We took places on pillows in the second row in the center and waited about a half an hour, during which time the room filled up with people, Indians and Westerners alike.. A little while after the advertised starting time, Shivashakti made an unassuming entrance into the room from a side door. A tiny older woman with streaks of gray in her hair, she was barefoot and wearing a peach-colored sari. She walked slowly and deliberately to and fro in the empty space in front of the group, making eye contact with virtually every individual as she passed by, smiling and emanating deep peace and love.. The feeling in the room became still and a sweetness prevailed. She never spoke a word, just slowly walked back and forth, gazing beatifically into the eyes of those who had come to be with her. When she made eye contact with me, I could feel a lifting of the anxieties that had been plaguing me, and my mind settled into an open spaciousness. It wasn’t an earth-shattering experience, but it shifted me into a much more tranquil state of mind. She continued slowly walking back and forth, giving this silent darshan for about 20 minutes, then as quietly as she arrived, she left, and people began filing out of the room.
Our minds silenced, a few of us wordlessly walked a short distance down a side street and without much discussion went into a dark little shop with rows of shelves stacked with clothing of all types neatly folded in plastic bags.. It was a bonanza for us all, including the shop-keeper, as most of us found things we liked and wanted to purchase. I bought three blouses, one for myself and two to take home as gifts, forest-green silk pants and a three-quarter-length forest-green dress with a rainbow-colored tie-dye patterning to wear over the pants.. I spent $30 altogether. With these purchases, I felt like I had enough loose-fitting clothing to last me through the month without having to hand-wash every day.
It was impossible for me to tell who her parents were, for at one time or another I saw her in the arms of virtually everybody on the staff and all seemed quite proprietary toward her.. Though all were very loving and affectionate, they were also strict, and more than once I heard one or another of them admonish her in a stern tone of voice when she would do something that violated their sense of propriety, though in all honesty I could not tell what she might have done wrong. The subtleties of cultural mores were beyond me in this case.. In this observer mode, I felt a little like an anthropologist. It was so easy to see how cultural values are instilled beginning at such an early age. I marveled at the mystery that brings us into this world, all so alike, and then imprints us in ways that result in such different mannerisms and orientations toward life itself. Each of us is part of the same human family, which is a fundamental unity, and yet our life experiences lead us to the conclusion that we are so different. If only we could remember that we all are children of the Most High, and at core, we all want the same things, perhaps we wouldn’t have to struggle quite so much to get along.
I’d like to close with a poem that I wrote during the first week.
The fan is constantly whirring overhead,
What unceasing love and devotion!
If you’re really paying attention,
The feel of the air
Caressing your body
It is possible to lose yourself completely,
In the most mundane things.
If you’re really paying attention.