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'The Day I Started Living!'

9/10/2012 - the day my life changed forever!

Should I ‘get a guru’ in India or continue to ‘be my own guru’? Should I live the life of a swami / renunciate in an Indian ashram or live with the woman I loved? These were the questions which haunted me for about a year every day… this was my daily meditation, lol!

So finally I decided to go to India and visit the Satyananda ashram in Munger and find out for myself!

I was put to work as a karma yogi and more physically active than I’d ever been in my life - carrying huge pictures frames of gurus in between bouts of Delhi belly, cleaning toilets with tooth brushes, de-skinning potatoes with super blunt peelers, mopping the kitchen floor with something like engine oil (go figure!), and endless leaves sweeping (I call it zen sweeping as you sweep a bit, then the wind kindly returns your offering!)

Despite all the activities (sweating being very much among them!), my mind was quieter than it had ever been. The chronic doubting which had riddled me all year (fellow Librans can probably relate!) just dissolved. Ashramites in-the-know call this process ‘stupefaction!’

It was beautiful to go to work with my whole heart during the day, with a bit of coming in and out of tense involvement with what I was doing, mainly while interacting with others, then go sit at the feet of a master at the day’s end, and experience this very welcome emptiness.

So just within three weeks of being there, the huge inner turmoil I had arrived with was replaced with utter clarity and simplicity!

’The day I started living’ had arrived! It was on my 32nd birthday, 9th October 2012. On this day I received a spiritual name (‘Gyanananda’), a personal mantra, a guru (Swami Niranjan)… and a phone call from my partner at the time saying ‘Yes I will marry you!’

That was my life path sorted then, lol! I realised that in this life I really wasn’t cut out for permanent ashram living! I felt so relieved and so ecstatic at the same time! I was given the task of handing out the mantra books for evening program that day, and I just couldn’t stop beaming! Everyone receiving a book just gave me the most enormous smile back too! And for the next seven wonderful years, I never looked back.

There is a twist to this story, though! Seven years later, there was - in retrospect I can see - a natural cyclical completion of the commitments I made on 9.10.2012 - as there was a letting go with my partner, my guru and even my mantra!

The very thing that I was so afraid of all those years ago when stuck in chronic doubt had happened - what I committed to didn’t last forever. But what I’d learned through living was of course that this was totally not the point! The point was - I had made choices, and went all in. And that felt SO good and fulfilling!

It reminds me of the story within the Ramayana where the sage Vishwamitra takes the two younger sons of the king Dasaratha out for spiritual warrior / rite of passage to manhood training, and asks them upon coming to a fork in the road, ‘Which path do you choose - the easy, quickest route, or the one swarming with rakshasas (demonic creatures)?’

They answered, ‘The easy, quickest one!’ Vishwamitra said, ‘You are not ready!’ And promptly took them back to the palace. He brought away the two older sons instead, Lakshman and Ram, and asked them the same thing. ‘I choose the path swarming with rakshasas!’ said Ram. ‘Good!’ Vishwamitra said, and on they went to be initiated into the kshatriya (warrior) way of the world.

I’m definitely not equating my decision making with choosing the path with heaps of rakshakas, lol! But I love the resonance of this story with my own, and I’m sure countless others: to say to life, ‘Bring it on!’ Rather than living in the purgatory of indecision! And trusting that all the outcomes from the choices we make are exactly what we need to grow spiritually and help us fulfil our human-divine potential.

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