(Mary Dean Mataji)
It was my great good fortune that H.H. Sri Swami Chidananda came into my life in 1970. At that time my husband and I and our two sons were living in Hongkong on assignment with the US Department of State. Members of the Indian community knew of my practice of Hatha Yoga and my interest in Vedanta, so they informed me when a Hindu monk would be visiting. My family and I attended Swami Chidananda's lecture given at the American Club. From the cocktail lounge and restaurant I could hear occasional laughter and conversation. However, once Swamiji began to speak, his audience was rapt attention. On our way home our eleven year old son told how astounded he had been when Swamiji had looked directly at him and answered a question which he had in his mind. I felt mysteriously drawn to attend other meetings and satsangs, and after the second meeting I KNEW that I had met my guru! I felt an opening and expansion in my heart and a current of enormous love, devotion and reverence for Swami Chidananda and for Gurudev, whose teachings Swamiji manifests so beautifully in and through his life. Since 1970, I have been privileged to have pujya Swamiji's darshan on many occasions in India, Europe, Hong Kong, Canada and various places in the United States. Swamiji's light and loving wisdom have guided my life on several levels of my being and I remain eternally grateful for such grace.
In the life of a householder, there are many daily mundane demands and distractions. Tending to the needs of husband, children and home are top priorities for a married woman. Balancing a busy schedule without becoming over-fatigued or frustrated is a challenge. As pujya Swami Chidanandaji has pointed out, it takes patience, perseverance and attention in order to stay focussed. One can feel overwhelmed by responsibility, commitment and lack of time. Swamiji says, where we are Right Now, is where we are supposed to be and where we have to fulfil our dharma as best as we can. When we allow the mind and emotions to gain control, confusion and doubt will result. We recognise this through signs of stress, tension and strain in our life and in our relationship to others. When we focus solely on the personality/ego, we endow it with exaggerated value and importance. It assumes a power which it does not really have. Pride, vanity, envy and greed are the result. So we must learn to function effectively and happily on the outer level without disturbing the inner core of peace. This, of course, takes self-discipline and practice, coupled with a sense of humour and great faith in God and Guru.
A Christian prayer from Unity says: "Wherever I am, God is!" Brother Lawrence used the method of the "Practice of the Presence of God", which is the same as the yoga practice of offering all actions, no matter how trivial, as prayer to God. This is a tremendous help in "being in the world, but not of it." In so doing, the ego and its ceaseless desire for recognition begins slowly to loosen its powerful grip. I personally use frequent "mini-meditations" throughout the day in order to keep remembrance. These brief moments can be done while bathing, dressing, cooking, driving in a car, standing in lines anywhere, any time. I take only a moment or two to take a deep breath, relax and chant the name of God silently, and then, just Be Still. These "mini-meditations" can quickly and effectively bring one back to the centre. These pauses in the whirling wheel of life bring spiritual uplift and refreshment and release from bodily tensions. The guru's teachings lead us to enquiry, discrimination and meditation. And Swamiji has said that the Silence of deep meditation is the ultimate teacher.
When the pace of life seems to be on "Fast Forward" and there seems to be no time left for meditation, it is important that we consciously Stop! Look! Listen! And analyse how to better use the time. Give up too much TV, useless chatter, too much sleep and other not very necessary activities. We should try to prioritise our activities. This is not to say that every moment we must be serious and solemn. To live a divine life is a Joy! Getting together with friends for a meal creates a happy mood, light reading can be relaxing, spiritual literature is an uplifting activity and some TV programs and movies can be both educational and entertaining. We can keep informed of world events without getting caught in an emotional response. Try to see "the whole picture" behind the obvious. Old habits die hard, however, and one needs to pray to the Divine Mother for Her blessings. Pray to the guru for inner strength and self-control to overcome any negative tendencies. Practise builds spiritual muscles. To honestly look at the real situation can be painful and we can feel guilty and discouraged and easily get depressed. Then the ego rises again and tries to catch hold and regain mastery. Swamiji advises us not to live in the past nor to be anxious about the future. God is here NOW. Guilt and worry are unnecessary burdens. We must make the appropriate amends for any wrong and then move forward. Instead of worrying about the future, surrender to God's will. "Thy will, not mine, be done. Thy Grace is sufficient for all my needs." I once said to Swamiji, "I feel so unworthy," to which He replied in a rather stern voice, "Then, Be Worthy!" How often he has told us that we are "Radiant Immortal Atman." It is time for us to SHINE with love, goodness, compassion and kindness; to be real disciples of our guru and by so doing, to honour his life and teachings.
Within a marriage, it is very important to maintain an atmosphere of love, mutual respect and cooperation and an open channel for discussion. It is important to REALLY listen to one's partner without thinking ahead of how to respond and thereby possibly missing some important point! If one's husband or children do not seem interested in active participation in sadhana, it is best to remain "low-key." Through one's living the message of Gurudev can be wordlessly conveyed. Be assured that in anyone who has ever been in beloved Swamiji's holy presence, a seed has been sown. It will nurture and bloom in God's own time. Do not have expectations. Rather know that in surrendering to God's will, we acknowledge that we are not in control. God is, and all is well.
Swamiji tells us to speak sweetly and softly. To be non-judgmental, kind and compassionate. To respect and honour one another, even when a point of view may differ. Try to understand where the other person is coming from; see their perspective as well as your own. Use reason and discrimination with your partner. If the conversation is beginning to turn heated, take a short break. Count to ten if necessary! Angry words never accomplish anything and once said, cannot be taken back. Unintended pain to the other can be the outcome of speaking too hastily. To have peace, one must be peaceful. To be loved, one must love. Generosity of spirit is its own reward: "It is better to give than to receive." Another aspect of one's relationship with one's spouse and children is to respect their dignity, their need for privacy and time alone. Do not try to force upon them your spiritual views. Rather let your life be lived in such a way that they easily can see the benefits and peace of mind that come from real faith and love of God. Treat spouse and children as you yourself would like to be treated. Without unconditional love, one can fall into the trap of games of "emotional blackmail" such as, "I love you IF you do such and such." This is not Love, but rather the desire to control.
Being fully aware and awake takes constant vigilance. Watch for signs of tamas, such as laziness and procrastination. Get up and take a brisk walk or do some Hatha Yoga or pranayama or other exercise to get the blood circulating. Remember Gurudev's admonition: "DO IT NOW!" When there is too much rajas and restlessness results, try to meditate for a while, or go off by yourself for a time in order to regain inner balance. Eat nutritious, wholesome food (though we all enjoy that occasional special treat and we should allow ourselves to enjoy it fully, without guilt).The mind is a great tempter! Be wary and watchful so that you remain the master of your thoughts, emotions and actions.
Within the relationship of husband and wife there should be genuine respect. With love comes the desire to serve the beloved and to give all one can to make that person feel happy and appreciated. Maternal love, being unconditional and unselfish, is a tremendous power. Marital love, when spiritualised, takes on a new dimension. Where there is genuine love, harmony prevails, and each partner strives to put the other's needs first, but never at the expense of losing one's own feeling of worth. In my own nearly forty-five years of married life, my husband and I have tried never to go to bed when feeling angry or resentful. This is a very good thing. Negative emotions fester and only bring more negativity. Clear the air! Forgiveness is very important. Laughter is a great leveler. Especially the ability to laugh at oneself! An attitude of gratitude is the best attitude!
When misfortune or illness arise, do all you can to treat the situation reasonably and practically, but KNOW that you are never alone. "This too shall pass." When I was given the diagnosis three and a half years ago of breast cancer, I was initially devastated. But with the loving support of husband, family and friends, and the prayers of the guru and other kind souls at the Ashram, I was somehow able to totally surrender to God's will. With that surrender came a great peace-"the peace that passeth understanding." There was no fear. I literally FELT Swamiji's holy presence and I experienced a sense of pure joy! I actually wept tears of gratitude. Of course there was pain, but no emotional suffering. I am sure that my experience had some greater purpose and I believe that it was, in fact, a true blessing. Certainly, I realise now how precious our time on planet Earth is and that it should be used wisely and with love for all beings and all God's creatures in our hearts.
The life of a householder can and should be a rich, rewarding, joyous time in a woman's life. The teachings of the guru give us the tools with which to build a strong foundation for success, harmony and happiness in our homes, in our lives and in our hearts.