I didn't tell Kathleen about Jack. I didn’t want to sully the sanctified atmosphere of the programs with sordid tales from my botched romance. Besides, I hadn't come out to her. Somehow it didn’t feel right to divulge that either. After all, Kathleen was my mom’s friend first. She and I didn’t really have a relationship independent of theirs – or a connection beyond the one all three of us had to the Guru. My personal life wasn’t relevant.
But I did tell Kathleen about my dream, the one I had about Gurumayi the night after I walked out on Jack. I described the way Gurumayi stood barefoot on my head, levitated above me, and contorted my body. I told her how Gurumayi gave me specific instructions about my breathing, the use of my silver japa ring, and the mantra. I told her about the moment, six months later, when I discovered the image from my dream in a photograph of the guru's feet at the Welcome Gurumayi program.
As I shared each detail, Kathleen’s expression became fixed. For someone ordinarily in a perpetual state of effusive animation, her reaction to my dream was matter-of-fact.
“You should write Gurumayi and tell her,” she said flatly after I finished. “She should know.”
Her suggestion was so immediate and straightforward I didn’t think I should question it.
Between the second and final week of Gurumayi’s programs, my mom arranged for me to fly me back home to Colorado to attend a family gathering for my Grandmother’s 80th birthday. I’d miss one of the evening programs but still make it back in time for the last two. The day before I left, I sat down and typed up a one-page letter to Gurumayi. Just the contents of my dream and a line that said, “Thank you for letting me share my dream with you.” I unrolled the letter from my typewriter and signed my name at the bottom. Writing to the Guru; this was something new. But for some reason, now that I’d done it, it didn’t feel as out of the ordinary as I’d expected. Maybe reaching out to her like this was the natural next step. Maybe this was what people meant when they said, "This is why we have a living master."
I creased the letter into precise thirds, sealed it inside a legal size envelope and addressed it just as Kathleen instructed – to Gurumayi Chidvilasanda, care of the address of the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Oakland. I'd never written down Gurumayi’s full name before. It looked so long hand-written out like that. It went right to the edge of the envelope.
The next morning I walked down to the corner mailbox holding the letter in both hands like a bird I was about to set free. I wasn’t sure how these things worked. I couldn’t imagine my letter would actually reach Gurumayi. But whether it reached her or not didn’t matter. I was following a direction that felt like it needed to be followed. I stopped in front of the mailbox, closed my eyes, took a small breath and dropped the letter in.
An hour later my cab arrived and off I went to the airport.
My grandmother's birthday celebrations continued through the weekend in Colorado. Early Monday evening, after we returned to my mom's house from a family dinner, my mom called down the hall to me from the kitchen: “Michael, there’s a message on our machine for you – it’s from Melissa!”
I panic. Melissa and I never called each other when we were away unless there was an emergency. Something must be wrong.
I walk into the kitchen, hunch over the machine and press play:
“Michael, I’m sorry to bother you,” she starts, catching her breath, “But I thought you’d want to know right away. A woman just called from the ashram. She said she’s one of Gurumayi’s secretaries. She said Gurumayi read your letter! Can you believe it? Her name is Yolande. She said she wants to know if you can come meet with her during Tuesday night’s program. She said after you go up to see Gurumayi in darshan, all you need to do is speak with one of the attendants near her chair. She said just introduce yourself and give them her name and they’ll know what to do.”
I rewind the message and play it back. My mom and I stand there staring at each other with dopey smiles, shaking our heads in disbelief. I don’t know what to think. I feel hyper-aware and exposed, the way I feel right after bowing down to Gurumayi in darshan, like I’ve just received a sudden blast of attention bigger than I can contain. I’m excited, and a little scared. What can this mean?
When Kathleen prompted me to send my letter I never expected a response. Not something immediate and direct as a call from one of Gurumayi’s secretaries. Gurumayi had secretaries? I guess if everyone was writing just to tell her about their dreams, she needed them.
I walk in a daze back down the hall to my old room. The room I lived in from the time I was three until I bailed from Colorado just before I turned eighteen. The room that’s now for guests. My uncle Mitchell, who also flew into town for my grandmother’s 80th, is sitting in the over-sized corner chair, his long legs crossed, flipping through my copy of the ashram’s Darshan magazine. I must have left it sitting out on top of my suitcase. He’s smiling.
In the early 1960s my uncle Mitchell took a trip around the world with my grandparents, and their week in India was a memorable highlight. It’s the week from that trip they often recount tales from during family dinners while reminiscing about their world travels. My grandmother still refers to India as the place she’d return to in a minute, if given the chance. Once, when I asked her why India remained her favorite she said, “Because it’s the one place in the world where you never know what’s coming next – and the men have the most marvelous eyes.” Now, in his work with the government, my uncle Mitchell circles the globe annually, and India is a frequent stop. As he sits sifting through my copy of Darshan, as first I think maybe he’s smiling because he’s recognized something from his travels. Perhaps the image of a Hindu deity he once saw in a temple; maybe a familiar Upanishad quote. But when he notices me standing in the doorway and glances up, I realize his smile is more I’m-your-uncle-and-I-know-better than it is pleased. He fans the pages of the magazine closed with his thumb, looks at me over the tops of his glasses and says, “This is all fairy tales, you know.”