Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lucid Memories, Chapter One, End.

Two days later I return to The Paramount for the Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening programs. During the chanting and meditation sessions that occur over the course of those consecutive nights, the mesmeric imagery unfolding in front of me is as real as anything I’ve seen in my most vivid dreams:

I’m sitting alone inside a large, old, dilapidated wooden boat, floating in the middle of a desolate, near-motionless ocean. The horizon is dark and flat. There’s no land in sight. The massive grey ocean expands out around me in all directions, as far as I can see, to furthest edges of the earth. My boat floats anchored in the middle of this vast expanse, creaking in spots as it rocks gently back and forth, in synch with the vibrations emanating from the tamboura. The sky above and water below are equally heavy, impenetrable. I’m on the other side of the world, far from anywhere I know. I’m nowhere.

The only thing keeping this bleak setting from becoming one of irreparable despair is the steady repetition of the mantra, and the resilient, sustaining sound of Gurumayi’s deep, honeyed voice. Each time she calls out and each time I call back the vibrations of her voice fold over into mine, like one caressing wave folding into another, and together our voices merge with the voices of everyone else in the hall.

I've been chanting the mantra on my own for years but tonight, here in this distilled moment with the guru, a window opens and suddenly I understand its true meaning: The mantra is a call, a call to return home. Not home as in a specific place, but home as an internal state. Home as a feeling of deep peace not dependent on anyone or anything. Tonight, in this moment with Gurumayi, the mantra is calling me to repair that severed cord, to reconnect to that protecting source, to return to who I am.

By the third night of programs spent rocking back and forth under that abandoned sky, something inside me releases and my boat begins to glide forward. In time, little by little, several of the others gathered in the hall begin to join me inside the boat and we sit side-by-side, chanting and rowing forward in effortless unison. We’re all heading toward the same destination; we are all going home. As our momentum builds, our voices fuse and thicken into one unified vibration that cocoons the entire hall inside the sound of the mantra.

When I glance up again into the foreboding sky the night suddenly comes alive as if someone’s flipped a switch inside a planetarium and revealed a giant web of sparkling constellations. The stars flicker then dim as a prehistoric sun burns a hole in the horizon, then rises up and glazes the sky a brilliant orange. Looking down over the water, I watch as sunbeams dance out across the once ominous ocean, transforming its murky surface into ripples of royal blue.

Everything inside me lifts and lightens; every cell in my body hums. It’s a new day.

As I sway back and forth, the images of the ocean fade and I begin to feel my entire body filling with sand. Our collective call and response slowly subsides until only the lone tamboura plays. I sit immobilized and watch several members of my family – none of whom have, or likely will ever bow down to a guru – appear in my mind, step up onto the stage and approach Gurumayi’s chair for darshan.

My grandfather, my mom’s dad, who is fighting his descent into Alzheimer’s, steps forward first. He approaches Gurumayi in his characteristic dignified manner, dapper as always in his customary suit, silk necktie and crisply-pressed pocket square. He extends both his hands and Gurumayi leans in to cups his with hers. He looks like a Head of State meeting the Queen of England. Watching their exchange I smile so broadly I can feel my cheeks pushing up underneath my eyes.

My biological father steps up next. Four years ago, just after I moved to San Francisco, he called out of the blue. First time in a decade. “Michael?” he asked, “Do you know who this is?” I knew. Ten years, but I’d know his voice anywhere. I didn’t say anything and hung up the phone. He didn’t call back. Now, as he approaches Gurumayi’s chair, he appears so small on that stage; tentative, ashamed. He looks around lost, unsure of what to do. Gurumayi sits waiting, motionless as a mountain. After another moment’s hesitation he cautiously steps forward, as if he has no other choice, and bows down.

One by one, each member of my family whose impact on my life has been significant comes before Gurumayi and one by one she welcomes and blesses each of them – just as I have watched her welcome and bless hundreds and thousands of others, night after night after night. Gurumayi expresses in these exchanges a respect, dignity, and unconditional acceptance I’ve never seen anywhere else, from anyone else. It’s as if in her eyes everyone is worthy of the highest honor, everyone is royalty.

As the images from my family processional fade and the hall plunges into silence, Jack emerges from beneath a shadow and steps into the center of my mind. He's alone; both the stage and the hall are now empty and dark. It’s just him and me. He turns toward me and presents himself, defenseless. His eyes say he's ready; prepared to hear and to take whatever I have to say.

Jack is the last person I expected to see here, in this setting, at this moment, but I can tell I’m being given an opportunity – a chance to feel differently about him and what happened between us.

A voice inside me asks, “What do you want to do about Jack?”

And, without even the effort of a breath the clear answer comes and simply slips out, as clear and without effort as a drop of water slipping off the edge of a leaf. “I just want to love him,” I say inside.

The moment I hear myself say those words, “I just want to love him,” the spell is broken – Jack’s image dissolves and is washed away, like sand washed out to sea by a retreating tide.

Seeing Jack for who he is – vulnerable, flawed, human – and realizing what I wanted most from our relationship was something I could never have, unties the not. It’s that simple. He’s gone, and that infected wound deep inside me I couldn’t reach to mend feels washed clean. A tiny bell rings, the meditation session ends and I sit mesmerized watching two 100-foot columns of white light shoot out from the centers of my upturned palms. I look up, rotate my wrists from side to side, and trace playful figure eight searchlight patterns across the Paramount’s ceiling. I know I'm the only one who can see this happening, but it doesn't matter. It's incredible.

After the program, I step out into the lobby to search for a pay phone where I can call my mom. Looking up I notice that the elegant gold Art Deco letters across the inner lobby marquee have been arranged to spell out Siddha Yoga's central teaching: “See God in Each Other.” It’s very Ancient-India-meets-Radio-City-Music-Hall. I’m giddy.

I ascend one of the lobby's winding carpeted staircases to the second floor, spy an ornate gilded phone booth, call my Mom and gush – about Gurumayi’s talks and funny stories, my mind-blowing meditations, all of it.

“But,” I add, “Amazing as all of this is, I don’t have any desire to take an Intensive. If an Intensive is more powerful than these programs, I’m not going anywhere near it!"

We both laugh.

"And," I continue, "I have no desire to go run off and live in the ashram.” 

I mean it. The experience I’m having right now is more than enough.

“Wow,” she says – explaining how so many people have such a longing for the Guru, such a longing to be close to Gurumayi, such a longing for more – “You don’t know how lucky you are.”

End of Chapter One: Lucky


Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Your boat sailing along on the vast ocean alone and yet connected to the others all around you, struck a chord in me..It seems there are many
ships out there sailing along or standing still all moving along at their own speed/vibration. I was sailing on board one of those ships that is still sailing along out there a
nd jumped that ship! In my dreams
I was in the ocean, no other ship in sight just me and that humongous ocean! Next ship sailing by was Sydas ship and it picked me up and I have been sailing along for the past 21 years. Been to many places on this voyage... and the current port is this place and I see that this ship Im on may be sinking so dont know if Ill go down with it or jump it! I dont feel fearful, because Ive been there before.....
Think Ill call me chicken
sooo many peeps need a few more hens and only ONE Rooster just kidding about the rooster!

Anonymous said...

All I can say is thank goodness my little old spell check can finally take a much deserved day off. In its reflexive persistent insistence that I replace "Gurumayi" with "grumpy," I think the poor thing wore itself out.


Anonymous said...

years ago my beloved grandmother died and just before it came time to close her coffin I slipped a tiny glass vial in her cold hand that contained the tiniest piece of peacock feather that I found on the carpet in the main hall in Fallsburg when I went for darshan of the chair.

I wish I hadn't done that. she never knew the guru and doesn't deserve to clutch that for all eternituy

Anonymous said...

A paper ship can sail on a current but every once in a while there is a backslip and the water turns on itself in a little whirlpool and gets stuck. Maybe that's what happened to all of us and we're caught in an endless feedback loop?

Anonymous said...

To anon at 8:44 PM:

What a chilling image, one that recalls for me perhaps the most difficult things for me to get over in my exit process: the fact that I played recordings of the mantra for my child as he fell asleep when he was a baby. Thinking back on doing that, after I "woke up," I was distraught for at least a year, psyching myself out I'd done permanent soul-level damage. It was almost too painful to take in, for a long time something I had to push away. I could live with and recover from whatever damage I’d done to myself, but my child was different.

In time I came to understand all that anxiety and paranoia as just one more manifestation of SY's hook, just one more way I was ascribing power – in my mind, as we were trained (please see SeekHer’s Orwell excerpt in the prior stream) – to something, someone, a belief, etc. that frankly, didn't warrant it.

Reading this description just now from you made me realize I'd forgotten about all the "horrible parent" guilt I went through, fearing I'd poisoned my child with the polluted contents of SY. How did I get over that one?, I just now had to stop to ask.

The answer is I decided my intent in playing the mantra for my child, perhaps just like yours in placing a peacock feather in your dear grandmother’s hand, was to provide him with what I believed then would be the best possible form of protection – and I ultimately I decided that my intent was what mattered most, my intent overrode everything else.

Ultimately I decided it no longer made sense or was manageable to live my life thinking someone or something else had any power over something as intimate as my love for another human being.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:54

that's beautiful understanding

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah PS one more way I got over my exposure or exposing anyone else to the mantra was reminding myself SY didn’t hold the copyright to Om Namah Shivaya, and that any positive benefits (and I believe there were many) sprang from a source that pre-dated BM’s first diaper change by at least a yuga or two. In the end it worked out to be a good thing – that the core contents of SY never belonged to SY in the first place.

In the end the only thing SY can really claim as their own is the pretty packaging.

Anonymous said...

Isnt that what all the spiritual paths do ? Take it from the SOURCE, mull it around and spit it out in Words in another form for others to digest?

Anonymous said...

Or I meant to say Buy in to. Something about the pretty packaging aka Marketing? It sells.

Anonymous said...

The pretty packaging is a big draw to the western materialistic mind and possibly why sy was served in this manner?

Anonymous said...

Another thought, perhaps sy yoga was served in all that pretty packaging to reach the western materialistic mind?

Anonymous said...

Take we humans for example, all are in these different kinds of packaging, some pretty some not wrapped so beautifully, some only half wrapped. What a world. Its good to see what is inside the outer packaging. Sometimes a real jewel can be found!

Anonymous said...

Its possible that some bird of prey sailing high above that little paper ship will dive down and pluck it out of the endless feedback loop!

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps sy yoga was served in all that pretty packaging to reach the western materialistic mind?"

Once a friend told me that she had dreamed of Gurumayi and she mentioned me to the Guru in her dream. Gurumayi searched her memory for a moment before replying, "Yes, I remember her, she likes to acquire things." At the time I was a major bookstore addict and bought everything new the moment it came out. I thought at the time that this was a message from the Guru not to do that, but I still continued doing it anyway. Now I wonder if it wasn't an endorsement! The bookstore was, after all, located right outside of the main hall in prime retail space. And the mark-up was obscene. A friend of mine made the malas they sold there and I used to buy them from her for a fraction of the price before the bookstore told her she could no longer sell privately to devotees. It wasn't auspicious to buy a mala unless the price included dakshina, doncha know.

Anonymous said...

Re: “Seeing Jack for who he is – vulnerable, flawed, human – and realizing what I wanted most from our relationship was something I could never have, unties the not. It’s that simple.”

Hey guys, not sure if this stating the obvious or, conversely, something I should preface with a spoiler alert, but I didn’t make the connection, even in my own writing, until reading it back here at RoD:

If you replace “Jack” with “Gurumayi” in the sentence above then you’ll already know how this story ends. :)


Anonymous said...

To Anon February 13, 2013 at 4:38 PM:

Yes. Please exit through the Gift Shop!

Anonymous said...

I was just looking at a wafer-thin booklet in my possession, called "hymn to kundalini" purchased sometime in the past decade (not by me, happy to say). It's something you would expect to pay perhaps $2 for anywhere else, but the sticker still on it says ....get this....$7.95. And today it's probably several dollars more than that. Ye gods, how we bow to that price-tag!

Anonymous said...

I can identify with these postings but this one struck me the most, because I too experienced something very similar during a Gurumayi program (including light shooting out from my fingertips), an experience that changed my life, my perception of God and the Universe, and yet, I was in no danger of "losing myself" to either Gurumayi or SDDA. I was intensely grateful for what that experience did for me. But my gratitude did not translate into enslaving myself to the Guru.

Over the years I've given much pondering to this topic, and here is how I see it now: God is real, God is love, God is light. People tend to confuse the joy of the Divine with the circumstances under which they experienced it. Therein lies the problem.

God is God. Religious practices that help us remove the barriers between us and God are just tools. Teachers are tools that can help you towards the Light. But Teachers are not the Light itself. Focus too much on the teacher, and you lose sight of the real target.

Or, as Bruce Lee says in ENTER THE DRAGON, the finger points to the moon. If you focus on the finger, and you will miss all that heavenly glory.

Gurumayi and SDDA may create the atmosphere that enables some people -- perhaps many people -- to experience divine bliss, or at least to taste the essence. So do other religions. That does not make any particular religion or teacher divine. Nor does it alter the fact that we are ALL human. Gurus are human, too. Don't expect them to be anything but human, and they won't disappoint you.

Glad I found this site. Looking forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

not sure why I think its SDDA, should be SYDA. sorry. It's been 20 years.