The Trip to Los Angeles
This blog is a semi-live account of the Ananda Village monks’ trip to Los Angeles three weeks ago, on August 22nd, to hear Swami Kriyananda talk at a packed Ford Amphitheater.
It’s “semi-live” because I wrote the first half at about 2:30 pm. After that, I was writing more or less as-it-happens.
I hope you enjoy it.
3:00 am, Sunday, August 22
Ananda Meditation Retreat
An alarm wakes me up. I get out of bed, in my tent bungalow at the Ananda Meditation Retreat, and start getting ready to leave.
The monks, Nitai, Jagrav, and I, start off. We’re headed first to rent a car at Sacramento airport, where we’re planning to return late tonight, to get me onto a flight Monday morning. (I’m visiting family in the Seattle area for the coming week.)
7:00 am, or so
Sacramento Airport, Budget Car Rental
The car is rented — we’re off on a long straight trip south to Los Angeles.
I-5, Headed South
I wake up from a nap of unspecified length.
At this point we still don’t know whether or not Swamiji is feeling well enough to make the trip to Los Angeles, so we don’t know if the talk will actually happen.
He was planning to come on Wednesday, but some health difficulties have slowed him down. He said yesterday that if he isn’t able to come, it will be the first major engagement that he’s missed. Many Ananda members are already in Los Angeles, to sing, or otherwise help with the production.
I’m checking email to find out if there’s any news. Jagrav has the bright idea, at this moment, to check our community voicemail. There’s a message from Devi that says Swamiji’s feeling well enough to travel this morning, and that they’ll be heading for the airport.
“Devi says they’re going,” I share with the others. “Great!” exclaims Jagrav.
Nitai thinks that maybe we should do a standing ovation for Swamiji when he comes on stage. He sounds impressed — a little in awe perhaps, of Swamiji’s unflagging determination and willpower over the last several days.
Many people have been praying for him. I was oscillating yesterday between thinking, “Of course he’ll make it, he always does,” and “What if he doesn’t??” — my mind hopelessly trying to figure out what will happen in the future.
A friend at the retreat, Beth, took that moment to share with me, “It’s all in Divine Mother’s hands.”
Exactly what I needed to hear.
1:00 pm or so
We drive into Los Angeles. The event starts at 6:00 pm, but I need to be ready to rehearse our choir songs at 2:30. Still, that leaves some time. Nitai suggests that we visit the crypt where Yogananda’s body lies, at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale. 100% of monks present are in favor.
Forest Lawn Cemetary in Glendale
We arrive, and spend a nice short meditation in front of Yogananda’s tomb, which is in a wall along with many others. Two other Ananda devotees, friends from Ananda Seattle, are there already. I pray for Swami, and for someone who has asked Ananda for healing prayers. I offer my life to God through the channel of my Guru.
2:10 pm or so
The Ford Ampthitheater
We arrive at the Ford Amphitheater, where Swamiji will speak. Nitai and Jagrav drop me off — I have choir rehearsal shortly, but they don’t need to be here until the talk begins.
We start choir rehearsal. Latika reminded me of how wonderful it was to sing here last year. “We didn’t want to stop,” she pointed out.
4:38 pm, give or take
Change in plans from the original. There will be no intermission; Swamiji will speak, and ask Catherine Kairavi to speak for a few minutes about her new book, Two Souls, Four Lives, which covers the lives of William the Conqueror and his son, Henry I. The book takes the perspective that these were earlier incarnations of Paramhansa Yogananda and his spiritual son, Swami Kriyananda.
In the Dressing Room
Christian and I are talking about ties in the men’s dressing room downstairs. Christian speaks in an unusually creative way. I find it thoroughly entertaining, but can only barely understand what he’s saying. (To be fair, I’m writing this at the same time, and my attention is divided!)
15 minutes ago, David Eby, brave soul, got part of his shirt steamed while he was wearing it. (Don’t try this!) The burns were minor.
It reminded me, if anything, of how Swami Kriyananda doesn’t always take anesthesia for surgery, or when visiting dentists.
Downstairs / Backstage
Two minutes to places. I see people meditating downstairs, with the sound of Swami Kriyananda’s Life is Quest for Joy floating down from the stage. Inspiring! Think I’ll join them in meditation.
Backstage, After the First Choir Performance
Singing was fun, great fun. It was a joy, like singing for Swamiji so often is. More than usual, I felt connected with the audience, through God’s love.
We’ve come downstairs now to the dressing rooms and are listening to Brook and Sean, the leaders of Ananda LA, speaking to the audience.
Sean is telling everyone how privately, behind the scenes, they have been calling this the “Miracle Show.”
“Its a testimony to Swamiji’s incredibly will,” he is saying, “but also to his desire — his desireless desire — to serve Yogananda’s teachings, and also to serve us.
“Just him being here tonight is perhaps the single most heroic act that I’ve seen in a man who has had a lifetime of heroic acts.”
Well, time to sit down and listen to Swamiji.