Updated: Dec 11, 2020
In Feb. 2012, I made the from Chicago to Dallas, where I would establish my new home. On the drive , the feeling of a fresh start settled in, as I was traveling with all my belongings, down south across the country. I arrived in Dallas during the day and spent the day driving and taking care of errands.
As evening approached, I noticed the skylight begin to dim. I anticipated the feeling of practicing Agnihotra for the first time in the city, the same city that had taught me the importance of Agnihotra as a daily practice. I anticipated the sense of anchoring myself in this new land, my new home.
I left the department store where I had been shopping for home supplies, and moved my car to the end of the parking lot. I prepared Agnihotra in my passenger seat, which was my typical practice when on the road. I made the offering and settled into my meditation. Shortly into the meditation, though, I heard the people who had parked next to me return to their car. By then smoke from the Agnihotra fire was escaping through the windows.
I heard two men talking back and forth, and one of them asserted something about the smoke. I could tell they were concerned. I thought for a moment to break my meditation and let them know it was okay and I was performing a fire meditation, but I typically did so when someone actually approached me. I decided to stay in my meditation and not break it.
When the fire went out and I chanted the closing Mantra, I turned on the ignition to drive back closer to the department store. Right then, I heard the screeching sound of police sirens and saw the disorienting flood lights from two cars just behind me. I realized the two that were concerned had called the police.
I remained calm as two officers cautiously approached the car, one with a flashlight directed at my face, and another with his hand on his holster, poised to draw his firearm.
As the officer approached the driver side door, he shined the light at the Agnihotra pyramid and the emanating smoke.
In a somewhat irritated tone, he asked, "what are you doing and what is that." I told him "this is my set to perform a fire meditation and I had just concluded my practice." He asked "why I was performing here?"
I told him, "when the sun sets, I perform my fire meditation wherever I am. I happened to be shopping in the department store during sunset."
He asked for my license and registration and went back to his vehicle. The second officer stood next the driver-side door, perhaps to ensure I didn't do anything unexpected.
He had similarly asked what I was doing and I offered to share an Agnihotra pamphlet I had in the glove compartment, to hopefully convey this is a real practice. As I was reaching over he yelled at me to keep my hands on the steering wheel, and directed me to never take my hands off the steering wheel when an officer is present.
I followed his directive and maintained my silence until the first officer returned. The first officer returned and handed back my license and registration. He said he couldn't cite me for a violation, because my car was my personal property. He seemed somewhat disappointed.
When the officers left, I sat for a moment to ponder what I had just experienced. I realize that this was preparation for what was to come in my time in Dallas.