Birthday Bliss 2014. A whole month to celebrate the life and greatness of my beloved Guru!
In honor of Birthday Bliss every year, I like to look back at my experiences on the Siddha Yoga path through the lens of Gurumayi’s Message for that year. Each time I do, fresh revelations and teachings come to light; old treasures reveal new gleaming facets. This year as I contemplate Gurumayi’s Message, an experience from early in my sadhana keeps arising within, and I see that Gurumayi was teaching me about flawless quietude and self-effort since the day we met.
In fall 1988, before I had ever heard of the Siddha Yoga path, I sat in a restaurant in New York City with a close friend. I remember glumly telling her that despite three years of earnest searching, I still couldn’t sit for even five minutes of meditation before my restless mind kicked in. I despaired of ever finding a lasting way to connect to God’s love. I asked her, “Don’t you think God would provide a way to make a connection that could withstand the most difficult circumstances and be equally irresistible when things were also going great?”
She laughed, agreed wholeheartedly, and proceeded to tell me the greatest story I’ve ever heard: about a Guru named Swami Chidvilasananda and the experience of shaktipat awakening that had changed her life. I couldn’t believe my ears. I felt chills all over my body. “That’s it! That’s it!” I whispered. “That’s the connection! Hey, how could you hold out on me like this?” I said, laughing. I signed up for the Siddha Yoga Shaktipat Intensive the next day.
One week later—October 1988—I took my first Shaktipat Intensive in New York City. Then in March 1989, after offering seva at the Siddha Yoga Ashram in Manhattan for five months, I met Gurumayi in person for the first time when I went to Shree Muktananda Ashram to offer seva for a weekend. I had heard that Gurumayi was observing a period of silence. “Silence!” I thought, “How mysterious! Wait! Oh no! How will I speak to Gurumayi in silence?” I had prepared a whole introduction of what I would say if I had an opportunity to meet my Guru for the first time. How would we communicate in silence?
Right before lunchtime, someone came by the bookstore where I was offering seva to say that Gurumayi had just arrived in the Annapurna Dining Hall and was going to hold a satsang. Excitement was in the air as sevites began arriving from around the Ashram. I arrived in Annapurna right before the satsang began.
When I entered the dining hall, I expected to find myself at the back of a large crowd, but oddly, everyone in the entire hall was facing in my direction! And then suddenly I felt this powerful energy on my right side, as if the sun’s rays were shining brightly, but with a power that was cool and fragrant at the same time. Slowly I turned toward the source of this energy and there—sitting just a few feet away from me—was Gurumayi! I could feel waves of energy radiating from her form. She was the most exquisite being I had ever seen! Yet this beauty was not only of the outer form, but a beauty that emanated from deep within. She seemed to be made of bliss, light, and perfect tranquility. I couldn’t believe my good fortune!
I saw immediately that even though Gurumayi was in silence, the Siddha Yoga practices were happening around her in a joyful kaleidoscope under her mindful direction. She was smiling and nodding hellos, all the while practicing mantra japa with a japa mala. I felt like I was standing near the solar source of the universe. I had never before experienced the power of such stillness. When everyone was settled and fully attentive, Gurumayi gestured to Swami Ishwarananda to begin the satsang.
Swamiji shared a teaching story and invited people to share their contemplations from the point of view of the Siddha Yoga teachings. Everyone participated with enthusiasm, laughter, and great wisdom. I was so inspired and engaged by this! I even found myself with something to contribute. The words seemed to be pulsating upwards, arising from my heart, but I was way too shy to raise my hand. That is, until I received a gentle tap on the shoulder from the person sitting next to me who told me to look at Gurumayi. As I did, I thought, “Wow, it almost looks like Gurumayi is looking straight at me and gesturing for me to speak!” I checked behind me to make sure it wasn’t someone else she meant. I turned back. She nodded one more time with an encouraging smile as if to say “Yes, Dear One, I mean you!”
Had Gurumayi heard what was in my heart? How amazing! We had spoken heart to heart in the supreme silence within. I felt deeply welcomed and my shyness melted away. I received the microphone and shared my contemplation with a sparkling newfound conviction. Gurumayi laughed and nodded with delight.
This was the first of countless times I would see Gurumayi inspire active participation from everyone. On the Siddha Yoga path, we are all invited to contribute! And just like that, Gurumayi lovingly revealed the secret of sweet self-effort: to turn within, connect to my own heart, and share generously from the space of flawless quietude.