With two Jackson’s Chameleons in a comfortable carry cage I entered the room just as Adi Da came in through the other doorway. He looked at me warmly as I gave him a simple flower gift. Adi Da was very attentive as I turned to the cage to bring the chameleons forward. Smiling broadly he reached out to take them from my hand, delighted as they clambered up his arms and across his shoulders. Green and yellow, the young male brandished three facial horns while the female carried the typical rostral ‘nub’ on her rounded snout.
The energy of the room was calm and healing. There were several beautiful arrangements of fresh flowers in large vases. Native American kachinas enlivened the shelves. Wooden African masks and exquisite nature-art adorned the walls. And an ancient Tibetan rug covered the polished wooden floor.
Adi Da settled into his wicker chair. I don’t recall what he wore except it was light and simple, with slippers on his feet. A few weeks earlier Adi Da expressed interest in seeing some chameleons. He said he’d seen some as a child, was impressed by them and was interested to include some in his Fear-No-More Zoo at the Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary. The Jackson’s, he said, seeing them again now, were the type he’d seen as a boy in the 1950’s.
Speaking quietly as the lizards crawled over his hands, their clasping fingers gripping his, we talked about their qualities, emotions, sensitivities, and aspects of their care. He was interested in all the details of housing, nutrition, watering, breeding and so on. We also talked about other species of chameleons in Africa, Madagascar, the Middle East, India, and those accidentally introduced to Hawaii, Florida, and southern California.
With a chameleon on each hand Adi Da stood up and walked around the room and into the kitchen, showing them around the house, observing their responses to objects, textures, and spaces. They were relaxed and at home on his body. When I said they seemed like a cross between a lizard, a monkey, and an insect, he added, “and a plant”.
Chameleons perceive the world very differently than humans. Through independently moving eyes their sight gives them a unique faculty of heat-sensitive vision and perception of energy fields. They are extremely aware of temperature and light intensity in the forest canopy, with the ability to locate ideal perches from a distance. They have a complex range of communication, through skin color changes, body language, and low frequency ‘sounding’. Sitting on their perches they capture their insect food with sticky projectile tongues that are as long as their bodies. Chameleons are profoundly contemplative creatures, living in a state of spiritual awareness expanded far beyond most humans’.
Returning to his chair Adi Da handed them back to me. He remarked that he felt, “a kind of buzzing, pulsing, electrical energy emanating from their bodies”, and asked if I felt it too. I had only a very vague sense of this so replied, “I don’t feel it very clearly.” Asked if he felt they were smiling he mumbled, “Yes… inside”. We talked about where the two lizards would be kept and he finally said he wanted them with him, set up “right here in this room”, asking for a spacious cage to be made. We agreed that I’d come in twice daily to feed and water them, while also keeping some food in a container and a spray bottle on top of the cage so he could water and feed them as well. He was looking forward to having them there with him.
With the help of friends, the next day we built and installed the chameleons’ habitat in the small ‘breakfast room’. Happily, the following weeks saw more chameleons moving into the room, each species in its own environment. We soon had Veiled Chameleons, Red Panthers, and the large Meller’s Chameleons, alongside the Jackson’s. The room had become a jungle of tropical plants, bubbling fountains and spray misters, chirping crickets, and the stealthy chameleons in their spacious apartments. Three species of large tree frogs found their way into the room as well! Adi Da named two of the frogs, ‘Jungle Pudding’ and ‘Sky Pudding’. Of the chameleons he only named the male Red Panther, calling him, ‘Cinnabar’. Two giant African millipedes showed up also. Humorously he named them, “‘Shit’ and ‘Shinola’, because most people can’t tell the difference between them!”
Most chameleons are shy and retiring, but Cinnabar was extraordinarily relational. He really liked the company of people and always wanted to ride on my shoulders while I served the ‘jungle creatures’ each day. Cinnabar impressed me so much that our mutual connection permanently changed the course of my life, which is a whole other story.
Twice daily I fed, watered, and checked on everyone and kept the enclosures spotlessly clean. Sometimes Adi Da would come into the room to see what I was doing. I don’t think he ever said a word at those times. He moved as silently as a chameleon and I was often unaware he was physically there until he left the room, clicking the door behind him. At other times he would feed and water them too. The chameleons were there for months. During this time Adi Da occasionally spoke about them to illustrate the naturally contemplative state he expected us all to assume:
“Wherever there is an ‘other’, their fear arises. The chameleons should be left to Contemplate, and they should be protected in a place where people go in, but not in mobs. They should see Contemplatives, not people diddling and disturbing them. They would actually like to be kept some place where people Contemplate, and not where it’s busy.”
About six months later, after Adi Da had traveled away for a time, I wrote proposing that we relocate the chameleons to the Sanctuary’s hot-springs bath-house. Set up around the warm plunge pool, their environment there was consistently humid and balmy. Like the main house it was also a very contemplative and sacred setting. For a while it seemed like a really good situation. However, as time passed I began to realize that it wasn’t sustainable for the lizards as the moisture was too pervasive and constant.
So we set to work renovating a building within Fear-No-More Zoo itself, creating another indoor tropical jungle with four forested, open-fronted, stalls and a comfortable viewing area opening onto each spacious habitat. Adi Da returned from Fiji just as we completed the renovation, so after everyone settled into their new homes he came to visit them.
We’d prepared the entire Fear-No-More Zoo and Gardens for this occasion. The grounds, all the environments, every leaf and blade of grass, and all the animals, were completely ready for this visit. After he arrived at the Zoo I led Adi Da over to the new chameleon house. It was beautifully peaceful inside, a tropical retreat in the middle of the California winter. As I opened the door Adi Da paused to take off his sandals. I said he needn’t do this but he did anyway, leaving them neatly outside the door. This was clearly a special occasion for him. Once inside, he smiled and started looking around the warm, climate-controlled, room for the chameleons perched in their various shrubs and small trees. Chuckling, he said, “Don’t tell me where they are! I’ll find them!”
After finding everyone, including the female Meller’s, he asked if the male had grown larger than her. When I replied that he had Adi Da opened his arms wide, exclaiming, “That’s why I can’t find him! He’s all of ‘this’!”
Meller’s are big chameleons, about the size of a small house cat. Once the male was found I brought him out. Adi Da sat in a chair with the chunky Meller’s laying across his arm, gripping tightly with scaly hands. Adi Da relaxed into the chair, quietly smiling with the chameleon, enjoying this very contemplative creature as it rested on his person. I marveled at his deep intimacy with the lizard. After a few minutes Adi Da began talking about the chameleon’s profile, and how a face (any face) showed the individual’s personality, regardless of species or type. Later that night he developed this consideration further, explaining how non-humans in human care must be served according to their individual personalities. Each one is a distinct individual and, in order to fully grow as a being, its specific needs must be intelligently served. Each one should be given an appropriate circumstance in which to grow and mature.
Next I showed Adi Da a clutch of day old baby Panther Chameleons and another still in the hatching process. He held one of the babies up to his face, gently touching its tiny snout to his nose. He then spoke about having more animals living in his house again. Rather than have them all in one room, like before, he said he’d like them in different parts of the house so that he would come across them wherever he went and would be able to enjoy them more naturally this way, as part of his day. After a long pause, giving silent regard and blessing to the chameleons, Adi Da slid his feet into his sandals then gave me the most profound smile of appreciation, love, and ever new demand. He always expected me to exceed myself in life, and in service to him and all of earth-kind. I have much to live up to!
As time went by we ended up settling on maintaining just one chameleon species at Fear-No-More Zoo — the Jackson’s Chameleon. Being mountain chameleons they are more adaptable to the local California inland climate. With this the chameleon circumstance further evolved into three octagonal outdoor greenhouses set within a bamboo forest with a stream, two ponds, and small waterfalls surrounding the habitats. Each greenhouse had a comfortable chair inside for Adi Da, or other visitors, to spend extended time with the chameleons, and crickets and frogs, in the jungle setting.
Adi Da enjoyed this development but kept expressing his wish for more species. Each succeeding year, to the day, he would ask if we could have other varieties of chameleons in addition to the Jackson’s. And each time, due to staffing and resource limitations, I told him that we couldn’t take on any more for now. Each time he would respond with “Fine”, only to ask again the following year, to the day. It became an annual conversation, almost ritually repeated, a reminder that although he was allowing me my ‘position’, he never accepted it. I always felt bad about not being able to comply. We just didn’t have the funding to create the best situation for the hot-climate chameleons. We gave it a good try and couldn’t quite pull it off. He expected us to be able to fully provide for all the non-humans in our care, but always kept the pressure on as well. Within this creative force my egoic patterns and limits were constantly revealed and, if I stayed in place, undone.
One of the things (and there were many) that Adi Da honored about the chameleons was their fragility. He gave special attention to everything delicate. He once took a special interest in a small, struggling, banyan tree in his backyard, caring for it over many years. It grew into a fine tree. He said that he used this tree as a ‘pole’ through which to transmit spiritual regard, blessing, and support to life struggling the world over. The fragility of the chameleons allowed him to serve a similar process through them, for the sake of life in difficult circumstances around the world. He said, one day, “The chameleons are part of my (spiritual) ‘pattern’, and should always be present in Fear-No-More Zoo”.
Due to limited resources and available dedicated staff, Fear-No-More Zoo was all but closed in 2010. As soon as conditions permit we intend to revive and rebuild the Zoo, actively bringing back to life this element of Adi Da’s spiritual blessing for the non-humans, and humans, of this world. When this happens chameleons will be fundamental members of the group of creatures we will honor and care for here once again. I hope this day comes soon…
Given my understanding and experience of Adi Da’s spiritual blessing I daily wonder whether the global environmental situation might be in better shape if Fear-No-More Zoo had become, by now, a vibrant process and demonstration of his overall Vision of Fear-No-More. But we humans don’t ‘get it’. The natural world isn’t that important to us. Real spiritual life (different than ordinary ‘consumer religion’) isn’t important to us. We’re disconnected from nature, and from our own real natures. We’re abstracted from life, and live almost like zombies, staggering from this to that, unaware of the free life energy all around and filling us, rigidified in fear, perceived lack, and aggressively seeking for more and more – without end!
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The chameleons, in their profoundest ease, know this…
Adi Da’s recommendation is, no matter what, “Fear-No-More”.