The road to the nursery school follows a steep ridge at the western boundary of the village. At the top of that hill, a panoramic view is favored by sunset watchers.
In the evenings, star watchers come here to observe the heavens as we spin through space. The interconnectedness of our little lives can be felt in expansive vistas. From one side of the ridge the view looks down onto rolling hills and valleys of the Sierra Nevada foothills. To the east, the hills climb upwards toward the snowcapped mountains of the High Sierra north of Lake Tahoe.
It was afternoon and time to pick up Rama from his preschool sojourn. By car, the approach up the ridge featured a steep rise that ended right near the door of the nursery school classroom. I parked our aging Honda sedan, pulled the emergency brake, stepped out of the car and headed to the classroom.
Rama’s teacher was a caring elder who doted over the children meticulously. After play sessions, she sometimes offered input and advice on everything from peer psychology to the latest homeopathic remedies. Today was one of those days, and I could sense she wanted to engage me. Normally, I would have collected our son quickly, as I’d learned he could get away from me quite easily. His teacher wanted to talk, and even now I wonder whether it was my need or hers that led me to spend those few extra minutes listening.
Parents have an inborn radar that tells them where their child is. Even though physically separate, there is this intuitive knowing that a part of you is somewhere else, running through the fields, or hanging upside down from a tree branch — or any number of worries meant to test our detachment and realization of the natural order of the universe. In yoga, our first step toward a broader understanding of interconnectedness starts with our closest relationships: for householders, it often begins with our children.
I was torn. This teacher needed someone to listen to her — and it was not that she wanted to share some trivial event related to children, their peer group, or nutritional choices. As my mind and heart focused on her words I became oblivious to the classroom, the children, even my son.
After several minutes my head turned. Where had Rama gone? I looked around the classroom; he was not there. My heart began to beat faster. Looking outside, I saw our old Honda slowly rolling backward as it inched down the ridge toward what I knew was an even steeper drop where the wheels would be fully spinning.
My mind called to Babaji, the deathless guru from the Autobiography of a Yogi. I believe I screamed Babaji’s name as I ran out of the preschool somehow thinking I could catch and halt the progress of the two tons of steel barreling down the hill before me.
I caught a glimpse of Rama at the helm, standing calmly between the driver’s and the passenger seat, his hands on the dashboard looking just like a captain unaware of the rogue wave about to hit him. There was nothing that could stop him, and I could not catch him. My eyes shot to the long slope down the hill behind him and wondered how the crash might occur. My focus returned to Babaji.
Within seconds the car, which had been moving straight backwards, began to turn in a sharp angle and head toward an even steeper drop of the ridge that would insure a much quicker demise. I surrendered and watched in horror. Then it stopped. The bottom of the car had miraculously caught on a rock rising about fifteen inches from the ground. It was the only rock on that part of the ridge. The car was teetering there, and as I quickly rushed to the door, panic set in. If Rama moved or if I opened the door, would the car suddenly slide off its perch and take us both down the cliff? The fear on my face and the precarious position of the car were churning the ether.
Moments later, a car drove up and an elderly gentleman with white hair and wise eyes assessed the situation. His eyes locked with mine as if to say, don’t move I’ll be right there. He quickly parked his car, strode up, and calmly asked me for my keys as though the situation was completely normal. Then he did what I could not do. He opened the door to my car, stepped inside and quickly started it. With the car dipping up and down like a teeter-totter, and its wheels spinning furiously, he somehow drove it off the precipice and onto flat land.
I was trembling, and the combination of fear and relief that poured through my body was countered by deep gratitude to my friend. How did that happen? I felt a mixture of bewilderment and humility that my sincere call for help had been answered. Years later, whenever other accidents and challenging events occurred, I would go deep into my inner spine and respond to matters from that place of deep calmness.
Copyright © Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2018
Nischala Cryer lives with her family at a remote meditation retreat in the Sierra Nevada Mountains outside of Nevada City, California. She is co-founder of Ananda University, a unique school offering “higher education for higher consciousness.” A former journalist and creative director, she has been a practitioner of Kriya Yoga for 35 years. She is author of The Four Stages of Yoga and Reflections on Living 30 Years in a Spiritual Community.