I walked into the long room and could feel the sweet energy that lingered from the 2 previous events that day. This would be the 3rd and final special gathering or darshan. I was glad I made it.
A dear friend had told me about this and I was supposed to have met him at an earlier darshan but, being exhausted, I took a nap and slept through it. After I woke up, I dove into my car to make it here for this one – hoping they would let me in (even though my reservation clearly stated an earlier time.) I was greeted with a warm smile and a welcoming gesture and no one looked or cared what time was on my reservation.
With gratitude, I walked down the middle aisle towards the front, sitting in the 3rd row. The room was totally silent and remained so as it became filled with rows of people anticipating, praying, meditating, and/or just tuning into the rich, loving energy.
After the room was full to brimming, everyone stood and a small, pretty dark woman swathed in dark pink and orange/gold robes, Mother Meera, (who I’d never known or seen in person before), walked silently up the center row to a chair at the front and sat down. She never said a word.
Volunteers silently aided the forming of a row of kneeling people in the center aisle who slowly moved forward to the blessing at the front. Everyone would, at some point, be tapped to join the moving kneeling center row.
I was simply enjoying the almost overwhelming sweet, blissful energy that filled the room, realizing that I don’t tend to seek out these kinds of events as my practice is more mindfulness-based – but I made a note to make sure to get a hit of this whenever possible. The heart/soul opening was palpable and welcome.
Now, when I started meditating 20 years ago and was looking for a teacher, I avoided anything that involved bowing, worshiping or believing in any religion or god – and definitely avoided anything the resembled a guru. (As one woman I liked said about gurus “Gee, You Are You” – G-U-R-U – i.e. you are it and don’t need the guru.)
Also, at that time, I had already (5-6 years earlier) had the experience of direct “connection” to [insert whatever word works for you here – God, Great Spirit, Tunkasila, The Source] – or rather I’d had the perspective shift to that of awareness that there really was no separation from any such divine experience – it was actually all there was – so I knew that I didn’t need a guru to “know god.” I had compassion for people who bowed and worshiped, but was glad I wasn’t one of them.
(This skeptical viewpoint no doubt let me to the clear, concise, scientific mindfulness teachings of Shinzen Young – who asks for no belief or bowing – and simply for you to try his algorithmic techniques and strategies – and to look to your own experience (which is always, undoubtedly filled with “ah ha’s” and less suffering.)
Shinzen did (and does) have in his “black bag” many “yellow brick roads” to “The Source” (his word for whatever it is that we all come from and return to) – along with very practical strategies for dismantling the problems created by our thoughts, feelings and resistance to sensory experience – and I’m obviously a great fan of all that – but it is an opposite style than what was happening in this room – which I am also appreciating. )
And let me say that in the 20 years since I started meditating, I also started meeting many different great master teachers from different spiritual traditions – and I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the presence of what we might call “enlightened” individuals and/or people who are “resonating at higher levels” (around whom a kind of energy or “Pure Land” emanates.)
Entraining (like when the baby’s heartbeat aligns with the mothers) is one way I would describe my relationship to nature – and why I go alone into nature for extended periods of time. It feels as if my molecules align with a natural, pure ordering principle and my mind follows suit.
And when you get an opportunity to be mindfully present with someone who always has their molecules aligned in a good way – it can be more than a good ride – it can be a model of how to manifest in the world with this resonance. It doesn’t have to be a model of how to live your life or what your personality, desires, or lifestyle should be – but rather an example of a kind of … purity … and grace … and direct presence – that is so often missing in this contemporary world of smart phones, news cycles, and an app for everything.
It’s nice to find a being who not only knows how to be present, but also can share that with you – with wisdom and compassion. That is a gift. Call it darshan or shaktipat, teaching or transmission – it is a gift.
And I no longer am squeamish about bowing. I love it. I see it as an honoring – not a worshipping. And when, after kneeling and waiting and moving forward in the line, the time came for my blessing from Mother Meera, I knelt before this seated woman and bowed my head which she took into her hands.
Again, no words were ever spoken, and when she let go of my head, I was to raise my eyes and look into hers. (Now, I happen to love this activity and will write more on the power of “gazing” in a different post – but will say here that the “presence” I talk of can be communicated so clearly with direct eye contact – something we all know and sometimes do – with babies, lovers, and yes, gurus – but it can also be a kind of connection throughout our day – with anyone – a gift of being present. I like to look into the eyes of any homeless person before, after, and while I am offering them money – as they are so needing that kind of connection – of “being seen.”)
Looking into her eyes was so easy – to be met with such presence. In that moment, I so appreciated that she took the time to go through all of this with 100’s and 1000’s of people – to simply be present with them, bless them and then look into their eyes – and allow them to look into hers. It is indeed a teaching by action – rather than words. I just felt appreciation that she did it (the way I have often felt appreciation for other teachers – like Thich Naht Hahn, the Dalai Lama, Pema Chodren – and yes, my teacher, Shinzen – but this gentle woman was teaching without words – with simply sharing eye contact with you. Such grace.)
In this case, we were instructed ahead of time that when Mother Meera breaks the gaze and looks down, that is our cue to leave. And I noticed that I was unable to leave without putting my hands together and bowing – honoring the opportunity to be present with this lovely present woman.
I went back to my seat and basked in the warm sweet loving energy in the room. I noticed that this openness, this loving acceptance was something that is often not emphasized in mindfulness retreats – yet here I was feeling as if I’d just meditated for 10 days (as mindfulness or maybe any meditation can, I believe, help our natural loving energy to arise.)
As I was sitting there, watching the next 200 people kneel before her and gaze into her eyes, I noticed that the room had become rather humid and stuffy and warm – as if the air conditioner was on the fritz. This was a very nice hotel and I was surprised at this issue until I noticed the sign in the front left corner that said, “116 maximum occupancy.” I smiled as I wondered how they came up with that exact number – not 115? or 117? – and then, of course, I also realized there were at least 250 people in that room – probably closer to 280 – and this was the 3rd such group in an 8 hour period so close to 1000 people had been in this room. That poor AC was doing the best it could – and a darned fine job, considering. I was feeling compassion for the air conditioning unit.
I smiled and felt gratitude to be one of the 280 sharing the space at that moment, and then adopted the equanimity strategy of the sweatlodge ceremony (where one is crammed into a dark, hot lodge – sitting on dirt as water is poured onto hot rocks and the steam pushes one’s ability to breath as any claustrophobia or suffocation issues will have to be worked through – and it’s not uncommon, especially during one’s first lodge, to think you’re going to die. And the way to get through it is to open to it, accept it, take what is considered the problem and treat it as your medicine.)
In this case, the physical challenge was so relatively slight, and the reward was so immediate and tangible, that it really was not much of a challenge and did not distract from the beauty of the event. And, in fact, I almost started to giggle every time I looked at the “116 max” sign – ah, what do they know. They weren’t considering a room filled with enlightened energy. That’s another critter altogether.
For the next week, I rode the gracious, open, loving, accepting energy that filled me during those 2 hours – and shared it (subtly) in all the classes, workshops and presentations I led that week. So, hopefully I passed on the gift I received. And what a gift.
I wish to express gratitude to all the teachers, saints, enlightened beings and yes, even gurus – who share, teach, guide and direct us towards our next evolutionary step – of freedom, presence and love – whether through books, recordings, workshops, retreats – or simply by looking with acceptance into someone’s eyes. May we all pass it on.