|me:||Yes. Well, I had an experience about a month ago
and it seems that I need to tell it and you tell me after that... If it's a
tell and forget that's okay, but it's got to be told.
|Gangaji:||Good. I can't deny that.
|me:||It happened two mornings in a row and I woke up in
the morning and it was like I woke up and I felt myself kind of like coming
out of sleep and being kind of like plugged in like I was a mechanical
thing, and now I was awake.
I am trying to make the gestures of a mechanical toy and I have no idea whether or not the abrupt little hand movements and facial contortions I am making are communicating what I want them to.
I continue, not sure that my words are communicating either. "The thoughts and everything, you know, it just started happening. And then I woke up again." When Gangaji responds with a spontaneous, "Ah," I know I am being understood and being invited to continue.
|me:||And then I woke up again. And I woke up! And I was
not there at all. It's hard to talk about, but I just want to talk about it.
|Gangaji:||Yes, I want you to.
|me:||It's like there were things around me, and we were
all the same.
|me:||Yes. We things were all the same.
|me:||And you could see the space between the things and
it wasn't really between, because the space and the things were all the
same. Completely. And I... My first thought was that I didn't exist, and my
second thought was I knew that's what I was. That's who I was. Completely.
And everything else just wasn't... you know, it
just wasn't... Everything that you think, it's not.
I hear some good-natured laughter from the floor. I am finding this business of conversing with Gangaji on the stage is very enjoyable. My eyes close so that I can get back to the feeling. "And I knew that I had no beginning and that I had no end and that I was the whole. And I wanted to thank you for that." Gangaji makes a gesture of refusing thanks, and we are kind of laughing and I hear laughter coming from everywhere.
|me:||Just for... I know you'll say... I mean I felt so
much like... I felt so much like it was from your grace, because why would
this happen? You had talked to me the day before and...
|Gangaji:||Well, it is true you have received the
transmission. And the only way it can be forgotten is if you try to remember
it as a thing. As an event. If you try to make the experience of the
totality of being the reference point for the memory.
I know exactly what she means because I've tried it, and I laugh. When she sees it Gangaji says, "Yes. Good. You've tried it. And that's the maturity. You have tried it and you have seen the uselessness of that." She's exactly right, and again I laugh with recognition. I tell her I've tried everything.
|Gangaji:||That's spiritual maturity. "I've tried
everything." So now, nothing. Now the vigilance. The resolve. Living true to
truth. However it appears. Whatever the experience. Yes, I am profoundly
happy that you speak this, that this has occurred. Now you know from your
own experience what I uselessly try to say.
|me:||Right. If there's one thing I could say in the way
of talking to someone else about it, it's that it's not a metaphor. I used
to think... but it's not a metaphor.
This seems to receive the warmest laugh, and I feel like Gangaji and I understand each other perfectly when she clearly states, "It is not a metaphor."
When it gets very quiet Gangaji thanks me wholeheartedly and says that without the receiving there is no giving, and I thank her wholeheartedly. There is something very solid about the way she looks at me and says, "Good," and then I leave.
As I am taking my seat, there is a very long pause. Gangaji's eyes are closed. When they open, she says, "This is the consciousness of Ramana. Consciousness of that which is alive in the core of all being recognizing Itself as That. Not by striving, not by remembering, not by doing. Not by moving toward, not by moving away. Simply by waking up while awake."
Walking back to my spot on the floor, I feel like, in some way, Gangaji has set me free. By this time I have discovered that there is no possibility of ever landing anywhere, but I had anticipated that reporting what was happening to me would make some sense of it. Instead, I am burning. Gangaji has set me off. From the moment I leave her side it is like fireworks, one explosion of recognition after another.
I have no room for the self-centered little voice that says, "Wow! Did she tell me I received the transmission? Whoopee! Now I've got it!" Because I hate the voice, I push it just below the surface of consciousness. Not only that, but I mistake this act of repression for vigilance.
Lying on my back in my room, open, still, with a great sense of aliveness, I enter the experience of the totality more deeply. It is so amazingly close. I am carefully looking for the separation between what is inside of me and what is outside of me, and I cannot find it. What I thought was important isn't important.
What I thought was insignificant because it was always true and didn't require my attention to be true is what I am looking at now.
I see there is only one field. The idea that I am the part that is inside of this particular body and not the part that is outside this particular body is completely absurd. How silly to have attributed so much importance to the appearance of skin as a significant boundary. What difference can mere physical phenomena, like blood, tissue, organs, bones, make in this vast ocean of consciousness?
I search to find the boundary between in and out, the boundary between me and the silence, the boundary between me and other. There are no words. There is no time. I AM BOUNDARYLESS CONSCIOUSNESS. I am dissolving into waves of bliss. An ever expanding ripple. Vast. Orgasmic. Most exquisite. Most subtle.
In the afterglow, I have the thought that maybe it's really bliss I want, after all. How can I arrange my life so there will be more of it? Move to India? Find a cave? Luckily I have been well warned by Gangaji about bliss as the great temptress. Wanting bliss, like wanting any thing, can only lead me away from self-recognition.
When fear comes up, the fear of losing the awakened state, it is seen to be based on false premises. How can I lose any state, when all states are already here?
I notice the word "I" continues to come up. And yet there is no "I". I am enlightenment. I am ignorance. I am all things and all not things. What a problem this word has become.
The whole edifice of my belief system is crumbling. I see that all my beliefs are based on the false belief that what is inside my body is separate and more important than the whole of me. Beginning with this false belief I have built a whole universe. I have created comparing, evaluating, judging.
I think of someone I know as being ignorant. It is as if it is my first judgment, and I see it for what it is. I am that same someone. All mental rivalries are seen to be imagined. Now that the tightest loop in the knot of misidentification has been loosened, the identification of myself as the body, I have a new confidence that all the connecting loops will loosen naturally in awareness. Hallelujah! Now they can simply play themselves out on the vast screen of consciousness.
Walking to breakfast I delight in the presence of the mountains, the trees, the light and shadow, the sky. This endless vibrating aliveness! I remember an old fear that if I were to move beyond my attachments, life might be boring. I laugh. For the first time I have a glimpse of the true possibility. When everything is myself, the focus of my attention expands to include it all, without limitation. I am attached to everything. The possibility for discovery is endless. The possibility for love is endless.
I have another good laugh when I enter the dining hall. I observe a slight self-consciousness. In a flash, I get the joke. I am nobody, who thinks I am somebody! What a good trick I am playing on myself.
The sense of being flooded by recognition continues. One "aha" after another erupting out of the awakened silence. "Aha, vigilance is not that voice that censors my thoughts and tells me what not to think. No. It is simply surrendering to the truth of who I really am, moment by moment."
Now it is Tuesday morning. Unlike other silent retreats, at this one there are two scheduled talking meetings with other retreatants. I have signed up to participate in a group called Satsang in Everyday Life. So many people have chosen the group that we won't all fit in one room. I have been assigned to the Overflow Group. After two days of revelation, I am reluctant to approach the meeting. In the language of psychedelia, I don't want to be brought down. Not knowing whether or not I will attend, I determine where the meeting will take place, and then I go for a walk in the woods. I find myself returning to the townhouse.
As I enter the room I see this will not be a conventional meeting. The discussion is about whether or not to go to some local hot springs. Apparently the notion of actually discussing satsang in everyday life has already been discarded.
I look around the room. To my left are two youngish long-haired men, Jimmy and Michael. I hadn't noticed Jimmy before, but Michael talked to Gangaji at satsang the day before. He has a large loose body and an easy grin, and to me he seems immature. To their right is Paldrom. Present, unpretentious, and wise, she is from The Satsang Foundation and may be the designated facilitator. Carol is southern. With curly blonde hair and an air of candor, she reminds me of Gangaji. Lelia is my true love. When I look into her clear luminous eyes, I sink. We all introduce ourselves to each other, and I find myself whimsically introducing myself as "not." The conversation is free flowing. Three of us have talked to Gangaji in satsang and each of us describes the encounter. Satsang Therapy, Carol calls it.
When I speak, I feel that Jimmy and Michael are deriding me. Jimmy asks me about the experience I described to Gangaji when we talked on Sunday and says something like, "Oh you were still seeing objects so it wasn't a nirvikalpa samadhi experience," and dismisses it. He says that he was in that state, or some other one with a Sanskrit name I'm not familiar with, for several days.
I express that it was important for me when Gangaji told me I had received the transmission, and Jimmy mutters to Michael that I couldn't have believed Gangaji was serious when she said that. Hadn't I seen that crooked little smile on her face while she was talking to me? Who was she to transmit what to whom?
I can't believe what is happening. I hadn't known what to expect after the occurrences of the last couple of days. Possibly I would be identified as having realized myself and treated reverently, or maybe no one would notice. I was prepared for both of those possibilities. But not this. I look to the women. Neither Carol nor Paldrom seems to remember much about the conversation I had with Gangaji. Lelia tells me it was very important for her. She says that when Gangaji and I spoke she saw sparks of light coming off of our heads and illuminating the room.
When we break for lunch, I don't know whether I will return for the afternoon meeting. I don't want to admit what I am feeling. The humiliation. The rage. When I think about Jimmy, the words form that I hate him. It seems like it has been years since I have had such a strong reaction to someone.
I return to my bed in my room. At first I am desperate. How can I be in such a despicable state? Then, I let go of the desperation, just enough to investigate. I see that strong emotion arose when the thought that I was enlightened or self-realized or at least better than before was challenged. I stop. There is a sense that the contraction is hovering. I open to it.
Actually I had seen some kind of a little smile on Gangaji's face when we spoke, hadn't I? I see that as well as confirming the transmission, she was non-verbally communicating to me that we were only playing a game with each other, the game of teacher/student, guru/disciple. She was letting me know that the self-importance I was bringing to the game was uncalled for.
But I wasn't ready to recognize it then. That aspect of myself that wanted to use enlightenment experiences to elevate my self-image did not want to be dislodged.
I had been noticing a kind of pride of ownership around the experiences I had been having, and I had hoped that by noticing it I was dealing with it. This pride, though, was recalcitrant. It was layered. Behind the pride was the pride of pride. Didn't it mean that there was something right about me, something to be proud about, if I was having to deal with pride? Without moving, I let the rottenness all the way in.
A huge grin breaks across my face. It is just too funny for me to maintain my seriousness. The slipperiness of the egoic mind! Gangaji was right. The declaration of union with God is an invitation to all the old hags to come out of the woodwork. Right, too, that they come only to be liberated.
When I return to the group in the afternoon everyone appears beautiful. What had been seen as Michael's immaturity is now seen as an endearing playfulness. Each of us is playing our role fully. Together we go on a pilgrimage to the spiritual centers in Crestone. When we circumambulate the Tibetan Buddhist Stupa, we all go clockwise, as prescribed, except for Jimmy, who goes the opposite way. He is the coyote. I thank coyote in my heart for the rude awakening I have received. The time together is glorious. The Overflow Group is overflowing with love.
The day after Gangaji and I spoke, Gangaji said in satsang that even the waking up business, even the enlightenment business, was all in leela. I had been pondering what her words meant, trying to penetrate my conceptual idea about enlightenment being the endpoint. Now they make perfect sense. The experience of waking up and the experience of suffering are both phenomena arising from the same changeless source. The challenge is not to have more enlightening experiences, however revealing they may be. The challenge is to remain still. To not move from stillness, which is naturally open and willing, no matter what the experience.
Paldrom had told me that she once told Gangaji that nothing extraordinary had ever happened to her, and Gangaji said that it didn't have to, that she already knew. This was important for me to hear. I thought of a dear satsang friend at home who was waking up to the truth of her being. She too reported that there were no fireworks in her story.
Two days after the Overflow Group, on Thursday afternoon, there is a satsang where so many people raise their hands to speak with Gangaji it reminds me of a feeding frenzy. I am very happy when Gangaji asks Amber to sing. Every time it looks like Amber is finished Gangaji says, in an adorable childlike voice, "More?" She does the same with Dana. Then Al and Yani. By the time the fourth singer appears, a woman named Kirtana, I have tentatively concluded that it can't get any better than this. The group consciousness is soaring.
I do not recognize Kirtana when she approaches the stage with her guitar. I get the impression from her brief conversation with Gangaji that it was unsettling for her the last time they spoke. Their exchange doesn't prepare me in any way for her opening song, which she is singing for Gangaji for the first time. There is a tender breathiness that invites me to listen carefully to every word.
Before the body
Before the story
Before the name
Beyond the mind's
Attempt to find
Before the breath
How beautiful! I am stunned. I know more deeply how foolish it was to think that blessed recognition reflected something about me personally. When the Singing Satsang is over I post a note on the bulletin board. "I am completely humbled. I love everyone here."
When I signed up for the retreat, I was disappointed to find out that it had the theme "A Life lived in Service to the Truth," and that there would be some talking meetings scheduled. I thought that a retreat was supposed to be quiet. Arriving at registration I noticed two satsangs listed on the Schedule of Events had that title, and I wondered who would lead them. I was afraid that it would be Maitri, the director of the Satsang Foundation and Press, or a group of board members. I hoped it would be Gangaji, though. It would be a shame to miss out on two formal satsangs with the Beloved.
When we gather for the first of those two satsangs at the beginning of the week, Maitri sits in Gangaji's chair. She is radiant. I don't feel the anticipated sense of disappointment. In fact, there is an opening. It is thrilling to see her there. Maitri invites us to respond to the call to service that is inherent in our meeting with Gangaji. Like Gangaji, she assures us that the possibilities are endless, and there is no way to predict what form any individual response will take.
I acknowledge the existence of this most profound call. As the retreat unfolds, I am amazed by its force. In the meantime something incredible has happened. After decades of trying to attain personal enlightenment I find I am no longer trying. I am not thinking about how enlightened I am or how enlightened anyone else is either. This habit, I will later see, is finished.
Is it possible that the end of desire for personal enlightenment opens up space for the deepest desire to be of service? I don't know. But by Thursday I am aflame with it. I am wondering if there is any arrogance in the idea of being married to the Truth, because now I am feeling like I only want to be Truth's Servant. As happens so often, Gangaji addresses this exact question at the very next satsang.
"I'm speaking of the level of commitment that recognizes that whatever the feeling, whatever the experience, there is this bond of true love between soul and God, between you and Truth, that your lifetime is married to. As the wife, as the traditional old-fashioned wife. Not as the cold partnership, not as the leader, but as the wife. The wife waiting to serve, waiting to be told, waiting to follow a command." Yes! That is exactly the relationship I am awakening to.
Before leaving the retreat, I volunteer to do any work for the Foundation that I can do from afar. I also decide to buy a home computer, something I have been resisting for years, thinking it will give me the possibility of doing more.
What a blessing for me to find myself at this particular retreat with its theme of service. By the time I leave Crestone my life has become a simple conscious prayer to be used. In fact, I see now, that is why I am writing this story.
I am eternally grateful that this perfect prayer, which has existed through all time, has finally found me. I understand that in some unexplainable way there is no separation between this wholehearted prayer to serve the truth and its fulfillment. No separation between the eternal prayer, its certain fulfillment, this bursting heart, and me.