A few days before Gurupurnima in July 2018, the young people visiting Shree Muktananda Ashram put on a recital in Shri Nilaya hall. Gurumayi had asked the Taruna Poshana department, the SYDA Foundation department dedicated to supporting the sadhana of young Siddha Yogis, to organize this recital. All of the staff and visiting sevites in the Ashram were invited. At the time, I was offering seva as an activity leader and mentor in Taruna Poshana.
For the recital, I assisted two young people who wanted to dance but felt shy. As a student of theater and film, I was able to help the girls choreograph a dance, and I sang a song to accompany them as they performed. It was a song about valuing yourself no matter what comes your way. As we rehearsed, I could see the girls becoming more confident and free in their movements.
On the morning of the recital, sevites were bustling around the hall, adjusting cameras and microphones, arranging flowers, and welcoming the participants as they entered Shri Nilaya. Everyone was dressed in colorful celebration clothes. As I went to take my seat, I was feeling butterflies in my stomach, the same ones I often experience before stepping on stage. Meanwhile, the two girls I was to perform with were both sitting perfectly still on their asanas by the performance area. When I checked in with each of them, they both assured me with a confident nod that they were feeling fine.
Once everyone was seated, the hall quieted down. Then, as the program was about to start, Gurumayi entered the hall. A familiar tingling energy, which I often feel in her presence, began to rise in my body. This time the increased movement of shakti was coupled with anticipation because I knew we would be performing before our Guru in just a few short minutes.
The host greeted everyone and announced that our group was the first to perform. Before beginning to sing, I took in the sight before me—Gurumayi’s welcoming gaze upon the performers and the audience, the supportive smiles of the sevites sitting in their chairs and on their asanas on the floor in front of us, the skylight in Shri Nilaya letting intermittent rays of sunlight flow into the hall.
My chest began filling with joy and contentment, which stayed with me throughout the performance. I was able to sing from a place of stillness that I had never before been able to access. I sensed Gurumayi as a warm presence that continued to fuel me throughout the song. I felt she was as much within me as she was sitting before me on her chair. Through this experience of Gurumayi’s grace, I was free from the internal critic that can sometimes accompany me onstage and pull me out of character, and that can prevent me from being completely immersed in my performance.
After we bowed and took our seats, we settled in to enjoy the rest of the performances. I could sense that many of the other young people were occupying this same heart space of joy and contentment as they performed before Gurumayi. A young girl did a beautiful dance to the Gurupurnima moon, a teenage girl and young adult sang a sweet song for Gurumayi they had written when they were children, and the toddlers danced to “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” After we performed, Gurumayi asked the audience to share their thoughts about the recital. One sevite said, “They were each the best,” which captured exactly how I felt—we had all performed our very best.
In October, a few months after the recital, I was preparing to act in a play on campus. I was having a hard time digging into my character, and for the first time ever I was going to step onstage opening night still very unsure of my performance.
Hoping to tap into the freedom and presence I felt performing before Gurumayi that summer, I found an empty dressing room minutes before the show began, opened the Siddha Yoga path website on my phone to a photo of Gurumayi, and began to recite Shri Shiva Manasa Puja. At the end of the verses, I prayed silently to Gurumayi. I asked her to help me perform as freely as I did for her during the summer and to come onstage with me and guide me through the play.
I stepped onstage with confidence and began the show. Once again, I felt completely present. I moved across the stage with ease, letting my character’s motivations lead me from scene to scene.
By offering puja, I called on my experience of performing in Gurumayi’s physical presence and felt her love and support. I was reminded that Gurumayi supports me all the time—not only when I am standing in front of her. Now when I am faced with uncertainty, about matters large or small, I take a moment to remember that Gurumayi is always with me. Sometimes that thought alone is enough to adjust my perspective and brighten my day. I feel completely safe and uplifted in my Guru’s presence.