When I first came onto the spiritual path, I spent time at Ananda Village in the Karma Yoga Program. As I became acquainted with the Divine Mother, I often pleaded with Her to help me feel Her love. At the innermost core of my being, I knew that Her love was all I was seeking.
Ananda Village is surrounded by beautiful expansive views of nature, walking paths, and a stillness unlike anything I’d experienced growing up near cities. It was in the natural beauty of Ananda that I first experienced Divine Mother’s love, beauty and joy. I saw her in the sunsets, in the starlit nights, and in the playfulness of whatever animals scuttled across my path during the day. As I talked to Her and enjoyed these moments, I felt my heart opening to Her love and joy not only around me, but also within me.
But I knew there was more I could do to feel Her within me, so I kept praying, “Divine Mother, you have to enter into my heart completely. Help me to feel Your presence always.”
A diagnosis of breast cancer
A turning point came when my earthly mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had recently moved back to my parent’s home in Santa Cruz, California to begin working for a local nonprofit organization. The very next month, my mother found out she had breast cancer.
Was this why I was now back in Santa Cruz? If so, it was a blessing. I was able to live at home and help my mom and dad meet this challenge. In prayer, I offered myself in service to Divine Mother, within my mother, in her time of need.
From the start, my mother was very positive about the cancer. She spoke of it as an important part of her life’s journey and described the upcoming surgery as a “fun time” when she would not have to work and could read lots of good books. Nonetheless, when the results of a second mammogram confirmed the seriousness of the cancer, one of my mom’s closest friends and I arranged to meet her for lunch at a beach-front restaurant, to give support.
A sign all would be well?
After lunch we walked a few minutes to a lighthouse lookout point where it’s possible to see humpback whales close up, especially in October when they migrate along the coast. Whales symbolize creativity, well-being, nurturing, and emotional depth. They represent the taking on of difficult experiences, and moving through them with grace. These qualities certainly described my mom, who showed only strength and courage.
We were hopeful that my mom would be able to see a whale and thus be given a sign that all would be well. I prayed that we would see a whale. As we approached the lookout point, we noticed people pointing to something across the waves. And there, close enough to see without binoculars, was a beautiful humpback whale!
Prayers for the doctor
The surgery took place two months later. Family friends, relatives, and new friends at Ananda all offered to pray and send healing energy to my mother and our family, starting at 11am the day of the surgery. At exactly 11 o’clock, while still in the room with my mother, I felt a powerful uplifting energy – peaceful, loving, and full of joy. My sadness and worries vanished.
All too quickly it was time for me to join my father in the waiting room. After two hours, we both began to feel uneasy – the operation was taking much longer than we’d been told. My dad felt we needed to add the doctor to our prayers.
When the doctor finally came out, he told us an interesting story. He had been able to locate the cancer and determine that it had spread to the lymph nodes. But he had needed extra time to take out all the nodes that might have cancer cells. He said he thought he had located all potentially cancerous nodes when, suddenly, he felt he needed to check one last node. That’s when he found the biggest, most cancer-ridden node of all.
A struggle to balance everything
As a family, we now began the journey of helping my mother recover and heal. We were facing a series of chemotherapy treatments, medical bills, and the everyday struggles to support one another.
My mom was so strong, much stronger than I. Even when the chemotherapy was at its worst, and she was unable to get out of bed, she would still smile at me and try to appease my worries. Before my eyes I saw her growing and expanding into a beautiful example of Divine Mother’s compassion and grace. Though I had much to learn about being grateful for all that comes in life, she helped me to see her experience as the gift of grace it truly was.
Still, it was a struggle. I couldn’t always prevent myself from becoming stressed at work, trying to balance work demands with the need to help my mom. Often I would argue with my dad or become annoyed at all the many visitors who came. Then I would get down on myself. “How could you be so horrible?” “Haven’t you learned anything about spirituality?” “You are a bad daughter!”
A place where I could heal
Because of the pain I was storing inside, I felt it would be good to spend time at the end of my mom’s treatments at a place where I could heal. But my mind was full of worries. Would someone still be there to help my mom? Would I have to quit my job? When would I be able to return to Ananda Village where I had found such peace? Finally, receiving what felt like guidance, I booked a trip for a one-month retreat at the Ananda center in Assisi.
During my stay at the Assisi center, there was an evening concert that included a performance by an astonishingly talented dancer, who was known for channeling divine healings through her dances. Although I didn’t know what to expect of a healing dance, when she asked for volunteers, my hand shot up before I even realized what I had done.
Like all the volunteers, when it was my turn, I stood next to her so that she could tune into my vibration while I thought of something in my life that needed healing. I brought to mind my mom, what it was like to see her go through cancer treatment, and how I had tried to stay strong, but how disappointed I was in myself and in my efforts to help her.
A flash of energy between our souls
At that moment, I felt an immediate energetic connection between the dancer and me. I could actually feel a flash of energy between our souls. And then she began to dance. She leapt and danced with joy and childlike innocence in full circles around the room. She was practically floating with delight!
Then the mood began to change. She became quiet. She began to fall to the floor. She was in despair. And she did something in her dance the significance of which no one else in that room could have known: she performed an act that only my soul knew was something I had gone through –– something dark and deep within me that was my secret way of dealing with life when it seemed out of control, when I felt more pain than I knew how to handle. She expressed my secret self in her dance.
From the depths of my soul, I began to weep in front of everyone, and couldn’t stop. Tears streamed down my face because in that moment I knew. I knew I was never truly alone. I saw clearly the motherly divine presence that was always with me through everything. Everything!
I had seen Divine Mother in moments of beauty and joy. Now She was showing me that even in my darkest moments, She remained with me. I didn’t need to hide anything because, in Her great compassion, She loved me unconditionally.
The dance wasn’t over. There was the moment of healing. The dancer rose up from the floor, stretched her arms out to the side, then up high above her head, all the while radiating a feeling of complete inner peace.
A gift from Divine Mother
I left Ananda Assisi with the thought I would soon be returning to help with the center’s website and promotions. It was only after I had quit my Santa Cruz job and sold my car that I learned that Ananda Assisi’s finances had taken a downturn and there were no funds to cover my services.
Thankfully, I soon received an offer from a friend at Ananda Village to work for the web services team. Since I was now carless, my dad drove me to the Village. I moved into a tent, and once again became part of the Karma Yoga Program. Though lacking a car, I had learned from my mom that with the right attitude, I could face any struggles that came. I felt very grateful to be there.
A few days later, something totally unexpected happened. Friends at Ananda Village decided that while living there, I would certainly need a car. They gave me a car. And it wasn’t just any car, but the very car Swami Kriyananda had ridden in during the last years of his life. It was, therefore, a very blessed car.
It felt like a gift from Divine Mother, coming full circle from the moment I sold my car with the thought of serving Her in Italy. Divine Mother had shown me once again that I could trust Her love and that, finally, I was home.