Finishing at Cornell and returning to San Francisco in the summer of 1968, I had great hopes that everything would be wonderful, perfect, and happy, but after several years of hippie weather ("high in the mid-sixties") it was turning out just the opposite, one unhappiness after another, without letup. Work was a pain (first as a cab driver, then as a mailman, delivering in the ghetto with kids taunting and throwing rocks because I was white), my relationships were growing cold, no energy, friends going crazy and getting arrested, financial woes, landlord harassment, etc. I had never been depressed before, but now it began to take hold.
Come the spring of 1969, I was ready to leave everything, wander and seek help by searching for a Sufi Master, an enlightened being who could guide me. Anything I had tried on my own had failed miserably. One morning I threw the I-Ching, walked out the door with a backpack and $70, and started thumbing rides right in the center of San Francisco, 22nd & Dolores in the Mission district. Across the Golden Gate Bridge and 14 rides later, I was in Cloverdale 90 miles north up Hwy 101. The sun setting and no luck getting a 15th ride, I found a place to bed down near the bridge that used to cross the Russian River just beyond Cloverdale.
With the first sign that dawn was on the way, I sat up in meditation, still before sunup but with enough light to make out the branches in the surrounding clump of bushes. Different kinds of small birds started chirping and singing, flitting into view as they hopped among the branches. And now something completely unexpected, it wasn't a dream because I was wide awake, but the vision of a smiling face appeared before me, as if someone were sitting across the table. It was somebody I knew, and the vision triggered a memory of something he had said. The details of who it was and what he said have been forgotten, but it was clear at that time that his words had assisted me in getting here, that is, in "leaving home." And I spoke to the envisioned face, saying "Thank you! Thank you!" After 20 seconds or so, the vision moved toward me, passed over my shoulder, and another face appeared about 5 ft away, smiling. It was somebody else who had helped me, help I wasn't aware of at the time we met in the flesh.
And like this, one after another in a parade of faces appeared, smiling before me for 10-20 seconds, then moving off. As I recognized and said a deep "thank you" to each one, the emotion of gratitude and joy welled up inside me, and though I'm not a particularly emotional person, now tears of joy were streaming down my face, and I was crying "Thank you! Thank you!" with the realization that it wasn't possible for me as an individual to do anything, were it not for the kind help of so many people. Some were friends, some were not friends, some were one-time encounters with strangers, some were people who I thought at the time had said something malicious but now as their faces appeared I understood that they were being most kind, and the feeling of gratitude overwhelmed me.