• by Craig Hanson • Sunburst’s Founder, my spiritual teacher Norman Paulsen when he was a young man, lived at the Mount Washington monastery with his spiritual teacher Paramahansa Yogananda. During the final year of Yogananda’s life, he invited Norm out to a desert retreat where he’d been writing. There, one early evening, they walked around the property. This was a special time because it was an extended goodbye from Yogananda to Norm. He would be leaving his body soon, and Norm held his arm as they walked, because Yogananda was having difficulty walking.
Yogananda turned to Norm, “Promise me that no matter what happens to you in this life, you will never give up seeking God. If you get knocked down, get right back up…and keep walking. Will you promise me that?”
Norm replied, “Yes sir, I will.”
“That’s good. Good.”
How many times in our own lives have we been challenged, faced what seemed like insurmountable obstacles. Yet we found a strength from within, a power beyond ourselves? A series of coincidences, it seems, may get us through this difficulty and on to the next challenge. I was recently remembering my own challenge.
The third day after coming to the Sunburst community, I was called upon to spend the day in San Bernardino loading a flatbed trailer with heavy produce gondolas and equipment for a new Sunburst store in Santa Barbara. On the way back that night, when we got to Carpinteria, in the distance I could see a column of flames leaping up the side of the mountain, above Santa Barbara. I thought, “Oh no, what’s happening?” I thought Sunburst farm may have been burning.
We were pretty exhausted, having been working so hard, and this was my only third day in this group. But here we were on Mountain Drive going into this fire zone about ten o’clock at night. I spent the whole night working on the fire line in a dream-like state, beyond exhaustion.
In the morning at the top of the hill, I collapsed with a group of other brothers. We could hear the helicopters swirling overhead and the relief crew coming, the hotshots from the Chumash Native Americans.
While going down the hill to the high school where we got breakfast, I asked one of the elder brothers, “Is this how it is every day in Sunburst?”
He smiled and said, “Oh, sure, yeah!”
I thought, “Oh boy, I’m finished…I can’t do this…Oh boy!” And on the fourth day, I packed up all my belongings and was walking down Gibraltar Road in the fog thinking, “I can’t be here anymore. But,” my mind went on, “what am I running to?”
I started walking back up the hill, and got above the fog line. In a minute I turned around and started back down the hill. Yet again I stopped and started walking back up. Finally, I sat down and said to myself, “Wait. Where are you running to? Where are you going? Just open your heart. Open yourself.”
So I walked back up the hill to be with my spiritual teacher, and through the many joys and many trials since then, I’m still trying to live what my teacher taught me. The same message so long ago that Yogananda told Norm, “Never give up!” That was something Norm exemplified, and instilled in me and others. It’s a wonderful quality because it takes us out of limited selves and into the pure light.