Twelve years ago, Alan Scherr committed his life to meditation and spirituality, moving his family to the Synchronicity spiritual community in Faber, Va., about 30 miles southwest of Charlottesville in the Blue Ridge mountains.
It was that spiritual journey that led the former art professor at the University of Maryland to be at the historic Leopold Cafe in Mumbai on Wednesday evening, eating a late dinner with his 13-year-old daughter, when armed gunmen attacked.
Both Alan and Naomi Scherr were killed at the cafe, a festive, 137-year-old watering hole that serves beer bongs and nachos. It is almost always packed with backpackers and other travelers who sit for hours, sharing travel stories about India.
Just after 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, that scene was transformed, with customers crouching under stools as masked gunmen sprayed bullets randomly into the air.
"People were just trying to avoid the bullets," said James Conaty, 26, who was visiting from Ireland. "They had no choice but to hide."
The Scherrs were among 25 participants from the Synchronicity community who had traveled to the program in Mumbai. Four other members of the group were injured in the shooting, the Associated Press reported.
According to a statement Synchronicity released Friday, Scherr, 58, and his wife, Kia, had been part of the community since the 1990s. Kia Scherr and the couple's other children had not traveled to India on the spiritual mission, the AP reported.
"Alan committed most of his adult life to meditation, spirituality and conscious living," the statement from Synchronicity said. "He was a passionate Vedic astrologer and meditation teacher who inspired many people to begin a journey of self-awareness and meditation. He was committed to making a positive difference in the world and devoted himself to the community he lived in."
The Synchronicity statement described Naomi as "a bright and lively young woman who loved spending time with people and living life to the fullest. She was passionate, if not a little mischievous, and will be fondly remembered by many of us for colorful hair styles and radiant energy."
In an essay in the Web magazine Realization in 2000, Alan Scherr described his journey from college professor and follower of Eastern meditation to a member and full-time staff member of the Synchronicity community, led by Master Charles, described as a contemporary mystic and master of meditation.
After listening to Master Charles speak in 1994, Scherr wrote, he and his wife decided to join the community, which promotes high-tech meditation and a holistic lifestyle. They moved to Faber in 1996.
"For me, real freedom means living life in each moment, as it unfolds, without concepts or conditions." Scherr wrote. "It is a life very few choose because it requires an orientation and re-prioritization of life that is, in many ways, antithetical to our modern Western culture. And yet, it is always available whenever one is truly focused upon self-mastery. The miracle of this life continues to unfold for me on daily basis."
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Wax reported from Mumbai.