“There is so much beauty and joy in God’s world. Find that right where it is – inside you.” – Sadguru Kedarji
Recently, by my Guru’s Grace, I was profoundly blessed with a direct experience of indescribable joy when I traveled across the country to see a lifelong friend offer the world premiere of a magnificent concerto. We have been friends since childhood, and over decades, I have observed how her gifts as a student and later, as a professional musician, have blossomed due to her disciplined self effort, enthusiasm and commitment to excellence.
As excited as I was to go on this trip and to attend my friend’s program, I was even more excited to dive in and experience every aspect of the journey by practicing a time-honored method that Sadguru Kedarji instructs in our Nityananda Shaktipat Yoga approach: to use all contact with people, places, things, situations and circumstances to send me back inside and keep me there…to go inside and stay there with my heightened Witnessing Awareness, without allowing it to contract.
So as I took the necessary steps to mundanely prepare for travel, I also prepared by intensifying my effort with my daily spiritual practice. This included reading and contemplating a new sacred text: “The Abode of Grace – Bhagawan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri” by Sadguru Kedarji. And from the very beginning of this great sacred text, I experienced wave upon wave of the Shakti.
It Only Ever Rains Grace
Two days before my departure, torrential downpours, hail, tornadoes, and historic flooding unexpectedly drenched the city where I was supposed to go. More than 1,000 flights were delayed or cancelled in a 48 hour period. Seriously? Just a few days earlier, the weather forecast had predicted sunny days and warm temperatures!
But since the “Guru’s every word is mantra, even when uttered casually,” I heeded Sadguru Kedarji’s instruction to “pay attention to the weather.” While this was an instruction that he had recently imparted to another Sangham member in a different context, thanks to my Guru’s Grace, I recalled that when my Guru shares any instruction, there is always something there for me to imbibe, too.
This experience reminded me how important it is to always reach for the highest understandings – to not stay on the surface of anything that my Guru utters – and to remain in the present moment, from moment to moment…to keep my heightened Witnessing Awareness focused there. The past is gone, and the future does not exist. Each present moment is all that we have to experience the Bliss of our true nature as the Supreme Self: Love, Peace and Joy.
So on the day before my trip started, I used the notion of inclement weather as a reminder to remain silent—not stormy—inside. I sat for meditation, listened to sacred chants, inwardly performed japa (mantra repetition), and read “The Abode of Grace.”
And as carefully as I packed my luggage to include options for any type of weather, I also carefully observed the energy of my mind in order to let go of any pre-conceived notions or expectations…to stop my mind from fueling a flurry of worry about whether my flight might be cancelled and whether all of my plans would come to fruition or not.
No Substitute for Direct Experience
As I read “The Abode of Grace” while traveling, I began to contemplate the section where Sadguru Kedarji shares Verse #14 of the Chidakasha Gita. In this verse, Bhagawan Nityananda utters: “The sunlight is reflected in the salt water of the sea. It is also reflected in the clear water of a tank at the top of a hill. It is not enough if we see with the eye but we should experience it.”
In his commentary on this verse, Sadguru Kedarji utters, “Even though sunlight is reflected in water and other surfaces, to experience the sun directly, we need to sit in the sunlight. We can’t get a tan by staring at the reflection of the sun. In the same way, it is not enough to have the intellectual understanding that the Self exists. We have to have a direct and ongoing experience of the inner Self, by going beyond the mind and beyond the senses.”
This verse and commentary inspired me to contemplate how I even got to the point of making this trip: how I went from intellectually conceptualizing what it would be like to attend my friend’s program (even virtually) to actually being present live and in person at the concert hall, where I completely immersed in a direct, ongoing experience of the inner Self—my true nature as Love, Peace and Joy. This verse and commentary reminded me of how important it is to simply show up—it reminded me that my Self effort is my Grace.
The Journey to the Journey
While I have always loved to travel, over the past few years, I have had to consider numerous mundane factors when traveling…multiple practical reasons “why not” to go. So last year, when I first learned about my friend’s concerto, I immediately felt my Witnessing Awareness contract.
My mind slipped into “doership” mode, which fueled emotions of hesitation, doubt, worry, and fear. I definitely wanted to go, but what if I couldn’t “make” it work? What if I couldn’t afford to travel? What if I planned everything thoroughly but ultimately could not make the trip for some unexpected reason? Or what if my plans went completely awry and I could not follow through? Could I listen to a recording of the program later, instead of being at the concert hall live and in person?
Eventually, I resolved to make the journey—and to let go of fear and attachment to outcomes. Each time when I witnessed my mind contracting, I used those observations to intensify my Self effort of reading and contemplating “The Abode of Grace,” in addition to sitting for meditation, chanting, and performing japa. As a result, my restless mind quieted, and I found it easier to focus on the present moment.
And every single time I made those efforts, the floodgates opened and Grace flowed. The energy of my mind was shocked into silence—simply awestruck by the direct and ongoing experience of Love, Peace and Joy.
The most powerful example of what I have been describing occurred when I attended my friend’s program.
From the very first moment when I heard her begin to play her instrument, tears welled up in my eyes and my heart filled with Joy. My body swayed along with each movement of the concerto, and then I literally jumped up out of my seat—and jumped up and down on my feet—to applaud and cheer at the end.
Every sound was exquisite, and I used every note as a reminder to go back inside for a direct experience of Love, Peace and Joy.
I felt wave after wave of the Shakti rise up within me. I literally cried tears of Joy throughout the program, and the non-stop ear-to-ear smiles on my face caught every tear. And for the first time since I was a very young child, I observed that I was actually listening to the music with a completely silent mind.
Listening Without Hearing
By my Guru’s Grace, I realized that over many years, I had developed a habit of allowing my mind to wander and create stories to accompany music. I had developed a habit of using music as a tool to go outside myself and venture into an imaginary world that did not exist.
So rather than becoming a focal point, music had become a secondary soundtrack for my existence as I imagined it. In this way, I had learned to intellectualize music and to attach to a whole host of intellectual notions connected with my experience of it.
However, this time, during each movement of the concerto, I used the music as a reminder to go beyond the mind and senses and directly experience my true nature of Love, Peace and Joy right where it is—inside of me.
Instead of relying on my ears to hear the music and engaging my mind to make intellectual sense of it, this time, when I listened, I felt the music move through me inwardly. It wove through everything inside of me, especially within my heart, which absolutely sang and danced in a sustained direct experience of complete and utter Joy. What Grace!
Only God Exists
To this day, the only way that I can even attempt to describe the magnitude of this indescribable experience is to say that God played through my friend—I felt an experience of God playing for God inside of me.
And ultimately, Sadguru Kedarji confirmed this for me by way of sharing a reminder of the following wisdom utterance: “God alone exists…so, who is doing the playing?”
Om Guru Om – what an awesome Play of the Shakti, indeed!
Kambra McConnel is the Treasurer of The Bhakta School of Transformation. She sits on our Board of Directors and also volunteers as a certified staff teacher and program leader for Nityananda Shaktipat Yoga.