Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lucid Memories, Chapter One, 3

As I wait in line a tanned, wispy-haired woman wearing a guaze skirt, chunky turquoise bracelets, silver Roman sandals and a nametag that says “Urvashi Cohen" dances up and down the line, trying to tempt us away to the temporary dining hall across the street. "There's plenty of time!" she assures. "You can come back for Darshan after dinner!" No one budges.

Five minutes later she twirls past us again, this time literally singing this evening’s dinner specials. Unlike the pinched-faced volunteers who scurried me out of the lobby and into the outside darshan line two hours ago, this woman seems to be genuinely enjoying her assignment. She stops near me and describes each dish on the evening's menu in mouth-watering detail, as if any attempt on our part to choose just one of these delectable items will prove to be exquisite agony. She’s a character. I like her, and everyone within earshot is engaged by her ardent effort – but not a chance. No way am I losing my spot. Undeterred, she pirouettes away and tries her luck again, further down the line.

At last we are moving, but as the line inches off the sidewalk and back into the lobby, my mind drifts, out of the theater and back to the dream I had about Gurumayi last October – the night after I broke up with Jack . . .

I’m at my mom’s house in Colorado. A group of her friends from the local Siddha Yoga center have gathered for an occasion that feels ceremonious. Since I’m not a member of the center I'm not sure why I’m there, or what’s going to happen next. I notice, however, that I’m the only one in the room dressed in what looks like a more formal version of white cotton pajamas.

Everyone assembles quietly into a seated circle then begins passing around an old, heavy, atlas-sized book. I can't see the cover but it looks like an ancient text of some sort. The book makes a full circle and gets handed to me last, open to a page containing an elaborate diagram illustrating the back of a human head. Looking closely, I notice that traced over the back of the head are the precise outlines of the bare soles of two feet. I’m intrigued. I’ve never seen an image like this before. I have no idea what to make of it.

As I study the image, everyone begins speaking in hushed exchanges. Clearly they consider the image to be powerful, symbolic. When I close the book and look up, Gurumayi is standing directly in front of me. The room falls silent. As if it’s an involuntarily automatic response, I immediately lay my entire body flat, face down on the carpet, and place my head at her bare feet, pranaming before her. Then, lifting her feet one at a time off of the carpet, Gurumayi steps delicately up onto the back of my head, and balances there in place, almost weightless. I can feel the bare soles of her feet pressing lightly against the back of my scalp. I’m alternately watching all this happen from a vantage point somewhere high above my body, and experiencing it internally with my eyes closed.

After holding her motionless position for a moment, her feet slowly lift off the back of my head and she levitates up into the air and hovers over me, the bare soles of her feet floating a just inches above my head. Turning slowly in midair, she steps down onto my back, kneels between my shoulder blades and begins to manipulate and contort each of my limbs through a series of humanly impossible, though somehow painless, complex and specific yoga postures. Once she completes this intricate, ritualistic procedure, she remains seated on my back, kneeling in silence.

After a pause she starts to speak. The deep vibrations of her voice coat me in a protective balm.

“I’m going to tell you some things," she says, her voice calm and almost monotone, "And I want you to repeat each of these things back to me, so that I know you've heard them.”

She then gives me specific instructions about my breathing, followed by a description of the true purpose of the silver japa ring I wear on my wedding finger – a gift from my mom purchased years ago at the original ashram in India, one of the few possessions I treasure but have never used for actual mantra repetition.

I repeat everything Gurumayi tells me back to her, word for word, step by step.

Then her voice drops down into a final instruction. “I have no importance here,” she says.

Repeating her words, I reply: “I have no importance here.”

At that moment the dream ended and my eyes split open – as if I’d been grabbed by the throat and yanked awake. I kicked off my sheets and ran down the hall to wake up Melissa. I was bursting to tell her what had just happened. I had no idea what to make of it. We fixed coffee and took our conversation back to my room.

As we sat crossed-legged on my bed talking, Melissa confided something she’d been holding onto for years. Leaning in and smoothing a stray strand of hair away from my forehead she said, “Michael, I have to tell you something. I always regretted not going back to the ashram that second night with you and your mom. Something happened to you that night, and since then I’ve felt like Gurumayi has always been with you.”

The look in her eyes turned more serious.

“I think for you to have this dream about Gurumayi, right now, while you’re going through all this with Jack . . . I just know it must mean something. Something important.”

My mind drifts away from Melissa’s words, and back to where I’m standing inside The Paramount, in the darshan line that’s finally made it's way deep into the inner lobby. In front of me now is the temporary bookstore they’ve set up for the program. My gaze meanders across the sprawling display of assorted tapes, videos, jewelry, and incense featured along on the various tables – then slams to a stop when my eyes fall on a picture depicting the bare soles of the Guru’s feet.

My breath leaves my body.

I can’t believe what I’m seeing. It’s as if someone has lifted the image directly out of the dream I had last October, placed it inside this photograph and strategically displayed it in this exact spot, at this precise moment, just to catch my attention.

Immediately I turn to the older, seasoned-looking devotee I've been standing next to in line for two hours and barge into her reverie, hoping she can help. “Excuse me," I ask, pointing toward the photograph, "Can you tell me why there is a picture of Gurumayi’s bare feet? Is there some significance?”

“Oh, yes!” she bursts, not skipping a beat, as if thrilled I’m soliciting her expertise on this particular matter. “They are very significant!" Suddenly self-conscious, she lowers her voice, draws me in and shares in a near whisper, "It is said that all of the guru’s power travels through the soles their feet.”

I’ve passed through the looking glass again . . .

I can barely focus as she continues and politely points out because obviously I’m new at this, that the picture I’m referring to is actually of Baba Muktanada's feet, not Gurumayi’s.

Suddenly, something amusing occurs to her and turning to her also seasoned-looking female comrade she ponders aloud, “Are there any pictures of Gurumayi’s feet?” At this musing the two of them erupt in giddy giggles. Apparently posing such a question, while standing moments away from bowing down before the real thing, strikes them as laughably superfluous.

30 minutes later, on stage inside the theater, just a few feet from her chair, Gurumayi’s eyes lock with mine and never break away. Her eyes penetrate me, as if in this moment she sees everything I’ve put myself through in the four years since I saw her last, as if she sees that inside I've died a brutal emotional death. She holds me suspended in her gaze with the deep concern of a parent who has been away from their child far too long. Her eyes implore one clear, direct question: “What has happened to you?”

People are bowing down six heads across; several attendants are perched at Gurumayi’s side – making introductions, taking notes, whispering messages, distributing gifts, and removing the baskets that continue to fill with offerings of flowers, coconuts, cards and money. All the while a small group of musicians play a soft lullaby version of the mantra just a few feet away. There is a lot going on up here, but Gurumayi’s gaze never leaves me. As I take her gaze in to the deepest part of me and see all the activity happening around and between us I think, It can’t be possible, she can’t be focusing on just me, I must be hallucinating.

I'm motioned to move closer in the line by an attendant and Gurumayi then directs me with her peacock feathers to step around the group that's already bowing down and come kneel close beside her, near the edge of her chair, as if she were going to tuck me up under her shawl. I kneel at the base of her chair, place my forehead to the carpeted floor of the stage, and then – Tap! Tap! Tap! – three jolts of static electricity shoot out the ends of her peacock feathers and zip through me like a current. I hear a something crackle and a sharp spasm rockets through my chest.

Backing up and away from her chair, I’m trembling. I feel naked, exposed, too aware of myself, and the crowd. I want to get off this stage and escape to someplace safe and private as quickly as possible.

I bolt up the aisle, exit the theater and catch the first BART train home.

As my train pulls away from Oakland and disappears back inside the tunnel, I sit in my seat unable to move. I’m traveling in some other zone.

Everything is so different, again.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lucid Memories, Chapter One, 2

My BART train stops at 19th Street in Oakland, a block away from The Paramount Theater. As I come up out of the station, I’m stunned to see a long line of hundreds, maybe thousands, snaking out the clogged lobby doors. My eyes follow the line, all the way down to the corner and around the block. The crowd must be quadruple the size of the one that attended the Oakland Ashram programs in 1989. Clearly the word had spread.

Heading down the street and tacking myself on to the end of the line I feel suddenly empty-handed. Almost everyone else is holding something. Many carry tote bags packed with small cushions, shawls and bottled water. Others clutch bouquets of flowers or cup whole coconuts in their hands. A few even appear to be prepared with all of the above.

Once inside the opulent, Art Deco Paramount, I snag one of the last empty seats along a back row and sit. I’m early, but apparently lucky to have this spot. Glancing toward the stage I notice several rows up front are still vacant, blocked off by white computer printed signs with bold black letters that say RESERVED. I exchange a small, polite smiles with the older women seated on either side of me, then sink back into my plush green velvet chair and take the eye-popping Paramount in.

An hour later the program begins. I fidget through a long series of announcements: Where to register for the upcoming weekend Intensive; information on the new chanting tape that just became available in the bookstore; directions to the temporary Amrit CafĂ© that’s been set up across the street and will open for dinner after the program; and, finally, a flight-attendant style walk through of post-program logistics that informs us how and when the hall monitors will assist each individual row in exiting the theater prior to darshan.  After Gurumayi’s talk we all need to leave our hard-won spots and then line up again outside before coming back in to see her.

This tedious list of “business items” is followed by several testimonials from well-dressed devotees whose lives have been transformed in subtle and dramatic ways since they stepped onto the Siddha path. One woman in a tailored blue dress suit shares that while deliberating over an important career move, Gurumayi appeared to her in a dream and said, “Do what you love.” Upon hearing her testimony, several pockets of the congregation let out long, audible sighs. Next, a bit of an aw-shucks but still earnest college-age guy steps up to the mike and starts by sharing that he lives near the Ashram in Oakland. He then recounts how chanting the mantra saved him from getting mugged at his local Laundromat. He’s sincere, but his reverent mention of the guru in the context of a story about a near-crime comes over a bit awkward. He receives a somewhat non-response from the hall, then sits back down.

Where is Gurumayi?

My mind wanders. My eyes wander too – along the sensuous carvings of the heavens that ascend the Paramount’s gilded walls, all the way up to the ceiling, to the Art Deco angel hovering over the proceedings, his enormous ornate wings outstretched above us all. When I return my attention to center stage, to Gurumayi’s elegant, empty chair, I realize: four years later and here I am, moments away from seeing her again. I have no idea what to expect.

The MC for the night steps up to the microphone and makes a final announcement in a low, devotional hush, “Gurumayi will be joining us soon . . . ” then sits down. Although I came here alone, I now feel my anticipation pulsing in the air, in synch with everyone else’s.

The lights illuminating The Paramount’s stenciled, cookie-cutter style ceiling, three balconies up, dim from a brilliant magenta to a soft blue. A musician near Gurumayi’s empty chair strums his tamboura and the vibrations echo through the crystalline acoustics of the hall. Another musician joins in on her harmonium, and a small group of lead chanters begins softly, “Oh-oh-om, Nah-mah, Shi-va-ah-ah-ah-ah-ayah . . .”

Little by little, each one of us lends our voice to this tender call and response, as if joining in on a cherished refrain. Within a few rounds, I feel the focus of our collective attention slowly submerge into the sweeping majesty of the mantra.

“Oh-oh-om, Nah-mah, Shi-va-ah-ah-ah-ah-ayah . . .”

I’ve been listening to this particular version of the mantra on an old cassette player in my bedroom for years. Tonight, brought to life by thousands of harmonious voices and amplified up into the rafters of this grand old theater, it has to be the most glorious music I’ve ever heard.

Time suspends. Nothing exists prior to or outside of this moment. Here we are.

I close my eyes for a moment and drift.

When I open them again I do it just in time to see her, gliding in through the wings beneath the dim blue lights. The moment feels private, intimate, like it’s just us.

Everything about Gurumayi is graceful and delicate. Gliding across the stage, her billowing silk robes appear to be as thin and soft as rose petals. She seems almost weightless. As she approaches her chair and turns towards the hall, her hand floats up in a silent, slow motion wave. Almost on cue, as if my heart has been punctured by her gesture, I burst into tears. And, just as instantaneously as when I first saw her four years ago, my tears soon become sobs. It’s as if all the self-doubt and loathing, all the anxiety and depression, all the emotional rot I’ve been stuffing away inside since I saw her last is being pumped right out of me. Feelings I didn’t consciously know I’d buried – regrets, mistakes, all the times I’d bullied myself over another failure – are being pumped in a fury to the surface and bailed away.

Gurumayi pauses before ascending the carpeted steps that lead up to her chair and bows before the giant floodlit photograph of her teacher, Baba Muktananda, suspended from the ceiling. She takes her elegant poised position on her armless, low-backed chair and folds her hands delicately in her lap. Once she is situated, a young, thin, dark-haired man in a black suit and dress socks inches in on his knees to adjust the long arm of her microphone, carefully positioning it near her mouth. As he does all his eyes remain fixed on Gurumayi, who looks past him as if he’s not there and continues her unbroken gaze toward the hall.

As the young man retreats backwards and away from her chair, Gurumayi joins us in the chant.

Her voice adds the quality of longing to our chorus and pierces some untouched place deep inside me. She chants with us briefly, maybe ten minutes, but those ten minutes feel expansive and rich. By the time the chant subsides, my sobbing has calmed.

We all sit together in silence.

After what feels like exactly a beat, the young man in the suit and dress socks inches again back up toward Gurumayi’s chair, this time to place before her a Plexiglas lectern containing her talk. Gurumayi then sings the opening invocation – a dedication to her Guru, I think. It’s a sing-songy Sanskrit tongue-twister of sorts I usually fast-forward through whenever I listen to my mom’s cassette recordings of Gurumayi’s talks. Most of those seated around me know the words and join in. I don’t know the words, or even what the song means. I just want to get to the talk. I sink back again into my green velvet seat and listen, and wait.

The invocation concludes, the final tamboura vibrations dissolve, and for a moment the entire hall feels held in a state of heightened, alert silence.

Making a slow sweeping survey of the crowd, Gurumayi seems to take each one of us in before opening her talk with her familiar and warm, “With great respect and love, I welcome you all, with all my heart.”

Her resonant voice fills the hall; no sound outside it is heard.

“It’s so perfect,” she begins, blasting us with the evening’s first blast of her mile-wide smile, “That we embark on this month of programs here, at The Paramount. Because, as you know, as Baba always said in all of his talks: The practice of Meditation is paramount!

She laughs, we laugh, and here we are – reunited with the one who holds a place in our hearts so dear it feels like it’s exclusively hers.

I’m so glad I’m here. I'm so glad I came. It feels so good to be with her like this again. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Continuing on, her voice turns tender as she adds, “One of The Paramount’s staff members shared with us that this theater was built during The Depression. In fact, we learned that this theater was actually created as a retreat from the sadness that existed just outside its front doors. And so, as we begin this month together, what a wonderful reminder The Paramount Theater will provide us that what is inside is far more magnificent than anything we could ever find out in the world.”

I feel the whole hall smile.

Immediately after Gurumayi’s talk, I’m outside the front doors of the theater again, shifting my weight back and forth as my legs fall asleep in a darshan line that won’t budge. Four years ago, during the Oakland Ashram programs, my mom and I lined up for darshan inside the meditation hall, fifty feet from Gurumayi's chair. Back then we were whisked through the ceremony in twenty minutes. Tonight, even though I rush to claim a place in line inside the lobby, it’s all for naught. Within seconds I’m promptly herded along with the masses by a small army of efficient women plying clipboards and wearing nametags covered in color-coded stickers, back out onto the street.

I can’t believe how many people are here. But I also can’t imagine why the line isn’t moving. Maybe after going four years without seeing Gurumayi everyone has a lot to say. I stand in the same spot for two hours.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Lucid Memories, Chapter One: Lucky

Way back in May or so of last year I offered to open RoD up to anyone who wanted to post a memoir about their time in SY. Lucid bravely raised his hand, and then life intervened and I was away from here for some months. Well, Lucid has graciously reached out again, and I'm happy to post the first installment. See you all in the comments section! SeekHer

Chapter One: Lucky

Six months have passed since my breakup with Jack but I’m still soaking in a toxic residue I can’t wash away. Inside I’m damaged, in a place I can’t reach to repair. One night I break down and confess to roommate Melissa, “For as long as I can remember I’ve felt somehow protected. Like someone was watching over me. Like an invisible cord connected me to some sustaining force that kept me safe – and now that cord has been cut.”

What I can’t admit is how ashamed I feel, how afraid I am that through my relationship with Jack I’ve cut that cord myself. What I dare not tell her is that through my recklessness I fear I’ve committed the worst crime imaginable: I’ve severed my connection to God.

If I don’t say it, maybe it won’t be true.

The only thing I have to hold onto, which at this point it doesn’t feel like much, is that my intuition turned out to be right. Throughout my relationship with Jack nothing I could point to in terms of what I saw in his behavior ever gave him away, but I learned at the explosive end he’d deceived me – numerous times, in multiple ways. Jack’s skill at deception, I discovered, neared genius.

Each time I ate my humiliation, each time I mustered the nerve to push past my insecurity, carefully express a doubt or try to directly confront him – often right after we’d ravaged each other in bed – he’d pull me close, press his chest to mine and search into my eyes with a look that made me feel like there was no on earth more whose heart he considered more important.

“I don’t know how you think I could be here right now like this with you,” he’d say, his voice low and consoling, “If I had just been with someone else. What kind of monster would I be to be able to do something like that?”

I’d fallen for Jack and fallen hard. I had no visible, tangible proof he wasn’t being honest with me. I also didn’t want to believe what I’d fallen for was a lie. I stayed with Jack because I trusted what I could see and what he said over the sinking feeling that continued its relentless gnawing at my core. I stayed, but the volume kept rising on the voice inside me screaming RUN.

As it turned out, that voice that gnashed at my insides during those final tumultuous months was the one I should have listened to. Instead of listening to that voice, I listened to Jack’s.

So. Lesson learned.

I’m listening to my intuition now, but I’m dead inside. In fact, I might literally be dying. 

Jack and I were never safe. I was so swept away by my attraction to him that I broke that promise to myself. Now I have no reason to believe he was ever safe with any of the other dozen or more people he fucked around with when we were together. Last October, right after our breakup, the counselor at the clinic told me it was too soon to be tested. If I wanted to be certain the results of my HIV test were accurate, she said, I had to wait. I had to come back and be tested in six months. She said that’s how long the virus could hide in my blood, undetected.

I’ve spent the days, weeks and months since receiving my stay of execution in a state of emotional solitary confinement. I haven’t said a word to anyone. Five weeks left. In five weeks I'll need to go back to the clinic. When I think about it my breathing stops. It’s March of 1993; I’m 24 years old.

The previous January, shortly after I learned Gurumayi would be returning to the bay area for a month of spring programs, I was laid off from my job. Bad news, financially, the flip side of which clears my schedule and frees me to plan on attending every talk she delivers – something a commitment to a full time job wouldn’t have allowed.

When April and the first Sunday of daylight savings time arrives, I hop on BART alone and make my way to The Paramount Theatre in Oakland for the “Welcome Gurumayi” program. As the train hums through the tunnel beneath the bay, my mind churns a series of questions: What will it be like to see her after all this time? Will any of this still mean anything to me? Will I realize the experiences I had four years ago when I first met Gurumayi – and all the synchronicities  that followed – had just been imagined, all in my head?


Back in June of 1989, as my mother ushered Melissa and I through the propped doors of the bustling Oakland Ashram, she clutched my hand and whispered a last-minute request: “Just keep an open mind.” 

As we stepped inside, something I wasn’t expecting or even looking for shifted – energetically. My awareness of that shift stopped me just long enough to notice it before the three of us were swallowed inside the excitement of the mobbed ashram lobby.

That night during Gurumayi’s talk, she explained in intricate detail the meaning and purpose of her lineage’s mantra, “Om Namah Shivaya.” She told us the mantra was our Immortal Companion. “The mantra gives you everything,” she said. Gurumayi peppered her talk with several amusing anecdotes and even a full blown shaggy dog story, often laughing harder than anyone else at her own jokes. Her laughter was infectious and spread in giddy ripples through the crowd.

A lot of what Gurumayi said that night went right over my head, but the sound of her voice kept me engaged. Something about her voice reassured me. It felt almost like a balm. 

At the conclusion of her talk, Gurumayi gently pressed her hands together in prayer and bowed her head toward us. The hall went dark and she led us in a long, haunting version of the mantra. As she sang her voice was high, unusual, and sad.

After the meditation session that followed, my mother introduced Melissa and me to Gurumayi during darshan – the ceremony, mom had explained earlier, where people “bow down to Gurumayi as a way of symbolically bowing down to their own inner divinity.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant but it sounded lovely. 

I don’t remember kneeling before Gurumayi that night, or the brush of blessings from her peacock feather wand, but I do remember what she said as she leaned in and locked her eyes with mine: “Your mother has been working very hard.” Her voice was commanding, resonant, masculine in its power. Her words were pointed, certain – as if this was her personal message to me, something she’d been planning to say all along. It was as if she’d been patiently waiting for the day when I would finally come kneel before her and she’d tell me: “Your mother has been working very hard.” Her message felt that important.

Within those seven words, Gurumayi captured in a single astute statement an essential fact about my mother that was true that night, true about the years preceding that night, and remained true. I took Gurumayi’s statement as a gentle but still knowing scold – a reminder I must never take my mother’s role in my life, or anything she’d ever done to make things easier for me, for granted. 

Just beneath the surface of Gurumayi’s statement, a second layer implied my mother had also been doing her own deep spiritual work in that she had been “working very hard” on herself.

Again: was true, had been true, remained true.

Later, when I shared my first darhsan experience with Janice – our fast-track family friend who upon being introduced to Siddha Yoga by my mom in the early 80s promptly moved into the South Fallsburg ashram and soon became one of Gurumayi’s personal assistants – she further affirmed the message I’d received me by adding: “You may not know this, but Gurumayi gave your mother the spiritual name 'Janabai' – and Janabai’s whole life was a life of service. In fact, Janabai worked so hard she had no time for her own devotional practices. In the story of her life it is said that the Lord was so moved by her selflessness he came and sat beside her while she worked – the Lord came to her.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make from this additional insight from Janice; but it did add another layer of significance to Gurumayi’s message.

That night after darshan, as we collected our shoes from the lobby, I saw a woman standing in front of a TV monitor propped on a rolling cart, watching a remote video feed of the ceremony still going on inside. She swayed back and forth, hands clasped over her heart, her eyes swimming in tears. Despite the commotion and post-program buzz swirling around her, she was oblivious to anything going on outside of what she saw on that TV screen. I stood a few feet away and gawked. I couldn’t imagine how anyone could be so moved by something they were viewing over a remote monitor.

Two nights later I returned with my mom to the Oakland Ashram for another evening program – at the last minute Melissa said she wasn’t feeling well and told us she thought it would be better if she stayed behind.

That evening we began chanting before Gurumayi arrived – “Jay Jay Vitthala, Jaya Hare Vitthala.”

The melody the musicians played during the intro to the chant had a haunting, almost funereal quality that drew me right in. As the rhythm of the chant gradually built in intensity, the lights dimmed and Gurumayi emerged in silence from behind a thick velvet curtain. The moment I saw her shadowy blue silhouette I began to weep. I didn’t know what triggered the sudden wave of emotion, but before long I was sobbing and couldn’t stop. I wanted to leave, I wanted to run from the hall and escape to someplace private. But packed so tightly alongside all the other chanters there was no unobtrusive escape. And, since this was my “first time meeting Gurumayi,” the hall monitor had seated me just a few rows from her chair – I felt there was no respectful way to exit. My only consolation was the fact that the chant was dominated by amplified tablas that helped drown out my bawling.

I cried forever. It was as if the floodgates holding back every last drop of regret, grief or pain I’d been unconsciously storing away inside over the years, maybe over lifetimes, finally burst. My eyes burned. My jaw went numb. As the tingling shot down my neck and into my shoulders, I remembered the first dream I’d had about Gurumayi, just a month earlier, in which she held my face in her hands and kissed my forehead – I remembered that my jaw went numb in my dream too.

Doing my best to avoid elbowing my neighbors, I dislodged myself from my jacket and used its sleeves in lieu of the Kleenex I didn’t think to stash in my pockets beforehand. I hadn't sobbed like that since I was a child. Maybe ever. By the end of the chant my jacket was a soaked, snotty ball. Physically, I felt like a wrung washcloth; my insides were pulp.

I don’t remember what Gurumayi spoke about that night; I don’t remember darshan, either. But I do remember what happened as I walked into the dining hall with my mom afterward: The chattering crowds in the Amrit engulfed us just as they had after the previous night’s program, but this time everything was different. As I looked around everyone appeared to be moving underwater, their gestures liquid, their voices muffled into a low, dull hum. Amidst all the commotion I felt anchored, calm, completely still, the chaos around me reduced to a swarm of softly buzzing atoms.

I stood there a moment, dumbstruck.

Noticing the shift in my expression my mom leaned in, took my hand and asked, “Are you okay?” 

“Everything is so different,” I said. She gripped my hand tightly and smiled, “I know.”

I had gone through the looking glass . . .

That was 1989. I had just moved to San Francisco. The experience of meeting Gurumayi just as I was embarking on a new life in a new city seemed to catapult me into the series of fortunate events – the job offer that followed my first interview, the groovy apartment Melissa and I landed near the Haight, the name of the new suitor on my dance card making my heart race. I was on a high I rode the entire summer.

But that was four years ago. Back then I used to wake up each beautiful morning with the beautiful feeling everything was going my way.

What will it be like to see Gurumayi now?