Janaka's Spiritual Journey

Today, after over 30 years of a conscious Process, I think I may say that I am feeling at home in the world and that I no longer am running from it. I find much joy in working on this amazing planet, bringing some good to it, working with children and adults, and reveling in playing at the arts and finding pleasure in seeking the Truth. Not out of making me someone more worthy, but out of freedom, because all this is what my Soul wants me to do.

But this has not always been this way. I was very introspective as a child, very shy. School held little for me. Soccer and other sports held my attention awhile, only to fade into the wake of my life. I was envious of others who had goals, life plans. College became a haze. Then, in my early college years I nearly drowned and my Awareness watched my body be rescued. I was not happy to be back in this dense casing. Subsequently, I started having out-of-body experiences, and less and less I identified with this body. Yet, still there existed identification with the mind.

It was not until hiking alone in Nepal, after a few years living in Africa with the Peace Corps, that I lost my identity with my mind. I was felled with a Mighty Stroke of Love. I became absorbed by this Loving Force. When it passed nothing mattered more than regaining that state. I now had a purpose--to BE THAT. Eventually my path led me to many countries and to many teachers. Yet I must say that A Course in Miracles and connecting with the Christ, then to the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and his Self inquiry, have helped me to go or become aware of that State beyond the mind. Then, years later, Rudolf Steiner's teachings of Anthroposophy and becoming a Waldorf teacher assisted in integrating my Awareness into the world of forms.

If I must define myself, I must say that I am a Divine Being, due to my Intrinsic Nature in God, working at the art of becoming a Human Being, with all the struggles that that entails.

Janaka's Biography

I was born March 6, 1960 (or so they tell me--I do not remember it at all) in San Mateo, California, with the name John Stagnaro. I was the last of four children. After high school I went to Chico State University and majored in International Relations with a Journalism emphasis. After graduating I traveled with a buddy to Israel and across Western Europe for 7 weeks and I vowed never to rush through so many countries so quickly (I now prefer to plop down in a town so I can get to know the people instead of checking off sites visited). Afterwards, I went to Marine Officer Candidate School where I received an Honorable Discharge six weeks into the training. I had realized then that I was living my father's dream and, while I wanted adventure, I didn't want to kill people.

Subsequently, in 1984, I joined the Peace Corps and served in Cameroon for 2 1/2 years. I was a Community Development worker and helped a school for the blind. It was here that I learned that one can be happy without all the material possessions we have in America, living in the midst of these openly happy people who were poor by our standards. I was also free to be anybody I wanted to be since nobody knew me, so I dressed like Indiana Jones and began to explore the bush on my own, having no camping experience growing up. My trust and fool-hardiness taught me that there are absolutely Invisible Helpers. On my return home I stopped off in Turkey, Nepal, Thailand and Bali and again experienced a richness of life without so many possessions.

The culture shock I suffered upon my homecoming was profound. My mates had graduated from business and law schools and could not relate to my experience overseas. I walked into supermarkets and just gawked at all the food available. I remember sitting dumbfounded at the Stanford Mall as I watched the mad Christmas rush, thinking that the American dream was more of a nightmare. Wanting to find an America that wasn't drowned in materialism I went to Florida and hitchhiked the backroads back to California. It was on this trip that my faith in America was renewed as people took me into their homes, put money into my pockets (generally the less affluent). I returned to Thailand and made my way to Java and then to Australia (a place I have loved since childhood) where I spent seven months Down Under. I landed in Perth and hitchhiked around most of the continent, working some in Canberra and departing out of Darwin. My first book, Silent Ripples, I began on one of my many walkabouts.

I eventually landed in Los Angeles where I worked at the Bodhi Tree Bookstore, the metaphysical bookstore that Shirley McLaine made famous with Out on a Limb, and began my second book, Footprints Along the Shore of an Incoming Tide. Eventually I became the Tarot reader at the store, which allowed me to learn a lot about human nature and our ever-search for happiness (even when we have reached celebrity status and have everything the world has to offer), as I gave thousands of readings. It was during this time that I became involved in my first long-term relationship leading to my becoming a father of my son, Tilion. We left LA and moved to Eugene, Oregon, for me to train to become a Waldorf teacher. It was then that I realized how much I had been deprived by my public education. My Waldorf training taught me storytelling, acting, reading and playing music with the recorder, bolstered my artistic abilities, introduced me to the amazing work of Rudolf Steiner, and gave me an appreciation about the sacredness of teaching and parenting.

The Nineties saw me graduating from my training, separating from the mother of my son, moving back to LA and working on several movie projects as a screenwriter, and eventually becoming married. My artwork started to blossom and, for the first time, I had my work in a gallery in Palm Springs (subsequently, I have had work sold in galleries in Corvallis, Oregon, and in Salinas and Carmel, California). I taught at a Waldorf-inspired school for a year before heading back up to Oregon where I taught in a Waldorf school in Corvallis. I taught at the Corvallis Waldorf school for four years, where I held a Satsang group. Afterwards another four years at the Monterey Bay Charter School, another four at the Sebastopol Independent Charter School and three at Live oak Waldorf in the Sierra Foothills. Now my wife, Michelle, and our 13-year-old son, Aiden, live in Carmel Valley where I teach at the Monterey Bay Charter School, a Waldorf charter school. My third book, Beyond the Beyond: Poems to My Beloved Self, I published in 2013. In 2015 I published a psuedo-autobiographical work, The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with Death. And then published three books for children, encouraged by my students and my younger son: Gerome Gnome and the Flying PancakeGerome Gnome and the Fallen Star and The Boy and the Python and Other Wisdom Tales. In 2018 I published a book of poetry of my travels to the Himalayas and elsewhere, called At the Throne of the Mountain Kings.

And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut would say. It has all been a wonderful adventure in Consciousness with no regrets and many creative mistakes. And only God knows what tomorrow might bring. . .

Janaka Stagnaro 2020

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Janaka Stagnaro telling a story.

For over 30 years I have been a spiritual practitioner of both Eastern and Western methods. I have studied most world religions and am familiar with many contemporary systems of beliefs. I am the author of eight books. The Teachings of Yama: A Conversation with Death reflects my synthesis of East and West. I am also a storyteller, artist, Waldorf teacher, and meditation instructor, and parent. I live in Carmel Valley, California, and would love to hear from you: janaka_om@yahoo.com

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