When you’ve Got Two Cooks in the Kitchen

I have a little crazy in me. I keep him in a nice padded room next to my heart. But I don’t keep the door locked. We have an understanding. He’s free to come out and take over whenever needed. Everything works fine so far as he follows the rules we’ve established.

Everything has a place; a natural fit, where it creates harmony. When I was younger, a friend and I would always comment, upon seeing couples get together that were seemingly unlikely pairs, “See there’s somebody for everybody.” On the other hand, everyone doesn’t flow together. Not everybody can be friends.

This is not to say there isn’t value in discomfort. The world can only move forward when we can work with people who we don’t agree with or respect. From the moment we are pushed from the womb, we enter into chaos. Some people spend their whole lives trying to recreate that bubble of comfort, of love and of harmony. But only when we enter into chaos can we grow.

I used to give my crazy freer reign. People were afraid to mess with the beast that was me. My bosses gave other employees rules on engaging with me. Bosses liked me because my crazy could always get things done – extra efficiently. Getting things done may come at the cost of harmony, but when it’s more about the job than the relationships, harmony tends to be the first thing discarded.

I’ve always been a rule follower. Rules create order. In my work environment I have a place for everything. If someone comes into my workspace and moves things around, it creates a disturbance within me that I try to suppress so as not to appear obsessive. But I will always put things back. Whether I can wait until the person leaves, so as not to embarrass myself, is determined only by my mood and patience on that day.

I think I was the only kid that I knew who was very affected by Nancy Regan’s, “Just Say No to Drugs” campaign. The problem was that I loved counterculture people, many of whom used drugs. If ever I heard about drug use I would be like, “Just say no, man.” Maybe that’s why, although I had enough friends, I was never invited to parties.

It is a strange thing to be counter button-up-society in pretty much every way, but still be a rule follower. It has landed me in about the perfect spot for my particular personality. I live in an ashram in India. For an American to come to an ashram in India, by and large, they have to be pretty liberal. But for an Indian to live in an ashram in India, they would be, by and large, pretty conservative. I mean liberal in the sense of nonconformist and conservative in the sense of a love for tradition. A beautiful mix of custom and rebellion defines the lines that we walk trying to keep order in the chaos we’ve created.

Seeing this swirl of instability play out, both on the inside and outside of me, keeps me on edge while allowing me to gain the strength to meet whatever challenges life throws my way. It is an emotional boot camp that prepares us for the spiritual battleground.

I used to let my crazy take over until it became an embarrassment to me. While I called it being free, others called it unhinged. At some point, I realized that I could only be free around people whom I felt safe with; people that I didn’t think were going to try and bring me down. I made a conscious decision to conform. But that decision comes at a price. When people don’t fear you, some choose to try and walk over you. Now, when situations arise that I don’t like, I smile first. I think, “They wouldn’t have done this when I was younger.” I warn them. And every now and again, when warranted, I give my crazy a guest appearance. But he doesn’t have to be asked. He knows when it’s time. We have an understanding.

The trick that we all have to learn is to find harmony in the chaos; to let most of the things that want to scream inside, because they seem out of place, relax.  We have to find ways to adapt and adjust to the ever-changing world around us, that doesn’t just give our peace away.

A friend once told me that I redefine passive aggressive because I’m either completely passive or completely aggressive. I try to let things go. I try to understand that everybody is different and just let everyone be themselves and do things in their own way. But when others just keep pushing on that bubble I insulate myself in, or push on it just once, but too hard, then I will transform into my beastly self. The beast will take over until I start to notice that I’m drawing a crowd, confused at what all of the ruckus is about. I pretty much have to be shocked out of my crazy, although I’m usually shocked into it as well. But I use my crazy as a deterrent lest people fail to understand that, although passive, I’m not to be walked over.

Everything has a place; a natural fit, where it creates harmony. But this world is a battleground and most of the pieces are broken. If we’re looking for harmony to start outside of ourselves, we may be waiting the whole of our lives for it. We have to first mold ourselves into peaceful warriors that can fit in anywhere, and then maybe we’ll have a chance at a peace that will last. And, maybe then, our crazy can finally retire to a beach in our past.

About the author

I am a King without a Kingdom, in a world with many masters, wrapped in the spoils of a jealous heart, and my people’s callous laughter.


  1. I really liked this essay and relate to quite a bit of it. Before college I was in environments where I was more conservative than those around me. When I was in college I was much more liberal than most of the people I went to school with. During my hippie years I wore a headband and moccasins but I had no interest in the drugs or free love aspects of it. I, even now, place a high value on following rules and at the same time see myself as a counter culture rebel!

      1. I would agree, it’s a family thing. One of my memories from the 90’s was being at a workshop where we were asked to divide into three groups- Over-adaptive, Rebellious and Victim. I put myself in the Over-adaptive group. The leader of the workshop walked up to me. She was much shorter than me. I remember her looking up at me and saying “Who are you kidding?” She then started listing events from my life. I quickly moved to the Rebellious group!

  2. I hope YOUR crazy never fully retires! I love him/it in your writing!!!

    People have always been afraid of mine. She stays under wraps (not Mormon restraints…just contained until she is needed). But she is fierce and relentless when there is a righteous cause.

    Thanks for this post.


  3. You are truly a lively seeker, a difficult thing to be while living in a broken dungeon. But luckily there is a lot of goodness here in the dungeon, as well. Including your brilliance. Shine on!

  4. I had to smile as I read this since it reminded me of something a pastor once said to me…he said “Now the thing with turning the other cheek is…I only have two…so that third strike is going to be met with anger equal to the first two blows.”

    1. I love it too. I remember Amma talking about a snake that used to terrorize a village. A guru told the snake to stop it and it did. Then the village people turned on the snake and beat it up. When the guru saw the battered snake and heard what had happened, the guru said I told you to stop terrorizing people but I didn’t tell you not to hiss.

      Sometimes we have to hiss.

  5. I’m another counter culture, old hippie rule follower. Except, you know, when I disagree with the rule 🙂 But your fine line between the two makes perfect sense to me.

    1. So I guess there’s more of us than I thought. Oh yeah, if a rule is just fundamentally wrong then it might not enter my consciousness as a real rule and then forget it.

  6. Thanks. I admire your surrender to the ashram and Amma’s Rules and kitchen. I also admire you not allowing your Self to be walked on and being that smiling peaceful warrior first who seeks the harmony within before deploying your crazy wisdom. I also relate to your crazy wisdom, which is Shiva. Amma also claims to be crazy. To me it is clear that your craziness is your love for Goddess. Your actions and your tireless work for Amma show your craziness is your love for Amma. Because of this, there is no doubt that your Soul is free from all limitations and you are Shiva. Shiva is crazy for Durga. Durgam means confusion. Durga removed confusion. Thanks for writing your Truth so clearly.

  7. In the dictionary, crazy means “wild and aggressive.” If a wild man channels spiritual warrior aggression towards service of the Guru and Self Realization then this is lakshya bodha, intent on the Goal. There are 7 billion different human Religions on this planet and each person has their own Divine formula for Self Realization. So in this sense, it may be why Amma says paradoxes like, “if we don’t follow the rules of the road there are collisions” and simultaneously, “there are no rules to Compassion.” Yogi Berra, the great Yankees catcher once said, “When you get to a fork in the road, take it.” Love to you brotherji!

    1. Hey! Very nice to see you around these parts! Thank you for all of your kind words. It’s nice to see Amma and yogi Berra in the same comment paragraph. Hope that you’re doing well.

  8. Today I learned what an Ashram is…thanks to you. I think most of us have a little crazy that makes appearances now and then. Have you always lived in India? Do you like it there? 🙂

    1. I’ve been traveling to India, to this ashram where I now live, since 1992. There is a guru here known as Amma, the hugging saint, who travels the world giving hugs. Her full name is Mata Amritanandamayi. I’ve been living permanently in her ashrams since 1994, but mostly lived in her first US ashram in Castro Valley/ San Ramon CA.(in the East Bay Area outside of Oakland) I lived there 16 years and used to go to India for a couple months or more every year. In 2009 Amma asked me to stay in India and take over the cooking for the Western Canteen. So I’ve been the chef here since then. Almost ten years now, that’s gone by in the blink of an eye. I love it here, although it’s not always an easy lifestyle. It is always too hot, both internally and externally.

  9. As I read this post again another memory from my own life surfaced. I used to say I had a high tolerance for other people’s behavior but then one day I realized that instead I was being passive and storing resentments!

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