Ananda has a wonderful ability to open hearts and change lives. It can happen anywhere — in a class with your favorite teacher, or a few days at the Expanding Light, or in your own home.
I had an experience in Assisi last July that changed my life and Swami Kriyananda was the catalyst. The energy seemed to flow from Paramhansa Yogananda through Swami to me. This feeling has stayed with me ever since, and it has changed the way I see the world, other people and myself.
My husband and I were sitting in Ananda Assisi’s beautiful Temple of Light while Swami was telling the Bible story of the woman who touched Christ’s cloak and was healed. Crowds of people had been milling around Jesus, but only one was healed that day. Lots of people touched His cloak, but this woman alone received God’s healing energy. Why? Because, explained Swami, she was receptive. The crowds were intellectually open-minded, still not truly receptive.
I started weeping because I felt like those people in the crowd. It seemed as if I had been standing at the edge of the crowd for incarnations. I was open-minded but something was missing. I felt a tremendous longing for that missing piece. Then an almost indescribable blessing poured into me. At that point the tears really started to flow. I became drenched in tears and thought I might have to leave the temple for causing a disturbance. These tears were a mixture of sadness, joy and I felt cleansed, too, all at the same time.
After the tears stopped I gradually became aware that something in me had changed. This is the part that is difficult to put into words. Ever since then I have felt a light, new energy in my heart; a subtle, interior shift that altered my outlook on the world. It is hard to describe, but I can tell you that it feels wonderful!
It happened in a purely impersonal way. Swami wasn’t talking to me specifically; there were over 100 people in the temple that Sunday morning. Nor was there any sense that it came because of anything special in me. This time, however, I was receptive.
I now understand better the nature of Swami’s relationship with us. It is 100% impersonal! It ‘s on the soul level, and it doesn’t have much to do with anything else. It is “impersonal” because it has nothing to do with the ego, outer appearances or personal interaction. Sometimes people mistakenly equate being impersonal with being cold and unfeeling, but it’s quite the opposite. It is the key to unconditional love. It flows to any devotee whose heart is open to receive.
I was surprised to discover how this new understanding has helped me to relax. It is such a relief to get beyond the personality level! When I relinquish the strain of doing things the hard way—from the ego, which often results in tension and fatigue—I find I have more energy.
I learned through this experience about the enormous spiritual power of receptivity. To be receptive, one needs an open heart as well as an open mind. I created a prayer to help remember: “Divine Mother, help me to be fully receptive to the blessings that are inherent in each moment.”
I am still learning how to apply the lessons of the Assisi experience. One thing I know, in retrospect, is that this blessing had been there waiting for me all along. I have had similar experiences around Swami before, but didn’t let them all the way in. Only this time I said “yes” with the strength of my entire being. This time, I ran to the door and let it in. The blessing I received has stayed with me ever since and I am so grateful for it.
Carol Gray and her husband Al are the Ananda Center leaders in Ashland, Oregon. They attended Ananda’s Meditation Center and Group Leaders’ Retreat in Assisi in July, 2000.