fierce wind. I decided to pluck up my courage and venture over to the men gathered around my car.

When they saw me come up out of the ravine (it was a lot faster than walking around it!) they froze. I must have looked like a huge misshapen creature with my layers and layers of clothing on (I was so cold and wet that I put on all of my clothes from my suitcase, shorts, jeans, tee shirt, sweat shirt and a poncho), wrapped in a blanket with my cap jammed on my head. The conversation that ensued was definitely one sided. Everything I asked them (“Who are you? Where are you from? Did the guards call you?”) elicited only a negative head motion in response. They would not answer anything, but merely walked to one of the Broncos they were driving and opened the door, motioning me to get in. Do I have to tell you that it looked, smelled and felt like a very very bad idea? Who were these men, and why didn’t they want to even let me hear their voices, or answer any questions? The peace I had achieved moments before was definitely gone.

If I was frightened before, that was nothing compared to the trembling hysterical fear that now raced through my body. When I looked into the unreadable faces of these huge men every fiber of my being called out, “Do not get into that car!” But then I thought about the old joke about the man in the flood who waved away all help with the words, “God will provide,” and who, when reaching the gates of heaven, berated God for not helping him. God answered: “What do you mean I didn’t provide? I sent you a rowboat, a ship and a helicopter!” I decided to try and shake off my fears and get in the car. I walked back to the chapel to retrieve the rest of my things.

When I returned I saw that one of the men had pushed forward the front seat of the Bronco. But there was no way on God’s earth that I was getting into the back seat of that vehicle! I vehemently shook my head, and indicated that I would get carsick if I rode in the back. After a few stern looks between the men, they shrugged their shoulders and went about getting into the cars. One man got into the back seat while the driver took his position behind the wheel. I climbed into the front seat and watched as the other two men got into the second vehicle. There was dead silence in the car. Neither of the men looked at me, or each other. The silence only accentuated my already paranoid state.

The road was a desolate, windy, black ribbon of darkness. I kept my eyes on the headlight beams and willed the town to appear. I asked how far Saltillo was. It seemed to take 10 minutes for the driver to answer me. At least what he said jibed with what I had been told by my car rescuers. It would take us one hour to reach civilization and safety.

As I sat trembling I suddenly remembered the comments of a policeman at one of my self-defense workshops. He had come to speak to my students about how to survive if you were confronted by a would-be attacker: “Make yourself real to him, talk about yourself, your family, ask him questions about himself. Keep him from seeing you as just a victim.” I decided to try it. And in my baby-Spanish I began to weave an imaginative tale of such human sorrow that any flesh and blood person would be moved to compassion. Or least I hoped it would.

I had lost my only son in Mexico. He was 25 years old, a young father and husband. He had died in a terrible car accident in Chapala. I had flown to Mexico to bury him, but had a nervous breakdown, AND a heart attack because of my profound grief, and had been in a hospital in Guadalajara for a month. My husband was meeting me in Saltillo at the Holiday Inn. We would be driving back to the US the next day. For the first time the men exchanged looks, inscrutable, but still there was eye contact. I wept and sobbed and threw my hands about as I told them of a mother’s sorrow. If I hadn’t been so involved in my story telling, I would have been impressed by my own theatrics.

After driving about a half hour the driver suddenly pulled the car over to the side of the road. I was stunned. It was exactly what I didn’t want to happen. There was nothing around us except the darkest, deepest, blackest, most ominous wooded area. I began to shriek and yell out that I was about to be sick in the car. I insisted that I was “muy muy infirmo” (very, very sick), and had to get to Saltillo as quickly as possible. The driver told me, in a voice barely above a whisper, that he was waiting for his friends to catch up. I told him that I couldn’t wait, that we must continue (the old karate teacher in me said I could defend myself against two men, but not FOUR!). The two men again exchanged glances. Perhaps the driver sensed that I had reached a stage of complete hysteria and was about to have another heart attack, but whatever he was thinking it got him to start the car and drive on.

I continued my pretend-retching, moaning the rest of the way. The two men were looking more and more uncomfortable by the minute. After what felt like days we finally reached Saltillo. The lights of the town brought a new sound to my lips, words of extreme thanks. “Gracias Dios” (Thank you God). I must have repeated that 20 times. That brought smiles to the two men’s serious mouths. In fact their whole demeanor changed. They started to laugh and talk as we got out of the car.

I thanked them profusely, offered them money, which they refused, and then dragged my things through the front door of the Holiday Inn. But instead of getting back in the car they proceeded to follow me into the lobby. Within minutes the second Bronco pulled up and the other two men got out and joined us in the lobby. Here we all stood, myself covered in mud and blood, wearing everything that was in my suitcase, wrapped in a Mexican blanket, and four huge Mexican men grinning at me. They seemed delighted to be there. I signed the registry and started to follow the bellhop to my room. At that moment the driver of the Bronco I rode in handed me his business card. I looked down in disbelief at the words printed on the card: Railroad guard . These men were railroad cops! Why in the name of everything that is good and holy would they not have given me their cards before we left the scene of the accident? I looked up at the man and he started to laugh. He then told me in a clear normal voice that he would have a tow truck pick me up in the morning and take me to pick up my car. His transformation was incredible. I smiled a befuddled, tired smile, mumbled my bewildered thanks, and walked away.

That question of the intentions of the four railroad guards – and of my own state – has kept me up many a night. The mystery of what might have happened will never be resolved. My Mexican friends have said in hushed, sad voices that they were probably planning to rob me, and they didn’t want me to know who they were. Others said they were probably afraid I would accuse them of raping me, and they were protecting their identities. But in unison, they all said they felt I had saved myself a ton of grief by my dramatic behavior. Was it an unreasonable hysterical energy that drove my mind into that dark and suspicious place, or was my intuition working for me? I’ll never know for sure.

As it turned out, my premonition of the disruptive female energy at my new job in San Francisco was accurate. For there was a woman employee who was quite intuitive and could sense that, for some reason not publicly disclosed, the CEO was slipping me into the company “under the radar” with the title of Head of Personnel. He never told her, or anyone else in the company of our plans to have me do energy work within the company. (Had I really thought that I would truly be “out of my psychic closet,” or did the promise of all that cash cause me to go temporarily dumb?) The CEO’s dishonesty about my position created a huge mess and the “perfect” job was suddenly no longer available to me. They moved me instead from one position to the next, until finally I was laid off nine months later along with many other employees in a significant downsizing of the company, during the height of the tech stock decline hysteria. Had the CEO been honest about the reason for hiring me, or had I insisted that I would not return to California unless there was full disclosure of my psychic work, perhaps none of this would have happened. And sometimes in that state between waking and dreaming I think I catch a quick glimpse of that female sabotage energy looking frighteningly like yours truly, and only mirrored back to me in the energy of the woman who originally questioned my position. Was it all about past life karma? Or was it my sacred-self scolding me for my part in the deception? Yet another mystery. But one thing I do know for sure is that between the San Francisco fiasco, and the drama on that Mexican highway, I sure have some potent and fruitful grist for the old meditation mill!

The trauma of my return trip to California, and the physical drain of the four hour-per-day commute to San Francisco, as well as the emotional rollercoaster at the job, finally took its toll on my health, and caused my thyroid to shut down. I wasn’t strong enough to work full time, so I did light maintenance and massage work for a local bed-&-breakfast a few hours a day. The rest of the time I spent sleeping, or watching hours of cooking shows in a brain-fogged thyroid stupor. Four months later, returning from a trip from Yosemite, I found the little town of Jackson in the Sierra foothills, and felt a real pull to live there. And so, in February of this year I packed up my little yellow car once again and moved to yet another new town.

I’m feeling much better these days, and can sense that my body is on the mend. I live in a little house on a quiet street, and work at the Jackson Indian Casino just three miles up the mountain. I tell people who ask me what I’m doing here that I’m working off my Indian karma. It is a dear little town with kind and friendly people. Not unlike the town and the people in Ajijic, Mexico. The job is fun and stimulating and gets me in touch with lots of different kinds of energy. My days off have been very healing, with with lots of time to meditate and say “hello” to the Universe and myself. My Indian spirit guide, Evening, tells me that the Indian land I am living and working has infused me with a new level of patience and clarity. I can certainly feel the difference in my work, as my reading ability has been so amazingly clear and heightened since moving here. For even in the manic and ungrounded casino I find I can do very accurate “quick sketch” readings for the people that are drawn to me.

When I meditate on what has happened since I left Mexico my thoughts often turn to the principal of “free will.” What a strange and important gift the Creator has provided. We have been given the right to screw up royally. We are emphatically empowered to be scared, to fall and be bloodied – in a nutshell, we have the freedom to choose paths that lead to pain, fear, and disappointment. But I do know that through all our falling and faltering there exists a pin- point of light and peace that we can reach. We may have to spend hours digging out of the mud and the fear, but at the end there is the promise of spiritual practice. Meditation has the power to heal by helping us reflect upon who were truly are throughout all of life’s messiest moments. Practice is a safe and wonderful refuge when all around us is confusion or doubt or fear. It is a haven away from the human craziness that can rain down on us through our own mistakes, or simply because “doo-doo” happens. I am so grateful to have the tools of practice, and I believe that ultimately they have gotten me through these past two years.

It is another new beginning for Ms. Aviva here in this old mining town where thousands of men came to make their fortunes, only to find themselves dirty, ragged, and broke, with only a handful of fool’s gold for their efforts. Ah, now there is yet another interesting thread to look at!

Adios Para Ahora,