A Numinous Nomad's Experiments In Truth
Posted by Audrey Lin on Jul 13, 2013
After a series of experiments in his values of giving and generosity, today, he lives as a pilgrim, or, in his own words, a “numinous nomad”. Having given away almost all of his material possessions, and with no home of his own, he travels from community to community offering himself as an instrument of service wherever he ends up. He accepts no reimbursement for his deeds. Just the intention of sharing joy with all whom he encounters.
In this conversation moderated by fellow pilgrim and previous Awakin Call guest, Mony Dojeiji, Scaughdt shares insights from his journey.
Mony: I'm curious to ask, since you go from community to community with the intention to serve in every moment, how have you been received?
S: I did an experiment with truth for two years: I lived on the streets and made an experiment of how far I could push kindness. I started realizing that, on a practical level, loving your enemy works.
That was a real mind-blower for me in 2004. And so I knew, in early 2005, I wanted to share this message. I was reading a lot of books at the bookstore and there was nothing on radical kindness and how it works. There was nothing on practical selflessness. It wasn't mainstream information. So I knew what I had to share. But I also knew that you can't just walk around the planet saying, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for you!” Because we know what we do with folks like that—we turn them off. It’s fight or flight. We think, Oh, another loony. And I kind of look like a loony anyway, I’m big and gangly and I walk around with this big smile on my face all the time.
And then I read the Peace Pilgrim's book. I read it and started crying, because I knew that this was it. She nailed something really powerful. She said that if you have a truth or gentleness to share, the key to sharing is to get people to ask you. And then the doorway is open. The way she did that was living this crazy life, where on paper, she should be dead! But she was happy and living a full life. And healthy.
And I thought, That's it. That's what I've got to do. So I thought I was going to do that. Then, I went home and told my mom and stepdad. [Laughs] I told them I’m going to start doing this. They were less than thrilled. They said, “Well, before you go, why don't you give a workshop on these principals that you’ve learned to our friends.”
So I did that. It was a great day-long seminar, and fourteen people came. I thought it was only going to happen once. And then I would go and be a peace pilgrim. But then people started calling me from across the country. For six years, people kept asking me to visit them, stay with them, take care of their pets and gardens, and give these seminars.
You serve until the service is up and if nobody asks you to serve again, then you go immediately back to the streets where you are. So I was in Chicago in 2007. It was early October and my service was up on October 18. I thought, Great. Winter on the streets of Chicago. Can’t it at least be the streets of Hawaii?
You know, the ego is not thrilled about living on the streets in the winter in Chicago. A week later, I finally opened up and accepted that I was going to do it. The day after, I received an email from someone I hadn’t spoken to in three years. They desperately needed a speaker on October 19 in Hawaii. It was just seamless. And these things had happened for six years straight. It was bizarre.
I still had no possessions and no money. I still served for free and gave presentations. But the reception part was pretty easy because people were asking me to come.
Things shifted dramatically for a period of time two years ago, when I walked a pilgrimage. Someone asked me to come to Southern Florida to do a presentation. And she was broke. I had given a presentation for her two years previously, and it went wonderfully, and she had been wanting to ask me back. And she was very broke. She knew I didn’t have any money.
So I said, “Well, Bev, I don’t have anything planned. When are you thinking?”
And she said, “May.”
“That gives me enough time, I’ll just walk.”
I left Chattanooga, Tennessee on April 10, and I walked—just like the Peace Pilgrim did—for forty days. Twenty-seven walking days. I walked almost all the way to Miami. I got a few rides along the way, because of some very interesting health challenges, which are all part of the dance when you’re walking. But I did it with no money and I didn’t ask for food—that was one of my rules: no asking for food. I just walked with my little shirt on that said: Numinous Nomad.
That was very interesting—dealing with how people receive a scraggly 6'6" guy wearing a ‘Numinous Nomad’ shirt walking on the side of the highway in the deep South. And people were still kind. I would be dead, otherwise.
It was radical proof of the goodness of humanity every day. Every day, somebody did something brilliantly kind, even though you could tell I made them reasonably very nervous. You know, I’m sweaty and kind of smelly, and I’m huge. [Laughs] I got this stubbly beard and a look of either pain or ecstasy at all times on my face. Those are not the guys you want to talk to. But they did. Everyday.
M: We experienced the same thing. Radical pilgrimage, as you call it, is a way for others to demonstrate their kindness to you. Many of us feel the need to be continually in service. At times we forget to let others experience the same joy. Learning how to receive graciously is just as much of a spiritual practice as giving.
S: When you get to the top of generosity, giving and receiving literally become one. I was receiving the occasional salad and French fries. I was hungry and I was terrified because my ego kept saying, “You’re going to die! What are you doing?”
So every little food I got, my ego was rejoicing like nobody’s business. I obviously enjoyed the French fries or salad, but I’d never seen happier people in my life. Because I hadn’t asked, these people would be beaming to buy me a salad. That’s $2.50 at Burger King or something. And they would just be beaming, because there was no way, obviously, I was going to be able to give them something back. It was raw, unconditional giving, and they had to challenge fear to do it. And when they did it—when they broke through that fear—there they were, just at one with me. It’s raw oneness. It is the bliss of blisses.
This gave me strength, and their joy of giving purely kept me going.
M: What do you find easy and what are your struggles? How do you overcome the struggles?
S: We're programmed to look out for ourselves first, simply because of the way our "reptile brains" are built. Unless we practice pausing and choosing, we are programmed to “fight or flight”, or act out of self-interest. I'm human, and I have a reptile brain, and it is very efficient at getting me to continue to take care of myself first and everybody else second. It is a constant challenge to pause and do something radically, crazily kind—to just smile at a co-worker, or bring someone a coffee, or just pick up some garbage that I see on a sidewalk.
And that is the constant challenge of all challenges: the return to consciousness. All of the other challenges— hatred, jealousy, fear, sadness, anger— they all come from that. So, even though I've been doing this for nine years (and the first eight and a half years with no home, possessions or money), the challenge was (and will be) always there: How do I get back to becoming a conscious human being?
M: You try to consciously find the smallest opportunities to return to that higher place and to act from it.
S: Not always the smallest. I like to say I take the one that falls in my lap. For years, I thought I had to do something big. It was noble. We all want to do something big, affect humanity. The only challenge is that the ego latches on to that and allows us to become frustrated with ourselves. If someone is looking a little down, give them a compliment. It's not always looking for the small things, it's looking for what's already there.
M: Those who are in front of you, those who bring out the "worst in you", are your biggest healers.
S: Yes, I've made a note on that. Those are the angels. Those are the folks that give you a chance to do love powerfully. We all get a chance to be nice to people we like. The challenge is to be kind. That's what brings a great change. It's irrational and shakes the world up. Without those people, it's just too easy. You can't have powerful change without having difficulty.
M: Yes, I can imagine. You know, we jumped into this conversation so quickly, I'm not sure if people know where you got your name.
S: Yes, that's a silly story, but those are the best ones. My seeking for some sort of capital and meaning became really acute around 2001 or 2002, when I started thinking that there has got to be more at this gig, and I will not be at peace until I find it. I started doing Feng Shui, Tai Chi, and all of this stuff. I discovered that there is fear inside each of us, And there is the conscious, the spirit, that requires some courage. And there are always these two selves and we have to decide which of these selves we should let out.
So I changed my name, to remind me that I'm being that guy now. “Big S” Scaughdt is going to come out. I was born Scott and I still am that guy. He's selfish, but he's a good guy. I had a feeling that if I changed my name to something crazy it would have freaked my mother out. So I tried to spell it creatively so it would sound the same (Scaughdt). It's done good things.
M: It's almost as if you have the Scott that is more ego, and the Scaughdt that is coming from a higher consciousness. Have you befriended ego-Scott?
S: Oh yes, you've got to do that. The ego thrives on judgment, insecurity, and fear. That's all it understands. So if you're going attack it, that’s something that it thrives on. You can suppress it for a while, but all you're helping it to become is stronger. And then it'll explode. Like with any addiction, which we all face, it's the same process. You have to love the enemy.
Always start with gratitude. And then tell yourself, “Don't worry, I won't be selfless forever. I won't turn into a saint. But just right now I'm going to do something crazy and selfless and kind.”
And then the ego relaxes. I talk to my ego all the time because it listens. Over time, it'll see how great it feels to do these crazy kind things, and then it gives you more of a break and sits in the back seat on its own.
Pancho: And here's my ego coming up a bit, asking for a bit of space and silence between contributions, and I'd love to think into these messages. I had this image of MLK Jr. and Joanna Macy, and this idea that you don’t need to like your opponent. You need only to love them. Because it is impossible to like someone that is abusing another human being. But, when you talk kindly to the ego, you can appreciate it, and honor the pain of the world. And, with new eyes, you can move forward. It's like a spiral. When you start with gratitude, and start flowing those tears, then your eyes are washed and your mind is calm and you can speak from the heart. We can start talking lovingly within ourselves.
So thank you for allowing this thought to record and nourish us.
More about Scaughdt and his whereabouts can be found on his website.