How Ishwar found me

In my youthful folly in high school I took a weekend course promising “enlightenment” -of sorts- called Silva Mind Control. I was on a spiritual path even that long ago. It proved to be a dumb move and negative experience. Though one segment of the training consisted of (creating in your imagination) a pair of helpers to assist with experiments in your mind. (It was really more complicated than that.)

My male creation was, of course, a Wizard (that made sense as I was a semi-professional stage-magician even that far back!) Long after I fled Silva, this Wizard appeared in my meditations and dreams, unbidden. It was a bit of an annoyance, him popping in on his own. Even when I started to practice Transcendental Meditation in my mid-twenties I could not shake him. (TM stopped working for me after about ten years and became a deterrent to my growth.) Whatever flavor of meditation or contemplation or spiritual work I did that Wizard, in his magical robes and tall hat, seemed to catch up with me.

I’ve always fought depression, it runs in my family, and I’d been on medications on and off since college. Then in my forties I was leveled with debilitating depression and pretty much a breakdown. I was mush, helpless and hopeless. I had instant mashed potato flakes in my house and managed to mix them with hot water everyday for weeks and weeks. That’s all I could do, all I had, and all I could eat. TMI alert: did you know you could poop white with a diet like that? I could not follow the plot of a one-minute TV commercial, let alone make sense of a half hour TV sit-com plot.

Unable to hold a job I sat on the sofa and rotted there for weeks. My dear friend Bobbi came one day. She said: “I think you’re going to die. I think you’ll die soon. I don’t want that to happen. You know the kind man Will (her boyfriend) introduced me to in Wisconsin? He’s very wise and very loving. I want you to meet him.”

No. I gave Bobbi a firm No. I told her “I’m all guru-ed out. I’ve met dozens of “masters” and taken more courses than I can remember, and learned about more religions and spiritual paths than I care to recall, and I diligently practiced at least a dozen kinds of meditation. so No.”

She would not give up. “Look, I have lots of frequent-flyer miles, you can share a room with Will and me, they feed you at the Dera. I’m going to dress you, and drag you, drooling, onto a plane, and you’re going to meet Ishwar. Period.”

I was too weak to fight her. And half-conscious I flew with them to Bruce, Wisconsin. I have no memory of the trip there. This “Dera” (retreat center) was outside a tiny hick town. And was a small ramshackle, slowly imploding, farmhouse with a mud driveway. Oh, goody.

There was a gaggle of some thirty people inside, mostly on folding chairs, some on the floor, a few on a saggy sofa, all packed tight against the fake woodgrain paneled walls. Oh, goody. There were three seats in the front and before us a canopied rattan chair. To the right of the chair was a huge framed photo.

Lightning flashed through my mind, my knees gave out, my jaw dropped, I could not breathe or speak. I trembled. There before me was the large photo… of my Wizard. The man who’d haunted my meditations for decades on “the inner” was looking straight at me, in the outer, a tiny smile about to form on his lips, staring at me from this sepia photo. The long white beard, the stern but loving eyes, the creases and crinkles of an aged face, and that darn smile just about to dawn. I was floored. Trepidation flooded through me.

Then a murmur of conversation floated about the crowed, and then a hush. Total silence. Everyone was standing, fingers pressed together. And a man entered from the little kitchen in the back and made his way down the narrow aisle to the front.

His eyes, oh his eyes. “And the eyes in his head, See the world spinning round.” The song “Fool on the Hill” (The Beatles) came to mind. And that smile. Sincere, loving, kind, forgiving. He said a word here and there, to people here and there, and sweetly touched people here and there as he made his way to the front…to me.

Ishwar looked me straight in the eyes, took my hand, and said: “Finally!” Then he sat in the hooded wicker chair and began his discourse. The workshop was three days of talks and meditation practice. Not the meditations I knew of though.

All my life I’d suffered a lot, a whole lot, from debilitating migraine headaches. Doctors fed me every drug on earth. They got bad and frequent by the time I was forty. They were unbearable. My insurance covered biofeedback therapy. So over several week’s of sessions I was guided by this amazing doctor to find -and stay- in a place in the center of my head where the pain did not exist. I had to build enormous courage to actually walk into and through this circle of flames and lightning of headache into that peaceful center. It worked.

Now, I’d heard about head centered meditation for eons, but I knew it was a dangerous thing to try without a thoroughly trained master. Here in a country house with the floor sinking into the basement, was a kind man from India who could safely take me on this journey. He taught us what I knew as “third-eye” meditation. Perhaps I was not as guru-ed out as I’d thought.

I’d like to say everyone was sweet and friendly and welcoming. They were not. One or two people acknowledged my existence, but the group was divided into little cliques and did not want their numbers to increase in that crowded Dera. I was discovering the Master’s love, and that was I what I was there for, not the community.

It was announced a rare thing would happen on the final day. Ishwar (who was becoming a dear friend) would hold meditation initiations. (Bobbi and Will had both been initiated the previous year.) It was considered both a great honor and a serious step. I watched as devotee after devotee kneeled before Ishwar and he asked them a few questions. Some were told to wait to his left, some to his right. I’d learned some of these folk had requested initiation for six or seven years and told they were not ready. This was momentous stuff and the gift did not come easily.

I leaned towards Bobbi and whispered: “Maybe, in a year or two, when I get to know him better, I’ll ask. But, I’m suspicious I’ve been burned too often and I don’t know enough about this stuff.” She nodded in agreement. Then an odd and curious thing happened.

Suddenly Ishwar seemed very close. I was kneeling before Ishwar. I had no recollection of standing. Or walking down the aisle. No memory of a decision at all, but here I was looking into those deep dark eyes. And he was asking me questions. I looked back at Bobbi and Will -it was like looking through the wrong end of a telescope- they were so very far away.

Their eyes were wide and mouths hung open in total surprise. Only then was I aware Ishwar was asking me questions. Was I vegetarian (I had been since my mid-twenties) did I drink alcohol (I had stopped at thirty-two) was I serious about meditation (I’d been doing it since high school.) And he pointed to the right of the room. Along with five or six others I was taken downstairs and given the methods and mantras. I had been adopted by my new Master.

When I returned upstairs, just before the afternoon meal, everyone, yes everyone, was suddenly my good friend. They all smiled at me, hugged me, wanted to talk with me. Like I was some celebrity. This one guy who’d been nice to me, another gay guy, gave me the story: Everyone thought I must be a bigshot, for only once before, it was a young woman, had anyone been granted initiation on their first time meeting Ishwar. Oh. I did not feel like a bigshot. I felt small and humble and blessed and elated and anxious about the future. I made one or two friends I treasure to this day, twenty-three years later, others were just faces I saw twice a year.

I’d burned a lot of karma and received a lot of grace downstairs. Back in San Francisco I got on my feet, found a job (well Master did that really) and was now a satsangi for life. Some things did not change, that Wizard did not leave me, he stuck with me through thick and thin. Ishwar once told me I was a retread, after being with Great Master in one lifetime, I was under Ishwar’s care for this one. I’m in love with two Masters, lucky me!

We’re building to almost six-hundred people at the Autumn Meditation Workshops and the Spring Bhandaras. That’s fine, that’s wonderful! Ishwar said long ago to appreciate the time we spent with him, that someday it would be difficult to get near him, so I expected this. I go to see Ishwar, close by him, or far across a large auditorium. I go to visit my good friend. In a way I envy the new people getting initiated. I love to see their faces glow, eyes sparkle, grins glued on grateful faces. They are fresh and new and about to begin an electrifying journey! Some don’t understand that Master is about to put them through a shredder -as he also builds them to wholeness. Doesn’t matter if they realize it or not.

It’s been a long ride of karma-burning and grace. Decades. As Ishwar said, it’s a warriors path, not easy, sometimes filled with pain, sometimes with indescribable joy. Master is not Santa Claus to give me what I ask, he’s Ishwar a good friend who helps me with what I need. He knows what I need to reach the next level of consciousness. And…Thanks Bobbi!

Radha Soami