Tuesday, October 26, 2010


It is gratifying to see people inspired by my stories and experiences, but what I have been through is no more or less valuable than your own spiritual journey. Everyone who embarks on a spiritual path has a unique story to tell. In my life, spending so much time in the presence of Sri Sri has been a true blessing and something I wanted to share with others. Still it is just a story. Stories can be a trap for the mind. Often our narratives cause us to feel “I am special because this happened to me” or “He is so special because that happened to him.” These are merely expressions of ego. They take us out of the present moment by glorifying the past. This is what separates us from others. The more we get caught up in our own story and the more we are entangled in notions of “I am special” or “I am inferior,” the more we perpetuate our own dramas and stray from the truth.

Yet there are plenty of purposes a narrative can serve. Stories can be a way of getting closer to others and bonding. Old friends and family members often reminisce about the past. This fosters a sense of connection, of history. Many times though, we tell stories of the past either to brag and feel important or to reinforce despair and self-doubt. It is far more valuable to simply become aware of the perpetual story that we are telling ourselves.

Observe how this constant chattering in the mind becomes your identity. Without this story, who would you be? We weave such intricate notions of who we are, what we like, what we can or cannot do in life. We label ourselves. I am a parent. I have this profession. I meditate. I cannot meditate. This story of “I am somebody” is the source of human suffering. It perpetuates the feeling of being separate from others and from our own unbounded consciousness. It provides a false sense of satisfaction and makes us complacent. It can also be a way to remain a victim. This strong identification with being “somebody” often brings us into a space of complaint. We wring our hands over situations that have already happened and can never be changed.

Life is filled with stories. The skill comes in when we stay away from labeling ourselves as either hero or villain, winner or loser. Spiritual knowledge can save you from getting lost in your role or identity. It provides an awareness for you to shift, to move away from the story of changing events and circumstances to that which is non-changing, constant and ever-present. It helps you to relinquish the story, your attachment to the narrative of your own life. If there is one key lesson to learn in life, this is it. And it is one I myself am still grappling with and learning to understand.

It is so rare to hear Sri Sri tell a personal story. My sense is that he does not identify himself as a protagonist. He is not the leading character who gets submerged in the drama. The consciousness, which is without beginning or end, is so expansive it is as though his past has dissolved in the present.

If you are still waiting to meet your true spiritual teacher, don’t worry. Have patience. Enjoy reading and listening to the stories of others knowing that your time will also come. There will be some moment when the satguru, the true spiritual teacher, physically appears in ones life. For many that moment has already occurred. For others, it is just around the corner. If you have met your true spiritual teacher, rejoice and inspire those around you. Tell your story with love, devotion and humor so that others may be inspired to walk this path too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In a Moment of Silence

As I stand behind a microphone, amid walls of books, and in a moment of silence during a book-tour talk, a seventyish grey-haired man rises to ask, “Where does this lead us?” With soft eyes, he speaks with sincerity, intent on getting an answer.

Some people are restless, fidgeting in their chair. Others wait in anticipation. A young Latino man who greeted me when I entered the bookstore leans forward in his chair, rests his elbows on his knees and cradles his head in his hands.

There are no thoughts in my mind only stillness.

“There is no place to go,” I say.

The audience laughs, the grey-haired man winces at me, confused.

“You already have what you’re seeking,” I explain. “The practices are only a way to be in the now, for accepting, for removing the craving for joy in the future. You are not going anywhere, you are only uncovering what’s there.” The grey-haired man nods his head with understanding eyes. The young Latino sits back in his chair, crosses his arms in front of his chest, and smiles.

Only an hour earlier I had been questioning why I would be traveling around the country on this book tour. I was wishing instead to be in the presence of my teacher and mentor, Sri Sri. It is the fourth night of Navaratri, the auspicious Hindu festival honoring Mother Divine. Sri Sri is in silence at the Bangalore ashram with 30,000 people who have come to participate in the yagnas, ancient Vedic rituals that reverberate vibrations of peace.

I observe myself standing before a small crowd, gathered to hear about the book I have written. Elated, I now marvel at the knowledge flowing from me.

At the end of the talk, I sign books and share Sri Sri’s blessings. A tall athletic man who is built like a linebacker approaches me. “I never heard about you or your book. But when I saw the flyer, I knew I had to come.”

How could he? Besides Art of Living members, a few friends, and family, no one knew about my book. I didn’t say a word; I just smiled and nodded.

During the few minutes that we chat, the linebacker holds my hand. He tells me how he appreciated my talk. For many years he felt inadequate with people and wanted more meaning and purpose in his life. As he waits for me to sign his book, he asks if I think the Art of Living Course will help.

Like the grey-haired man’s question, I’m not sure where this book tour will lead me, but it is clear that it is a great vehicle for sharing Sri Sri’s knowledge. Many who are coming to my book events are seekers who long for a way home. I’m honored that I can play a role in their journey.