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Deepak Chopra and Paragliding and I

This article is about my coming to know the writings and person of Deepak Chopra and how he, in fact and perhaps unknowingly, saved my life. To the degree it became worth living.

I fly paragliders.  See?


No aircraft walls. No countless stacks of instruments to regulate. When I fly I look around me and see in a full spherical screen the marvel of the visible universe from my constantly changing pinpoint of existence in it. If I look down I see my feet and beyond my feet whatever portion of this planet I am flying over. Controls are minimal. My fuel is the behavior of the air that I encounter and my ability to recognize it. Sometimes I obtain the fuel of a rising air that encompasses me. Sometimes rather than rising, the air sinks and cannot qualify as fuel to keep me aloft and help me rise. But, I have an approximate 7 to 1 glide ratio. That is, with no lift I can glide 7 miles if I am one mile high when I begin the glide.

I learned to fly paragliders in the Bavarian alps along the border between Germany and Austria. I learned to fly airplanes in Spain. Anyone who has flown airplanes and has also flown paragliders will always choose the latter over the former if the goal is to fly for fun.

If paraglider pilots know nothing else about Leonardo da Vinci, they know this quotation. “Once you have flown you will always look to the sky for there you have been and there you long to return.”

In 1995 I received a phone call at my home in Erding, Bavaria. Bavaria, by the way, is the southernmost province or federation of Germany. Its capital is Munich. The call was from my Bavarian paraglider pilot friends who were in Spain. They said the flying was awesome. “Get on a plane and get down here.” I did.

An exciting 10 days of flying the mountains of Andalusia was followed by one bad day. Bad because that was the day I crashed. I flew into a wind shear. Suddenly the pocket of air that my paraglider and I were in was free falling toward Earth. Earth, at that moment, presented itself as an almost vertical mountain side steeply piled with cubic square meter sized boulders. I determined from impact that the boulders were very hard and impenetrable. After that determination I think I might have passed out for a while.

I assessed my situation.

I was alive . I was not bleeding to death. I knew my name. I knew exactly where I was. I was not going anywhere. Not walking and not flying my paraglider anyway.

3 hours later they choppered me to the hospital at Villa Joyosa, a village near the resort city of Benidorm.

My major injury was to my left foot. On impact the foot had blown apart. What kept it together was my left shoe. I had many other injuries. None seemed to be as serious as the foot. The stretcher path up through the rocks was the worst part. The path from the chopper to the operating room was a procession. My bier was a guerney surrounded and pursued by a train of doctors and nurses and assorted medical people.

They gave me drugs. Years earlier I had augmented my high school Spanish on software contracts with Iberia Airlines in Madrid. My Spanish teacher was primarily Julio Iglesias. That’s right. The father of Enrique. At that time the only recording artist in the world with sales greater than Julio’s was Michael Jackson. I had essentially learned Spanish from reading the lyrics on Julio’s 33 and a third album covers and listening to him sing and eventually singing along to the degree that I knew all of Julio’s songs.

Before I passed out I sang all the Julio songs I could to the nurses around my bed. They continuously urged me on. “Cantala, amor. Una cancion mas.” (“Sing us one more, baby.”)

A week later I had stabilized sufficiently to to be flown to Munich. Specifically to the hospital Gross Hadern. Only 20 kilometers from my home in Erding.

The hospital was my home for the next 3 months. A friend brought me Deepak Chopra’s book, Qantum Healing. That book was my salvation. That and my walks. Imaginary walks. I would lie on the bed with my feet against the wall. I hiked through all the beautiful places I had come to know on the planet Earth. Deepak taught me I could hike through my body, focus on any part of my body and be there. And encourage healing there. So, I walked the earth and I walked myself back to health.

When I crashed I had been in the process of leaving Bavaria after living there five years. While in the hospital I finished severing ties with Der Faderland. When I left the hospital, I was poured onto a flight bound for Minneapolis, my airline software technical ground zero for a number of years. I had kept a house there. I had a multitude of braces and crutches which enabled me to walk.  At least in a slow and crude fashion. As I had walked the walls of my hospital room, I walked the mile long block around my house. Every day. No pain meds, just pure grit. I became a routine sight along the sidewalk.  So did the up raised hands of encouragement from neighbors I along the way. “You betcha. You’ll get there.”

Two years later, I had an office near the Sports Arena in San Diego, an annual pass to the paraglider center take off above Black’s Beach. And also, not routinely but often, a visit to the Deepak Chopra Center in La Jolla, not far away. As I attended the lectures et cetera Deepak Chopra would look in and say hi. When I had first read his book the possibility of walking without aids was small according to the German doctors. Had they known I was flying my paraglider into the Pacific wind and rising above the coastal cliffs, even those dour German doctors would have laughed.

I have had three mentors whom I considered gurus.

The first was C.S. Lewis. The second was Alan Watts. The third was the charm. Deepak Chopra. The first enabled my spiritual imagination. The second enabled my cosmic understanding. The third empowered my quest to be significantly more than all I could be.

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