Sunday, August 1, 2010

Buttered Toast

"I picked flowers from my garden to fill several vases for my home," explained Bea.

"I was replacing previous bouquets that had to be thrown out days ago."

She made sure she had plenty of flowers left over to share a few with her house guest. The elderly gentleman lived in a grandmother's apartment attached to her house.

On this occasion, like others before that, Bea noticed something unusual: his flowers never seemed to wilt.

She recognized the same flowers in his vase from her last cutting -- the exact same flowers with which she had decorated her home. Yet, Bea's flowers had aged to the point that they needed discarding.

How was it that his flowers stayed so fresh and attractive for so long?

A Holy Man

This house guest was no ordinary person. He was from India. He was a Hindu scholar, and considered by many in his home country to be a 'guru,' a spiritual teacher.

In addition to being a well-regarded artist, Bea Burns was a professor of philosophy at the nearby university. When the university invited this Hindu professor to teach for a year, Bea offered her apartment. It was close to the university, and close so she could make his stay in this country a little easier.

In ways she never expected, this was a highlight in Bea's life.

A Secret Ingredient

"Whenever I would visit with him in the apartment," Bea continued, "he would always offer me something to eat. It was important to him that he give me something, no matter how small."

Of course Bea wasn't hungry, but she was a gracious guest. She would agree to "just a taste" of something.

Invariably, the well-mannered and impeccable sage would toast her a piece of bread. On it he would carefully and patiently spread a little butter, then tenderly and delicately present it to her on a small plate.

"The taste was nothing less than exquisite, " Bea marveled.

"It was the best tasting food I have ever had," she insisted. "I have never before tasted toast, or any food for that matter, that had this kind of effect on me."

Just a simple piece of toast.

This made no sense to Bea. She made toast for her husband and herself every day. But it wasn't like this.

She could see the package of bread on his kitchen counter. It was the exact same bread she had upstairs in her own kitchen. Likewise, with the butter. It was the same ordinary brand of butter she had always bought. The toaster, itself, was an old one that Bea had herself used for years before furnishing the apartment with it. The little plate was just as unremarkable.

This kindly, pleasant man looked just as ordinary: regular western clothing, graying hair, glasses.

Though they sometimes talked about deep thoughts of philosophy, that is not what Bea remembers so fondly.

"On numerous occasions, I was gifted with this simple buttered toast," Bea said.
"And I understood why the flowers stayed so fresh."

A Kindred Spirit

Bea Burns was a remarkable woman, herself.

She had survived not one, but two near-death experiences. One was from an airplane crash, the other on an operating table. She came back remembering what happened beyond the veil. The light, the love, the meaning underlying life on earth.

One of her sons was overweight in his teenage years. His self-imposed liquid diet removed all the fat -- and opened his spiritual eye. Strangely enough, the family just happened to be vacationing in Virginia Beach, the home of the famous psychic Edgar Cayce.

Word got around about the boy on the beach who could see colors around everybody. Hugh Lynn Cayce, who carried on his father's work, consulted with the family. He explained the boy's fat-loss diet was akin to fasting, a means historically used to release extraordinary perception. Taking an interest in the boy, Cayce became a long lasting friend of the family.

Bea also was a close friend to the head of the North American Theosophical Society, another prominent group pursuing unorthodox spiritual interests.

She came to the Tuesday night HU Chants in my rural county. Bea always had a different friend in tow to introduce to the HU.

She lit up several churches, historical groups, civic organizations, and other things in the county. For example, that fellow now teaching Tai Chi in town --- because Bea encouraged him to do it. I think everyone in the county knew her.

Yes, all the 'flowers' seemed to bloom in her presence.

Bea never made me a piece of toast, but knowing her was exquisite, like nothing before or since.

People of the golden heart are full of love and have the ability to give of themselves. They are the shining lights.
—Harold Klemp, The Language of Soul

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