Fast Friends and Karmic Connections

Jackie  is a dead ringer for Elaine on Seinfeld. It is as if the character was designed after her.  She had seen me in a latin aerobics dance class. She claims to have known me the minute she saw me, and kept trying to get my attention. “Why won’t you look at me!”  That I was oblivious to her is truly remarkable. She is difficult if not impossible to ignore, even in a crowd.  Her personal aura is huge and magnetic and she is adorable.

A few weeks later we were thrown together as partners on a charity project to raise awareness for some cause or other, HIV/AIDS, Breast Cancer, or Exercising for Heart Disease or Obesity. I don’t recall.  But, the effect was an instant bond and a fast friendship.   We shared our stories. There was nothing that we could not reveal to one another.  I had never had a friendship that was so open and supportive and ‘girl-like.’   She felt like a long lost sister. Before long she was taking me to step classes and 4- hour coffee klatches at Bagel King and I was taking her to Kundalini Yoga.  At first she enjoyed the Yoga, but with a few months, fear and anxiety had raised their suspicious heads.    The Yoga was bringing up all sorts of emotions, fears and judgments of the Yoga, her religion and herself.  What I saw as an opportunity for her to sort things out, she saw a dangerous delving into her subconscious and soon rejected it outright. Yoga is about self discovery and transformation and you have to be ready for it.

Kundalini Yoga was not for Jackie, but she was opening like a clam exposing the pearl inside.  I felt she had to continue her spiritual work.  Perhaps I  had made a karmic agreement to meet her and  support her spiritual investigations.  I was choosing to interfere in her life.   I took it on as my job to find her a new spiritual path and would silently and willingly shared my spiritual strength and peace with her while I was looking.  I am not now, nor ever have been a proselytizer.   On the other  hand, I was going to bring her to the feet of her Teacher.

The year was  1995, when we moved to Atlanta.  Jackie had helped us find a home there.  She was now back in Florida.  Over the past four years, I had been unable to find the path for her there.  She would need a very special kind of Teacher.  Within the first week I was in Atlanta, I had settled the house, settled the boys in school and found the perfect new space for me to teach Yoga, and already had students signed up for Kundalini Yoga.  I was on a roll.  As I was searching out Yoga space I came upon the local Siddha Yoga Center and decided to check it out the following week. I remembered that I had liked Swami Muktananda on the one occasion that I had seen him years ago.  I recall that I had heard something about his successor, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, but not much.  My schedule was tight but there was a program on Sunday morning that I could attend.

That Sunday, dressed casually, I went with cushion and mat in hand to find Siddha Yoga  not what I had expected.   Everyone but me was dressed in their Sunday finest; even stockings on some of the women, and I was one of the few who sat on the floor.  There were plenty of comfortable chairs.  There were no postures done, but some intense chanting of the Guru Gita and Om Namo Bhagavate Muktananadaya…   I was a bit thrown by the atmosphere of bobbing heads and ecstatic faces and arms reaching to the heavens, but thought for some odd reason that J. might feel at home there.

Aditya was the one person with whom I resonated at the Center. He had been in Siddha Yoga since the Muktananda days. I think I had even seen him before, perhaps with Muktananada in the early 70s.  He was kooky and sweet and so very intense.  He rocked and rolled and shook with the chants, but he was fun.

I took Jackie to her first Intensive at the Atlanta Center, a few months later. She was so anxious and I didn’t want to participate, so had to promise to sit in the foyer and wait for her, in case she freaked out.  She did about midday, so we left.  But, she was interested in Siddha Yoga and loved the beautiful Gurumayi. She attended the second day and only for a brief time had to exit the room to shake off a bit of anxiety.  I was amazed.  Had she found her Teacher?

Several years and Intensives later, Jackie decided she wanted to go to the ashram in South Fallsburg, N.Y.  for an Intensive and advanced classes over the week of Gurumayi’s birthday.  I was planning to go to Quebec during that time to the Kriya Yoga Ashram so I told her that I would drive her there.  My oldest son Carl would go too. We made a vacation of it.  We had fun on the way up, but the energy at the Sri Muktananda Ashram was intense and on top of that, you are thrown in with hundreds of people who maintain a certain ‘group-look, group-think.’  Individuality is stripped away at the gate to Sri Muktananda Ashram.  The atmosphere seemed a bit Stepford to me.

Thankfully, we saw Aditya at the first meal we had there.  We rushed him. We appreciated his unique Aditya-ness.  He didn’t put on airs. He was true to himself. And he provided much needed comic relief.

The next morning at 4:30 am, the three of us were at Nityananda Temple ready for Arati.  It was amazing.  The first part is all large drums and conchs, sounds which reverberate and  resonate within you, as if to prepare the ground for the chanting that follows.  Chanting arati while standing in front of the large murti (statue) of the revered Siddha Swami Nityananda proved to be too much for me. I literally collapsed where I stood and could not stand up again and had to sit to sing the rest of the verses.  The meditation, which followed arati was as deep as I had ever had and it took Jackie and Carl several minutes to roust me out of it.

After a day or two Jackie and Carl seemed settled into the routine there and I left for Quebec. I would pick them both up on the way back, about a week later.  I spent one additional day on the return. It was Gurumayi’s birthday.  I had missed arati as I was too tired to wake up at 4am. So I arrived in Nityananada’s Hall late in the morning.  There would be an afternoon arati, which I could attend.  The hall was empty when I arrived, save for a man in one corner of the room.  I sat and did my pranayama, which no one practiced and then settled in for meditation.  I had begun to sink into meditation somewhat when a woman passed by so close to me that her sari literally swept over my head.  I thought, “what a maroon… the room is empty and this Siddha yoga sorority sister had to get so close as to interrupt my meditation.”  Then,  whoosh… I slipped down the rabbit hole. I was so deep I disappeared. For how long, I do not know. All I know is that I was startled by the sound of a lovely female voice chanting somewhere in the distance. I was lulled by her voice and wondered who was singing, but my eyes were too heavy for me to open them to see.  When finally my eyes did open, the room was again quiet and no one was there with me.  I rose and went into the lunchroom.  J. and Carl came running up to me. “You idiot, Jackie scolded, “Gurumayi was there all arati and you did not once wake up.  She even looked at you and you did not move.”

So the sari incident must have been with Gurumayi. I became totally enamored by her spiritual power.  I loved Gurumayi!   In the morning the following day, I stayed outside of the Nityananada mandir and  watched as Gurumayi performed abhishekam (the ritual washing and offerings) of Nityananda’s murti.  It was a special day, her birthday and the Temple was totally packed. I felt I didn’t need to take up the much in demand space so I stayed outside at some distance from the windows of the temple.  At one point she looked out the large plate glass window toward where I was standing and I silently thanked her for the profound experience of the previous day. I left for Canada, thinking that she had smiled and nodded to me in response.

I returned to Sri Muktananda Ashram one final time a year or two later.  I took Carl and his wife Chintana for a visit. It was during the great celebration, Guru Purnima.  The ashram was packed.  We only stayed a couple of days. We were on our way to Quebec. The morning ceremony had been quite beautiful and Gurumayi was in attendance. Thousands were on hand to chant and give all Glory to the Guru.  There was an afternoon ceremony too and again the house was packed.  We all began to chant. People were so high in anticipation of Gurumayi’s entrance into the mandir, but this time Gurumayi did not attend.  We were all chanting Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya. The chanting was amazing but as time went by and Gurumayi did not appear, devotees started to stream out of the mandir.  I was dumbfounded by both the rising energy and the rising numbers of people who were leaving.  What was going on? It almost seemed that the more people who left, the higher the energy got!  I was ecstatic and then in a moment, experienced myself, as Bhagavan Muktananada. I had never had such an experience.  Here He was with me, within me, and his devotees did not notice.  They were walking right past him!  I wanted to shout out, wait! He is here!  I am certain that others in the room were having the same experience, but still I could hear people filing past us.  My eyes were closed shut, but I felt as if I was being lifted high into the air, as if on an elevating dais. So here I was, Muktananda levitating right in front of everyone and nobody noticed.  When the chant and meditation was over, I opened my eyes, picked up my blanket and cushion gathered my shoes and walked out into the brisk night air. Everyone leaving had a smile on their face.  We all had our own secret gift.  The moon was so full; its light illuminated the night.   There was not a cloud in the sky.  I sat on a bench and stared in humble gratitude at the radiance of the moon and the love in my heart.  This is the way of Grace, available for all who are  open to it.

    • Gayatri
    • October 14th, 2009

    Hi, Ma Durga!
    Om Kriya Babaji Nama Aum

    You have wonderful writings! I’d like to let you know that I read your blogs everyday from work when I have free time. Please continue writing. I love reading them!

    Om Shanti Aum,

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