From 2001 to 2005 I served on staff in the Communications Department of the SYDA Foundation in Shree Muktananda Ashram. One morning in the winter of 2004, I was invited to attend a meeting for sevites from several different departments. We were just about to start the meeting when Gurumayi entered the hall, and with a big smile took a seat in our circle. After we greeted Gurumayi, she inquired, “Do you all know one another?” We looked around the group with some uncertainty. Gurumayi noticed our hesitation and suggested that this was a good time to get to know one another a little better.
One by one the meeting participants stood and introduced themselves, sharing a few things about their lives. Having always been shy about speaking in public, I felt a contraction of fear in my stomach when my turn came. My connection to my heart began to disappear, and my mind went blank. All I could do was say a few words about where I was from and what seva I offered. Then, with a shrug of my shoulders, I concluded, “…and that’s it.” Gurumayi smiled and very gently said, “I don’t think so.”
With an encouraging voice, Gurumayi asked me a few simple questions that were easy to answer: about my family, where I lived, my occupation, and so on. At first I responded with short answers. But as Gurumayi continued to give me her full attention, I could feel the tenderness of her well‐wishes and love, and gradually the inner contraction began to melt. My mind relaxed, I reconnected with my heart, and my answers became longer, fuller, indeed more generous. Communicating from this space, I was connected to the expansive, unconditional love of my heart, and felt a strong, sweet connection with the hearts of everyone in the room.
Sharing in this way was an exhilarating experience. I recognized that Gurumayi had guided me to come out of hiding from behind habitual fears, and to step forward and generously share from the heart. I also recognized that I really do have a lot to share.
Over the years I have continued to experience Gurumayi’s support in making this sort of genuine communication my reality. On the occasions when I do find myself in the spotlight and tongue-tied, just at the moment I’m ready to shrug my shoulders and say “…and that’s it,” I hear Gurumayi’s gentle voice: “I don’t think so.” And then I pause, ground my feet, and make eye contact with the people around me. I take time to tune into my breath and repeat the mantra silently within, reconnecting with my heart. My focus shifts away from my small self, and I move into a more expanded state in which I can connect from the heart with everyone present. Genuine communication naturally takes place.
Very recently I retired from my job. For eight years I had worked in the finance department of a charitable foundation that helps young adults with physical and mental disabilities to live as independently as possible. One of my roles was to hold weekly one-on-one interactions with each resident about their personal finances. I got to know them quite well.
A short while before my retirement day, one of the supervisors asked me if on the last day I would hold a question-and-answer session with all of the residents. My initial thought, accompanied by the familiar contraction, was “no, that just wouldn’t work.” How could I possibly communicate with thirty-five people with such diverse requirements? Some of them could speak; others could only communicate with a nod of the head or blink of the eyes. I declined the invitation.
Unbeknownst to me, one of the residents had silently moved her wheelchair up behind me and had been listening to this conversation. She took hold of my arm in a vice-like grip, incredibly strong for someone who can only move one arm and slightly move her head. When I asked if she was telling me something about my decision to decline the invitation, she let go of my arm and moved her hand up and down enthusiastically to indicate yes. I asked her if she thought I should have agreed, and immediately she smiled and indicated yes again. In that moment I was taken back to the experience of Gurumayi’s words gently guiding me to reconnect with my heart, and in doing so to connect with everyone present. I felt an inner shift in my stance from defensiveness to generosity. I changed my decision and agreed to participate in the question-and-answer session.
On my last day, thirty-five residents in their wheelchairs were waiting for me in the center’s main hall. I took my seat and inwardly pictured Gurumayi there with me. I immediately felt focused and connected to my heart. The questions began, and I gave full, generous answers. By being in my heart, I intuitively knew when someone wished to communicate even if they could not speak, and I would turn my attention to them. I was able to give each person the space required to form their questions, and in doing so each contribution was honored. At the end of the session, as I looked around, I was met with shining, smiling faces and a strong feeling of connection.
I am so grateful to Gurumayi for showing me that I have a choice each time I communicate. I can pause and take a breath to center myself before answering a difficult email. I can listen attentively and tune into the feelings behind the words of another’s conversation. I can choose to focus on the love and wisdom of my heart and communicate from that place. My experience has been that by doing so again and again, the barriers to accessing my heart very naturally lose their density and begin to dissolve. More and more I feel a sense of ease within as I communicate, authentically, heart to heart.