I recall my mother returning home one evening, beaming with excitement, after being away for the day. I had spent the day with my father and sister, and was eager to hear about where my mother had been. She explained to me that she had just participated in a Siddha Yoga Shaktipat Intensive with Gurumayi, a Siddha Guru who was on a Teaching Visit in Mexico. As it was my bedtime—I was ten years old at the time—my mother did not want to keep me up. Therefore, she shared just a little about the Shaktipat Intensive, turned on a cassette tape of Gurumayi chanting the mantra Om Namah Shivaya, and gently told me to listen to the rhythm of my breath while Gurumayi sang me to sleep.
I knew nothing about Gurumayi or meditation. Yet as I lay there listening to her voice, I was captivated. There was something very familiar and truly special about it. I had such a deep feeling of love that my eyes filled with tears. As I lay in bed listening to Gurumayi chant and watching the movement of my breath, I had a vision of a garland of lights and each light shone with a different color. Within each light there were smaller, shimmering silver lights. These lights enveloped me in a peace that I had never experienced before in my life.
The following weekend, my mother started to take me regularly to satsangs at the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Mexico City and I immediately fell in love with the practice of chanting. Then, in the summer of 1986—and for the next seven summers—my parents, my sister, and I visited Shree Muktananda Ashram. My parents offered seva and my sister and I participated in the Siddha Yoga activities for young people. Gurumayi always showered us children with love, and even though we were young, she taught us the importance of discipline and the necessity of developing regular spiritual practices at an early age.
In 1994, after graduating from high school, I offered seva as a full-time staff member in the Music Department at Shree Muktananda Ashram and I continued to do so until 2007. As I studied Gurumayi’s teachings and put them into practice in seva, I discovered that the love that I had felt for Gurumayi as a child and teenager had another profound dimension—in the form of her teachings. And I realized too, that with the gift of her love also came the gift and responsibility of studentship.
In her talks during satsangs, Gurumayi often emphasized the importance of the discipline of listening. One of the teachings Gurumayi gave us was that when we chant, we should listen to the group sound first, and then to our own sound. I remember the first time I tried applying this in a chant—I was surprised at just how hard it was to do! I was accustomed to closing my eyes and drawing my attention inside while chanting. But the more I practiced what Gurumayi had taught me, the more I discovered there was great power and deep joy when I held my attention steady on the group sound.
I started applying this practice of focused listening in my daily interactions with other people and also in my practice of self-inquiry. I discovered that by listening to others with keen interest, without interrupting them, I was able to interact with everyone around me in a more meaningful, genuine, and loving way. Most importantly, I began to understand the difference between the voice of truth inside my heart and the voice of my ego. The effects of speaking from either space were immediately evident to me. Therefore, I began to focus more and more on the voice of truth and to make this voice the foundation of my decision-making process and actions.
Although I am no longer serving on staff and am now a businessman living with my wife in Hong Kong, Gurumayi’s teaching on listening during the chant continues to guide me in both my personal life and professional life.
When I first moved to Hong Kong to start a new job, I made a concerted effort to approach my work with the same attitude I had applied while offering seva on staff and while traveling on Gurumayi’s Teaching Visits for so many years. My boss noticed that our clients enjoyed dealing with me directly—especially our clients in India!
During my first year with the company, our sales to India increased dramatically. As a result, the company appointed me head of business development in India and the Middle East. The active listening which I had learned from Gurumayi and practiced while chanting and offering seva had trained me to listen to my clients and connect with them in a way that made them feel comfortable and inspired to do business with our company.
On my first visit to the office of our partner in India, I met all the new young salesmen who had been hired as a result of the partnership with our company. I thought about how Gurumayi’s teachings had supported me to open this new opportunity; and as a result, jobs were created for ten young interns. This was the result of learning to listen to the voice of truth inside my heart: I have been able to make decisions in my life that uplift and benefit not only myself, but also everyone around me. I am grateful to Gurumayi for this—and so much more in my life.