I had pranamed many times to statues, murtis, chairs, photographs, pujas and the like, all representations of the form of my teachers, but never had I pranamed to a physical being, in the flesh. Not until that day at the ashram when the time had come for something that had been unfolding inside of me for so long to manifest in the physical form.
I knew innately that the time had come. There was no questions to ask, nothing to second guess. Just do it. I stepped into the back of the line so that I would not disrupt the flow of the rest of my classmates who were each receiving a necklace from Swamiji, equipped with a rudraksha bead from one of her malas. Although I knew what I would do and how I would do it… oh, was I nervous. How would Swamiji receive this act? What if I didn’t do it right? What if I tripped or fell, or just did it plain wrong!? Would she ridicule me? Would she tell me I am insincere? How would the others feel about me doing it? The demons rise with treacherous fervor the closer you come to leaving the gates of hell.
Alas, my turn arrived to be garlanded with Swami’s gracious gift. I knelt down in front of her chair and allowed her to place the necklace over my head. I bowed my head briefly with my hands in Namaste mudra and then began my descent into a full bow on the floor when “KNOCK” my forehead went right into her knees! I lifted my head a bit and paused, kind of confused. That certainly wasn’t supposed to happen. I felt a little silly, but didn’t raise from my bow. Then I felt Swami’s hand lovingly touch my neck. She was keeping my head down so she could back the chair up and move her knees away for me to fully pranam. Even now, writing this, I pause in remembrance of how the fears of my mind vanished at that gesture. But even that was nothing compared to what I was about to experience.
When I came up from my bow, I could not see anything. I looked for Swami’s face, but all I could see was a big blur of white, all around. My mind was going all over the place and I felt like I had the silliest of smiles on my face that was revealing the silliness of how vulnerable I felt. I felt like my tongue was hanging out of my face sideways, my eyes were goo-goo and I didn’t have a clue what just happened. That lasted briefly and then I saw Swami’s face turn to the side. It was the first time I could see her eyes and all I noticed was a disinterested look. While that didn’t startle me at the time, it was something that captured my mind dearly – it’s significance coming to me a few months later.
I got up from knees and shortly after made my way outside the door to leave when I exploded into the Self in, arguably, the greatest way ever. The joy and bliss were incomparable as I looked out into the day. At first there was nothing but me and that bliss, and as my eyes settled into the surrounding Nature, there was me, the bliss and Nature. Then, slowly all the manifestations of Shiva made their way back in to my perspective, my classmates, driveways, the cars.. and ah yes, the ashram manager calling me back for my “stinky” shoes that I’d left!
That disinterested look in Swami’s eyes was not because she didn’t love me nor that she thought I was fake, or silly, or immature, or any of the reasons my mind had conjured as to why that happened. The disinterested look came because my pranam to her was not about her at all, but about me. About me relinquishing my ego in order to honor another, to bow to the infinite presence of God within not only another, but my very own Self. Incidentally, it’s that very same thing that blasted me into that profound glimpse into the Self.
It is to all of this that I wish to return to again… and again… and again… until I never leave that very same thing.