Gurumayi then spoke about Carlos del Cueto, a Siddha Yoga music teacher and the music conductor for the satsang. Gurumayi said that, during the musical interlude at the beginning of Sadguru ki Arati, she thought that she heard Carlos singing the melody of the arati. When she looked to her left at Carlos and saw that he didn’t have a mic, Gurumayi wondered what sounds she was hearing. Gurumayi looked to her right and noticed the bassoonist playing her instrument.
After sharing this, Gurumayi invited the bassoonist, who was part of the music ensemble, to play a note, and for Carlos to sing, so that we all could hear the resemblance between Carlos’s voice and the sound of the bassoon.
She played a rich, warm note, and Carlos began chanting the namasankirtana Narayana. The bassoonist picked up on the melody and accompanied him. Sure enough, his rich tenor voice sounded just like the bassoon!
After hearing Carlos sing this one round of the chant, we were all in agreement that Carlos’s voice was as rich as the sound of the bassoon. I wondered where this was going, since Gurumayi had begun her “We Need to Talk” by describing human nature and the importance of memory.
I didn’t have to wait too long to figure out the answer to my query!
Without missing a beat, Gurumayi said, “Remember, Carlos, once upon a time you shared with me that you did not like singing. You said it felt uncomfortable.”
Carlos stood and shared that when he was first learning to sing, it did feel uncomfortable. “Then I put in some effort and learned how to sing,” he said, “and I became comfortable with the full sound of my own voice in my body. In fact, singing and chanting became one of my favorite, favorite things to do.”
Gurumayi thanked Carlos and said, “What I want to point out is that Carlos went for excellence. He was not comfortable with mediocre singing. When he first expressed his discomfort with singing, I had simply told him, ‘Just keep singing.’ And I see that he took this to heart. In December, before A Sweet Surprise satsang, during one of the music rehearsals, I heard Carlos singing, and it sounded so beautiful. I was touched by the fact that he had made great efforts.”
Then Gurumayi asked Carlos, “There was another time when I heard you sing, and I really loved it, right?”
Carlos stood once again and shared with Gurumayi, and all of us, this anecdote: “It was here in Shri Nilaya, during the Christmas Day Satsang in 2013. I was conducting the chant, and, Gurumayi, you asked for the chant to go soft and for someone to bring a mic to me. And then you mouthed the words, “Sing alap.” I received the mic, and took turns with another ensemble member, Joel Kushnick to improvise and sing an alap in the raga of the chant—Shri Krishna Nila Krishna.”
Gurumayi was pleased with Carlos’s recollection and once again congratulated him for overcoming his discomfort with singing and reaching for excellence by making the right effort.
I understood in that moment how it may take time to reach for excellence, but I have a responsibility to make the right efforts again and again.