Finding God in the City
Swami Kriyananda asked a group of people to move to Los Angeles and help Ananda happen down here. So last fall 10 or so of us packed up and moved down to the big city. We are now quickly coming up on our one year anniversary. I think all of us have been stretched in ways we couldn’t have even imagined, but with great challenges comes the growth devotees yearn for. It has also been a time of great joy and laughter.
Before moving to LA, I had spent the last three years or so living at Ananda’s Meditation Retreat. The Retreat is near Ananda Village, but at the end of a 3 mile gravel road. It is off the grid and about as remote and quiet as you can get. About 30 people make up a sweet little spiritual family up there. I was living in my own little tent cabin there in the woods.
Most of the new LA team moved into a big house on Highland Avenue just south of Hollywood. Highland is a buzzing thoroughfare that leads you straight into the touristy part of Hollywood (my recent endearing term for Highland is “our little freeway”). The famous “Hollywood and Vine” intersection and the “Walk of Fame” are less than a mile away. For many of us, the difference is about as extreme as you can get.
Here is one story of adjusting to life in the city.
Not long ago, I was attempting to do a Costco run for the Ashram. I got all the way there before realizing that I hadn’t brought my wallet. I sighed and was fairly amused with myself for my silly mistake. As I worked my way home from my pointless excursion, through the ridiculous amounts of traffic, I began to feel my energy drop. I simply felt drained and I could feel negativity start to creep in. As I sat there at a red light I began to get frustrated with myself for getting down. I felt alone and empty. Inwardly I demanded “Divine Mother, how can I possibly stay positive in this situation if I can’t even feel a glimmer your presence? Why do you feel so far away?” I knew Divine Mother resides in all things, but why couldn’t I see Her?
I reflected back to my time at the Village and meditation retreat. What made it easier to feel God’s presence there? For one thing there are so many devotees. With so many people all seeking God together, the average vibration has become pretty high. Everyone helps to inspire and uplift the rest. We have a smaller community in LA, but we still have wonderful satsang.
The other difference that occurred to me was nature. In the serene beauty I had lived around for so long, I had found it much easier to tune into the Divine. For me the beautiful mountains, woods, rivers and lakes of the Sierras make better reminders of God than the bustling streets of LA.
But then I realized, Divine Mother really is in all things, so if I can’t see Her here in the city, the fault is mine, not Hers. I was not looking closely enough. I realized what I needed was something in the city to remind me to see God’s presence. I looked out my car window, still waiting at the red light, and I had a thought that to you may seem foolish, but to me it was a wonderful inspiration. Pavement! I would see Divine Mother in pavement! And why not? It’s not that I find concrete and asphalt particularly inspiring, but She is there none the less. The brilliant part of this inspiration revealed itself to me when I later went over an overpass and saw stretched out before me, mile after mile of pavement. The city is covered in it! It is a seemingly endless web of freeways and city streets, parking lots and sidewalks. Now instead of resenting this “concrete jungle,” I saw it as an endless web of Divine Mother’s love! How beautiful to think of Her silently supporting each and every one of us busy Angelinos as we went about our day. There is nothing to fear, nothing to resist. She is always here holding us in Her loving arms.
The ashram’s one year anniversary is certainly a time for reflection for all of us here. A time to look back over the challenges and the progress, both inwardly and outwardly. It is also a time to look forward and see what we would like to create. As Sister Gyanamata once said, we must always try to serve “more and better.”
In light of this inspiration I thought we could start offering some new courses. Maybe “Finding God through Pavement” or “The Concrete Path to God.” No? Well OK, maybe not.
Joy to You!