June 27th, 2006
I had been seeking answers to so many questions of life since my childhood. Seeing that I was not getting anywhere and weary from the great effort, at age twenty-three I pretty much gave up and decided that if I cannot live a life of fulfillment, at least I can numb the pain.
It was in this self-destructive “party” mode that I met a good friend named Ransom. He was also a great seeker. He had a clear twinkle in his blue eyes and he pretty much got me up, dusted me off and set me back on the road. Ransom’s mother had died when he was 12 years old and he had a vision of Christ around that time. He could clearly see Christ in his bedroom and felt such a great comfort from this experience that he began actively seeking spiritual union with God. Just hearing about this made my heart sing – I knew that there was a God although I was professing to be an atheist for years out of spite for not finding a way to Him. This story confirmed to me that the possibility still existed for me to have communion with the Divine.
Ransom shared with me some books about alternative spirituality. I enjoyed reading one written about a certain guru, but when it came to the part about this “saint” having impure relationships with many of his female disciples I felt like getting sick. Somehow I knew inside that there were rules for authentic gurus. Another rule I somehow knew was that spiritual teaching could not cost anything. Ransom and I found out about a Buddhist meditation camp in Massachusetts where you meditate in silence for 10 days. It was free and we made a pact that we would go during the next summer. We had great hopes that we would somehow ascend in our spiritual climb by performing such austerities.
One day in the spring of 1991 I stopped by a sort of new age bakery after working a day shift. On the inside of the front door someone had taped a poster with a picture of an Indian lady. My eyes went straight to her face and a voice inside me said rather loudly, “This is for me.” My mind wondered about that voice but I figured that it was referring to the fact that she was a woman. Having been raised Catholic I was sure that I wasn’t interested in any male-dominated religion. I noted the time and place and was happy to read, “Always free of charge” at the bottom of the poster.
I went home excited to call Ransom with the news. He was in my house talking with my roommate when I arrived so I excitedly told him about the Indian lady giving the program. As I was trying to recall the details he stood up and took out of his pocket a leaflet with the same photograph that someone had given to him on the street that afternoon. He had come to my house to tell me about the same program. Kismet! We knew we had to go even though we both had to work Friday nights. We worked at a local pizzeria every Friday and we counted on that money, but this was something beyond material matters, so we put up our slips for someone to take our shifts and amazingly we both got replaced.
I didn’t have a car so we went in Ransom’s with his fiancé and two other friends. It was 20 minutes away at a community college and pretty much everyone in the room thought that the Indian lady would actually be there to talk to us. A man who had been practicing this method of meditation for a while gave an introduction and stated that we would get our Self Realization that night.
I felt an urge to leave the room – I had read about Self Realization and the enlightenment of Buddha for hours in libraries and my yearning was palpable, but to have it right now – what would happen? How would I get home? Would I remember where I lived if I fused with the Divine? To have this desperate thirst quenched scared me, what would or could follow? As a seeker you get used to talking, discussing, thinking, you really don’t get a chance to “do” much. Somehow I stayed in my seat as they put on a video tape showing a program given by the Indian lady in the photograph. I learned that her name was Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi, and the method she had created was called Sahaja Yoga – spontaneous Self Realization.
At some point they asked us to close our eyes. I was such an untrusting soul that I actually put my purse between my feet so that if these people wanted to steal my money I would feel it. The yogis came behind us and worked on us. I could feel something above my head kind of pulling, but I could not feel the cool breeze which they called as “vibrations” and which is the manifestation of this connection with the Divine. Ransom could feel it.
What I did feel was a change in my inner state of consciousness - I was at peace. At long last I was feeling comforted and satisfied. This kind of feeling I had felt before when I would go camping for many days in the woods or mountains: after a couple of days I had no longer the sensation of time being segmented into hours, I got onto a more natural rhythm, my thoughts dispersed in the air and I was very aware of my surroundings. This same feeling came to me after just ten minutes of this meditation. I didn’t have any tangible proof since I couldn’t feel vibrations, but the inward proof was definitely there. Ransom and I decided that we would have to take off more Friday nights. So each Friday we would go to the program and watch a video tape. At first I had difficulty understanding Shri Mataji’s accent, but what I could understand confirmed to me her great knowledge.
Shri Mataji spoke to very profound questions with a warmth and humor and simplicity that were shocking because they were so natural. For instance one day I was listening to a tape and Shri Mataji was explaining the Holy Trinity. She was asking how can “they” say that the Holy Ghost is a mystery, we must reason it out, there is a Father and a Son and then there is this Holy Ghost which is a dove hanging in the air somewhere. It doesn’t make any sense, the Holy Ghost is of course the Mother, because how can you have a Father and a Son without a Mother? To me this was so obviously true that I had to laugh out loud wondering how I had swallowed that false idea for so long. After the tape, the yogis would work on us and this was the best meditation I had all week. I had a very modest altar set up for meditation in my bedroom but I wasn’t at all regular yet. The method I found most effective for me was called foot soaking where you meditate with your feet in a bowl of cool salt water. This helped my attention get focused and I could feel my thoughts slow down. At each program the yogis would ask me if I could feel the cool breeze and try to do things that might help me but still I could not feel the vibrations.
It was working on me though. When I would come home from the public program each week I would spend the rest of the night listening to music and cleaning my house. The way I lived before Realization was absolutely filthy. Of course my mother, but even my friends who were the same age would make fun of my disorder and dirt. Now my floors were shining and there was a new tidiness.
In my behavior there was also a cleansing. I was working at two restaurants by then – I had dropped out of college just two months before – and one was an upscale ritzy place. Hungry people can be demanding and rude but rich hungry people are even worse, I would end my shift with both hands shaking and needing three drinks just to feel mellow. Of course once you’ve had three drinks why should you stop there? The “fun” is just beginning.
After a couple of months of meditating I found that I could not enjoy drinking anymore. I couldn’t understand it at first, suddenly this habit which I was so involved in was turning on me and making me feel depressed. I tried different kinds of alcohol to see if that would help, but still I was feeling deflated instead of elated. I drank shots of alcohol with coffee thinking that the caffeine might lift me up but it didn’t work either. Finally one day I was struck by the fact that I wasn’t tense anymore at the end of my shift. Since I had been doing this meditation I was on a natural high so I didn’t need the alcohol to relax me – I was relaxed.
Then I had to make a big decision – either to stop the meditation and “enjoy” as before, or continue the meditation and stop spending time with my friends. Twice before when I had to take penicillin and couldn’t drink I realized that to be sober in the company of drunk people is torturous. When you are also drunk everyone seems smarter, funnier and more colorful than when you are sober and you can see things in a more realistic light. I really liked this new side to me and I felt if I gave up on it I would be giving away my chance at redemption. If I was sincerely seeking my Spirit, and believe me I had tried almost everything, how could I abandon the quest on account of alcohol? My biggest fear was that my laziness would somehow spoil this unique opportunity. It took me months to get my meditations regular, but I did always try to go to the meeting and have the yogis work on me.
Later on I discovered that the whole idea of Christ turning the water into wine is completely absurd. The Hebrew word yayin which they translate as “wine” can mean either wine or grape juice, and if there is any question there are scores of admonishments in the rest of the Bible against alcohol. Jesus, who was the son of God and was innocence and purity personified, could not have given people a substance that goes against human awareness, that takes the consciousness to a lower level instead of a raising it to a more elevated, spiritual dimension. Besides, grape juice needs time to rot in order to become alcohol. As I was going to find out later on, Shri Mataji also performed this same miracle of turning water into grape juice when she was being interviewed by a reputed Italian reporter.
So over a period of six months I had changed in many significant ways but it was so gentle and so effortless that I barely noticed. I still didn’t understand the significance of who Shri Mataji was. Perhaps out of habit I continued my search.
I met Ransom and his fiancé in Massachusetts for the Buddhist meditation and it was very different from the Sahaja methods we were learning. We had to rise at 4 am and meditate pretty much the whole day. In the evening we would listen to a videotape of a man talking, guiding us I guess. Every night when he would come on I would get a splitting headache – I didn’t realize that Buddha is actually inside all of us on the left side of the head and what this man was saying was not in harmony with the actual Buddha and that was why I was having so much pain. One night I had such a horrible migraine that I really wanted to die just so it would stop.
Also I noticed that although we were not speaking, our minds were as active as ever. When I went one day to brush my teeth I found a woman reading the back of her shampoo bottle with extreme interest. As you can imagine, after a few days without newspapers, TV, books, radio and so on, a shampoo bottle can be very stimulating. I was pretty depressed during the last few days, and I kept asking to talk to the woman who was in the front of the room to find out “how” I should meditate.
She would tell me to quiet my mind. Yes, but “how?” The last day came and we were to be soon free and I had imagined that I would be transformed by the experience into a fresher and purer me. On the contrary, what I remember most is that during the last meditation meeting my mind was filled with perverted thoughts which were very disturbing because I had never had them before. This made me think that maybe this wasn’t the answer I was hoping for.
Some days after returning home, I stopped by chance at the Sahaja Yoga ashram – a place where yogis lived together as a family. I had kind of felt that our relationship was finished by that point, but they welcomed me back so sweetly, with open arms, and gave me a copy of a poem that Shri Mataji had written for the American seekers called “To My Flower Children”. I read that poem over and over. It seemed to be filled with profound meaning and by reading it I could feel some meaning coming into my being, I wasn’t just reading with my mind but also somehow it was feeding my soul. I am reproducing it below:
“You are angry with life
Like small children
Whose Mother is lost in darkness
Your sulk expressing despair
At the fruitless end of your journey
You wear Ugliness to discover Beauty
You name everything false in the name of Truth
You drain out emotions to fill the cup of Love
My sweet children, my darlings
How can you get peace by waging war
With yourself, with your being, with joy itself?
Enough are your efforts of renunciation
The artificial mask of consolation
Now rest in the petals of the lotus flower
In the lap of your gracious Mother
I will adorn your life with beautiful blossoms
And fill your moments with joyful fragrance
I will anoint your head with Divine Love
For I cannot bear your torture anymore
Let me engulf you in the ocean of joy
So you lose your being in the Greater one
Who is smiling in your calyx of Self
Secretly hidden to tease you all the while
Be aware and you will find Him
Vibrating your every fiber with blissful joy
Covering the whole Universe with light.”
That day the Yogis invited me to an East Coast seminar. All the Sahaja yogis from the Midwest and the Eastern part of the United States and Canada gathered at a scout camp in Pennsylvania. There were over 100 people there of all walks of life, races and ages. We did many techniques in the nature and I felt their effect very strongly, I could really feel things going out of my system and into the ground. My attention was so fresh, I was completely involved in each activity and this time I could be thoughtless without any effort. I felt shy to talk to many adults, but I enjoyed being with the children of the yogis, I felt like I was a child again.
It lasted three days and on the final day we had what is called a puja – a ceremony of worship and prayer. During this puja my hands began to speak, I finally felt the vibrations and this time it wasn’t just a little trickle, they were awash in a fountain-like flow of cool air. We were inside a building with the doors closed, but really there was no doubt for me that the vibrations were coming in my hands and that they were originating from the photograph of Shri Mataji. After the puja I walked or rather joyously pranced down the trail to my cabin singing at the top of my voice and from the depths of my heart a song I had just learned which was saying “Victory to the Divine Mother.” I who had been pretty much shattered to the core by a life of disconnection was whole and fresh again. When the yogis dropped me off at my little house that night I knew as I walked up the back steps that I would never be the same again and that I would continue this meditation for the rest of my life.
When I first met Shri Mataji what struck me most was how vivacious she was. In 1992 she was 69 years old, but when she walked through the door of the airport I felt that I was meeting a woman in her late thirties. She was looking so fresh and her skin was just glowing. I was holding a little child in my arms and she gently played with the girl while I stood watching her with great interest. I had been meditating in front of her photograph for one year by then and I was keen to know more about who she was. Since then I have noticed many times that there is a certain silent electricity surrounding her, and if you are anywhere near her you feel it and are charged by it.
When I turned to leave the airport, I could perceive that I had been in contact with someone who is completely pure. I sensed a brilliant light in Shri Mataji’s being and when I turned my attention back to myself, I became aware of the darkness that was still lingering in me, in my subtle body. As I walked to the car my footsteps felt as though they had been preordained, destined, as if with each step the gravity of this meeting was making my footstep echo into the center of the Earth.”
Would you like to read more about Sahaja Yoga in the USA? Visit www.sahajayoga.org.