June 27th, 2006
To begin the story of how I discovered Sahaja Yoga properly, I would try to describe the atmosphere of seeking in which I was living in the winter of 1995-96. I can only point to the types of influences that shaped my mood in those days. I’m sure my search was in some ways a universal one, and many fellow-seekers will recognize what these outside circumstances tell about what was happening inside.
The story of my personal experiments with truth/reality until that winter was a journey with major turning points, always coinciding with some contact with a fellow seeker, usually older than myself. This was the “disciple’s” natural urge to discover his “guru”.
Maybe the spiritual quest is always a personal one, but the guru is the medium between the seeker and what he seeks. I’m sure I was not very conscious that I was seeking such a teacher, but I can look back and see that it was so. University was completed, and the attitude of escaping the world, or seeking within, was created around me in the house I shared with my friends, with no television, and a close knit, insular dynamic among us.
Hatha Yoga, Zazen meditation, the stories of mystics, discovering the stories of Christ in India and the connectedness of religions that this implied, were part of my search, as well as anthropology, musicology, and studies of the cultures of the world. Drugs, local subcultures, and drug cultures were the other side of my experiments with life, but with no teacher to turn me away from such things, and guide me through the forest my search, these more destructive paths began to take on a life of their own, as perhaps they always will. Anyone familiar with disconnection from the usual patterns of life, work, and culture of their environment will eventually know its dark side of self destruction.
The quest for personal knowledge and experience without a guru leaves such free spirits as pursues it quite unprotected - emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually, in terms of their inner instrument of spiritual health, the subtle body of chakras and energy channels.
For the seeker, some forces of destruction are sought as a way to “open doors” of experience, and some others are more habitual behaviors which have the potential to become part and parcel of the life of any outsider. Essentially, as seekers, my housemates and I were a deviant class of people, and when this status as an outsider is worn as a badge of pride, any kind of foolishness can appear worthy.
It was February, I was walking down the main street of my city and saw a poster advertising free meditation classes of Sahaja Yoga at the downtown library. Two things I still recall are firstly, the arresting face of an Indian woman on the poster whom I expected to meet at the library, and secondly, the “always free” caption. I brought my friends with me to those early classes of course. The Indian woman at the library there looked different from woman in the photograph, and her husband, a German man, was leading the class! The experience of those first classes was like prying open a doorway to a new birth, a new life, but I won’t try to describe my experiences here. They are probably not much different from stories that other yogis have described better than I can. It might be best if I keep this never-ending story of discovering Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi in the context of my particular path.
I can certainly laugh when I reflect on the impression my appearance must have made on the Sahaja Yogis in those days, but I think these things are not unique to my story. My surprise at my friends failing interest in Sahaja Yoga is certainly not unique, nor the distress I felt upon seeing them walk away, at least for the time being, from Shri Mataji’s healing photograph. Instead I will try to describe the turn of events during the summer of 1996, and how close I came to losing myself forever.
The spring of that year was spent living and carrying on with my friends almost as I always had, though occasionally I would try the meditation techniques from the weekly Sahaja classes outside the class, usually with disappointing results. As a Yogi now, I can reflect on how cigarettes, drugs, negative environments, and chaotic living could upset my inner balance enough to make meditation outside the collective difficult. However, Shri Mataji’s lectures made a great impact on me, and I recognized Her as the Guru I had been seeking. That I should always follow Her path of Sahaja Yoga, and that I should never have to search beyond Her for greater truths, was certain within me from the beginning. But I was still keeping all the channels to the negative forces around me open. And the negative forces within me were rallying for a counterstrike.
Self destructive forces within me had been settling into my being for some years by this time, and when the couple who had been traveling to our city to conduct classes took the summer to travel to Europe, those forces hatched a clever scheme to steal me from my mother. “I’m still quite young to settle down”, I reasoned within myself, “I know now that I won’t get anywhere with Sahaja Yoga until I turn away from cigarettes and drugs, so I might as well have some fun while the summer is here, and I can become a serious Sahaja Yogi in September when the classes resume.” Reasoning thus, my meditations tapered off to nothing, and in the interconnected chains of friends, music, drugs, and money, I constructed a plan for a new direction in life. With my beautiful girlfriend at my side, I would provide the youth of my city with chemical drugs, and free from the necessity of other work, I could devote myself to my artwork, as well as parties organized with my friends integrating my art, lights, music, and drugs. Eventually, of course, my art career could evolve to the point where I could replace these more dubious kinds of income. Of course with Sahaja Yoga classes starting again soon, and with Shri Mataji visiting Toronto in person, I would have to stay off the drugs myself, but what was the harm in selling them to others? How else is a struggling artist to get on?
It was with this dangerous mindset that I fell further and further still along a course of self destruction, and it was with this mindset I stood one September evening on the eve of Shri Mataji’s arrival in Canada with a bag of ecstasy tablets in my hand. Though I had resolved to stop using drugs as the Sahaj classes had begun again, I had convinced myself that I needed to sample the pills to find out their quality before selling them. But I was in Shri Mataji’s attention, and before I swallowed the pill, she put a humble prayer in my heart, “Shri Mataji, as I have convinced myself to do this thing, please may I learn something from this experience, that I may grow because of it.” Without going into too much detail about Sahaja Yoga meditation, I have to explain that ego and superego are the two sides of our mind that have to be recognized, and quieted to some extent, to give some relief to the Agya chakra, the energy center governing our mental activity. This is the center of meditation. Day and night the Yogi tries to see the movement of his attention, ever watchful for the ego and the conditionings of super ego, which he recognizes as the enemies of his growth.
After about half an hour as the chemical worked its wonders, the room began to feel as if its very air was a field of energy, electric and tangible. All the muscles of my body seemed to flow with this same energy, in a buzzing, numbing oneness. All the energy in the universe acted and reacted with the energy that was my body, and the smooth rhythmic forms that my body took as I moved were beautiful, full of meaning, a “body of knowledge” if you can imagine. My thoughts were sweeping me along in hundred different fantasies of where this magic bag of pills could lead me, how dancing could impart knowledge and bliss to others. Without words… a pure knowledge…
Wait a second, now here is something I recognize – it dawned on me, the understanding I had prayed for! This was my ego! in fact blown up to the size of a thousand egos! This was the DEATH of spirituality! Like a hammer the new concepts hit my hyperaware attention, “I could not sell this or any drug to anyone, let alone take any myself, however far I have gotten myself into this mess, I don’t care what happens, I’m going to walk away.” I resolved to wash my hands of everything I had begun. Greatly humbled, I went with two of my sisters to Shri Mataji’s public program, and as if to complete my story of transformation for me personally, Shri Mataji gave to Toronto the unheard of blessing of staying and meeting all the seekers personally. In this way, Shri Mataji cured my fragile condition, taking my hands into hers, and cleansing me of that which possessed me, so that I was able to stop using drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes overnight, and forever! To this day I have not been troubled in the least by these addictions, and I must stress that it was never in any way through my own steadfastness, but through the grace of Shri Mataji. Thank you Mother, again and again.
Read more about Sahaja Yoga in Canada at www.sahajayoga.ca