In the mid to late 1980's, in a spiritual search, I spent some time studying Self-Realization Fellowship and the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. If that name sounds a bit familiar, he, aside from founding SRF, wrote "Autobiography of a Yogi" in 1946 and "Swami's Beach" in Encinitas is also named after his ashram that sits on the cliffs above.
In 1988 I quit my job with EFHutton Life/1st Capital Life Insurance Company, sold most of what I owned and bought a one way ticket to Europe where I planned to spend my 401(k) savings and as much time as possible soaking up all things European. Among the few things I took with me were the "Autobiography of a Yogi", a small book of SRF affirmations and a trifold with a picture of Yogananda, Jesus Christ and another Indian spiritual leader meant for a home meditation altar.
One day, while in Dinan, France, I decided I needed to go to Mont St. Michel. I checked the train schedules and decided I could do it in a day. Well, if I got on the right trains. I ended up on a milk run train that had me stuck in a train station in Dol-de-Bretagne for hours. By the time I reached the train station closest to Mont St. Michel it was after 8p, I had had no dinner and the buses had stopped running. The last train that would get me back to Dinan would leave at 10:30p. I had come this far, I decided to walk the 5 km to the Mont, not thinking that it was long closed to the public for the evening.
So I walked. And I walked. And I was hungry. Tres faim! As I rounded a corner I saw the Mont in the distance, out on the sea. And I kept walking. It was now after 9p and I had to decide to walk on and miss the last train or turnaround. I was so close!! I kept walking. It didn't seem to be getting any closer. It was almost 9:30p when I realized I would never make it to either the Mont or the train. I decided, as any wise 31 year old single female on a dark road in France would, to hitchhike back to the train station.
A car approached and I started to walk backwards and stick out my thumb, chickening out at the last moment, turning my back to the approaching Peugeot. A motor in the distance, another car approached, I turn to face the headlights. Mais non, I turned back around. I would not make it to the station, but I started to think of some of the SRF affirmations and a chant I remembered to keep going.
A third car was approaching. I took a deep breath, I turned and put out my thumb. Zut alors! The car stopped! I tentatively approached and behind the wheel was a young woman who look about as scared as I did. In my best "I finished French 5 in college" attempt, I asked for a ride to the train station. She agreed. She spoke no English.
When she asked if I was English and I told her, "Non, je suis Americaine, de Californie." She told me that the only place she knew in California was the ashram of Paramahansa Yogananda, as she had read of it in a book, "L'Autobiographie d'un Yogi." She had just come from a Self-Realization Fellowship meeting to which she had to drive many miles from her home. Did I know of him?
I will close this entry by telling you that she did not drive me to the train station. I would have missed the train, anyway. She drove me all the way back to my hotel in Dinan, more than two hours out of her way. We talked spirituality (en francais) all the way, then I invited her up to my room to choose from some of my possessions as a thank you, as she would not accept any francs. I gave her the address of the SRF in Paris and the trifold picture. She gave me a prayer card and a book of SRF chants she had picked up that day.
I don't believe in coincidences.