When I was six years old, I started first grade at a new school, and for the first few months I felt shy and lonely. I had trouble making friends. While other children played soccer and tag at recess, I often sat in a corner of the playground, reading a book.
One day I came home crying and told my mom how badly I wanted a friend. She wrapped me in her arms and suggested we watch a new Siddha Yoga video for children called A Friend Forever. My mom had introduced me to Gurumayi and the Siddha Yoga path when I was a baby, so I happily agreed. We sat down together to watch the video, and I was touched by the gentle and attentive way Gurumayi treated each child. The children were sharing about the connection they felt with God, Gurumayi, and their own hearts. There was also an excerpt of Gurumayi giving her talk, Won’t You Make God Your Friend?
In this talk Gurumayi says, “You have access to your own heart, which means God has already accepted you as his friend.”
Watching the video, I felt so soothed. Gurumayi’s words helped me understand that I am never alone because God’s love is always with me, Gurumayi’s love is always with me, and I can experience this love at any time by turning within and connecting with my own heart.
In the weeks that followed, this new awareness gave me the courage to start joining my classmates in games and conversations. I began making new friends. Whenever I felt lonely, I would picture my heart as a small cave filled with rosy gold light, and I would envision myself stepping inside that space to have Gurumayi’s darshan. Once again I would feel loved, protected, and at ease.
As a teenager, I sought to deepen my awareness of God within through the practice of meditation. Almost every evening before I went to bed, I would sit cross-legged in my room for twenty minutes of meditation. At first, it seemed that all I could pay attention to was the chatter of my own thoughts. The more I tried to make my thoughts go away, the more my mind wandered, and the more distant God seemed as well.
One day I thought, When I was younger, it was so easy to turn my attention inward and feel God and Gurumayi’s love. Why is it harder now? In that moment of reflection, I remembered Gurumayi’s teaching: “You have access to your own heart, which means God has already accepted you as his friend.” I realized that trying to control my thoughts was making it harder for me to find the experience of God within. I decided that whenever thoughts came up during meditation, I would silently repeat the mantra Om Namah Shivaya to return my awareness to my heart. As a result, I began entering into deep meditation more readily.
After starting college in the fall of 2014, I found it difficult to set aside time for meditation. I had to work hard to keep up with my coursework, and I wanted to spend every spare moment getting to know the bright, funny, talented students who were all around me. In this hyper-stimulating environment, I fell into the mentality, shared by many of my peers, that time spent alone was time wasted. While walking between classes, I would often pull out my phone to check e-mail and respond to text messages. If I entered a dining hall and didn’t see anyone I knew, I would grab a tray of food, sit down with my books and computer, and try to get ahead with my reading. After a few months, I began to feel burned out.
Looking for a way to restore balance to my life, I realized that just as taking time to connect with my own heart uplifts me during moments of loneliness, it could also keep me grounded as I navigate the whirlwind experience of college. Instead of scrolling through my phone while walking between classes, I started making a conscious effort to practice mantra japa. Likewise, I began to embrace the occasional experience of eating alone in a dining hall. I took it as an opportunity to be fully present by savoring the taste and texture of each bite of food and feeling gratitude for it.
That winter I learned that my university has a small meditation room at the base of a beautiful stone clock tower, and I began going there to meditate on Sunday nights. I am now in my third year at college, and I continue to treasure this practice. Taking time each week to turn within and experience Gurumayi’s love has brought greater focus, clarity, and compassion to every aspect of my life: from the way I study to how I interact with friends. One of my closest friends also practices meditation, and we often go to our university’s meditation room together. Every Sunday evening, one of us texts the other: “Meditate?”