Reflections on Gurumayi Chidvilasananda

The Connection That Sustains Me

In the late 1980s I was living in Kenya, where I started going to the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center in Nairobi. I loved the sacred atmosphere I found there and the joy I felt during each satsang. Each month, I eagerly awaited the arrival of Darshan magazine. I enjoyed reading the talks by Gurumayi and Baba, studying the monthly theme, seeing the photos, and learning from the sadhana stories of other Siddha Yogis. The November 1989 issue was entitled Honoring Work. In that issue, I read a teaching from Gurumayi that so galvanized my attention, it has been a guiding light in my life ever since.

Gurumayi says, “Treat each situation like a work of art. Handle it with great care. Don’t waste any situation. Don’t avoid anything, thinking it has no value. Do each thing as though it were a gift from God—and one day, your obligations will become your treasures.”1

Gradually, this teaching has transformed the way I approach both mundane tasks that I might have once done mindlessly and weighty tasks that I used to shy away from.

For instance, as I start to wash the dishes, make up a bed for a guest, or write out a shopping list, I repeat Gurumayi’s words: “Treat each situation like a work of art. Handle it with great care.” Gurumayi’s words carry vibrancy and upliftment, and they are like a command for me. Straightaway, I become motivated to care for the task and do it with skill. It becomes a project to be completed with attention and love.

Keeping tax accounts is a task that I never relished. My approach was to put off doing it, and then finish it as fast as possible. One year, I had put it off for so long that I had accumulated piles of receipts and banking slips everywhere. As I surveyed the papers, the next part of Gurumayi’s teaching came to mind: “Don’t avoid anything, thinking it has no value. Do each thing as though it were a gift from God.” Remembering Gurumayi’s words felt like a glimmer of light. I realized I could apply her teaching then and there.

I set out all the papers and files neatly on the table. I patiently gathered together each item I would need—tape, glue, a hole punch, a stapler, and a calculator—and set them down. I decided the task could take as long as it needed; I would not rush it. As I gave myself to each step of the process, I started to enjoy it. I became absorbed in putting the receipts in order, writing neatly in my ledger, inserting each piece of paper into its respective file. The process became like a meditation. Afterward, I felt complete and satisfied. Ever since then, I have done my accounts in the same way. Now I even look forward to doing them.

A few years ago, my elderly stepmother needed care after an operation. I had never been responsible for anyone in this way, so I felt ill-equipped and reluctant to put my life on hold to care for her. I prayed to Gurumayi to help me approach this situation, too, as “a work of art” and to see it as “a gift from God.” I immediately felt a shift in my attitude. The realization came that the best way forward was to put my step-mum’s needs first.

I moved into her home and gave myself wholeheartedly to caring for her. I listened for the ring of her bell, telling me when she needed me. I cleaned and tidied her house. I made appetizing meals to help her convalesce. Every day, I would light a candle and put it on the supper tray. We’d eat together and our meals became very special. We had long, warm chats and developed a deeper bond.  By the time my stepmother had fully recovered, the promise in Gurumayi’s words had come true: “Do each thing as if it were a gift from God—and one day your obligations will become your treasures.”

Gurumayi’s teaching has become so ingrained in me that now, if I am ever tempted to cut corners on a task, her words “work of art” flash up inside me and remind me to change course. Over time, I have come to recognize that when I practice this teaching I am fully present, I am living consciously. Gurumayi has given me a very practical way to find the experience of the Self as I go about my daily life. As thanks for this, I like to think of each task that I perform consciously, with love, as a flower on a garland that I offer to Gurumayi.

 

1 Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, quoted by Peter Hayes, “Striving for Perfection,” Darshan no. 32 (November 1989): p. 25.
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