About nine months ago, at the end of a meditation, I inwardly heard the question, “Are you ready?” Silently I answered, “Yes, I am ready.” I understood that God was preparing me for what would soon come into my life.
For about a year, walking up hills had become more and more difficult. I attributed the difficulty to emphysema, even though I’d never been diagnosed as having the disease. I’d been a heavy smoker for many years before I quit in 2001.Then, for another decade after I quit, I was exposed to heavy secondhand smoke in the Las Vegas casinos where I worked.
My meditations were usually very good, but a “sadness” for which I could find no explanation began to sweep over me. I was living at the Ananda Meditation Retreat, serving God and Guru by helping to open the hearts and minds of people in need of spiritual upliftment. So why the sadness?
Soon it became more apparent that something was seriously wrong. Mornings or at night, I began to feel discomfort in my chest. While cooking at the Retreat kitchen or serving in the office, I became short of breath if I moved too quickly. Soon I had to stop working altogether.
I found myself not caring very much about work-related matters I had previously regarded with enthusiasm. As my enthusiasm waned, I remembered that Swami Kriyananda, before he left his body, had spoken of no longer having the enthusiasm that had been a hallmark of his life. Could my own lack of it be a warning? I wondered.
The diagnosis confirmed
Finally, I saw a doctor and learned that I had “hypoxia,” a loss of oxygen that occurred when I walked even a short distance. An x-ray showed a “mass.” After a series of tests, the findings were “stage-three lung cancer.”
With the diagnosis confirmed, I saw my approaching death as coming from God, an opportunity to begin closing the doors on the concerns of the ego and to devote myself to passing the “final exam.” Exams have never been my strong suit, but God through my Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda, and my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, had already given me all the instructions I would need for this particular exam. By their grace, I had experienced in meditation the deep knowing that my soul was one with God, and I knew there was nothing to fear.
Throughout my life I had often given thought to how I would greet Sister Death. I would ask myself, “If an accident happened right now, what am I thinking? Where is my mind?” I’d always hoped I would have a warning of my impending death. Now, through God’s grace, just such a warning had come.
Should I fight the disease?
The most natural response to the diagnosis would be to fight the disease by undergoing chemotherapy. Yet I already knew that chemotherapy would not produce a cure. Even if the disease went into remission, there was an eighty percent chance of reoccurrence. My solution was to meditate and ask God, “What is Your will for me?” The answer I received inwardly was, “It’s your time.” That answer brought not only a sense of relief, but feelings of freedom, joy, and peace.
Within each of us there is a deep knowing of what is right in such situations. For another person, fighting the disease might be best, regardless of the outcome, perhaps because in some past lifetime he prematurely gave up the struggle to live. The answer for me was to do everything I could to clear up my remaining karma.
The importance of making amends
Many of Swami Kriyananda’s recommendations on preparing for death, discussed in his essay, “The Final Exam,” are similar to those in the 12-step programs for overcoming addiction. I’ve been trying to live these principles since I became part of Alcoholics Anonymous thirty years ago. In a nutshell, the 12-step program involves forgiveness, self-honesty, and making amends. The ultimate goal is to learn to see things as they are, and not as we would have them be.
Making amends I had already focused on intensively as part of AA’s 12-step program. Sometimes the amends were financial, such as repaying money I owed. At other times, they took the form of expressing gratitude. I was placed in a foster home when I was eleven years old. What I very much needed at that time was a mother, a role my foster mother refused to take on. Although she gave me a home, I nonetheless felt a huge resentment toward her because she was unable to give me what I needed emotionally. Years ago, as part of AA’s program, I called her and thanked her for everything she had done for me. She was very congenial and offered me a home if ever I needed it.
Having had five marriages, I also needed to make amends to my former husbands. During these marriages I was never at peace. In each marriage, my husband and I always wanted the other person to change. The 12-step program enabled me to take my share of the responsibility for these relationships not having worked, and to come to peace in the understanding that each of us had done our best. By taking responsibility for my mistakes, I was able to let go of any lingering negative feelings towards my ex-husbands.
Making amends teaches non-attachment
With my children, the making of amends has been ongoing. For the last twenty-five years I have helped them financially and emotionally, even when that help was not acknowledged. I was not acting from guilt but from the awareness that these three children are my own, even though I was unable to raise them. I have prayed for them and also for the people who raised them, a practice which at first was not easy.
I am in touch with two of my three children. The third child, a son, I have only seen a few times in his life, most recently six years ago. Each day I pray for my children and send them love. It’s important to me that they feel comforted, that they know I love them and, more importantly, that they know God loves them just as they are. Reassured by that understanding, I feel at peace leaving them.
For some weeks now I’ve looked at my life and have come to feel that there are no more amends to make. I have been fortunate in coming to terms with the life I’ve lived, the errors I’ve made, and their consequences. When it has not been feasible to make amends in person, I have asked Divine Mother and my Guru to send those souls the blessings they needed to be at peace. Some of my errors with my children only God can repair. Reaching a point of trusting that He would repair them helped set me free.
Withdrawal and “cleaning house”
As my energy level declined, I experienced a natural withdrawal from involvement with work and outward service. At the same time, I did not want others to have to sort through and dispose of my belongings after I had left this body. With the help of a few friends, I’ve completed this process. I decided on what I still needed and what I could give away, now or later. The involvement of friends brought clarity and joy to the undertaking, and helped me realize that certain items that were no longer important to me might be useful to others.
Have I done a similar housecleaning with interior thoughts? The answer is “yes.” I find myself asking: Do I have any regrets? Is there anyone to whom I still owe amends? Do I need to say things to others that I have not expressed? Can I continue to serve others, even though I am much weaker physically? Have I accomplished what my soul came to do in this lifetime? Am I done?
In answering these questions, I find myself at peace. I am coming to the end of a lifetime in which it has become clear that God loves me and that together we have been victorious. Ending life on this note seems perfect.
Knowing that, as death approaches, there will be physical pain and discomfort does not concern me nearly so much as the possibility of losing the awareness of my Beloved’s inner presence. I have shed many tears in prayer I that I never lose this awareness.
A veil has dropped away
A veil has dropped away. It allows my friends and me to speak openly of our love, and of the fact that life in this body is coming to a close. There is a joy in this openness.
Prayer is now easier for me than meditation. The practice of Kriya Yoga has always felt like an umbilical cord connecting me to the Divine. Now, because of the condition of my lungs, I can no longer meditate or practice Kriya for very long. Nonetheless, by the grace of God, whenever I pray or meditate even for short periods, I experience deep silence and stillness.
My one remaining test is not to be angry with myself for my role in possibly having created this karma of illness and early death through my 20-year addiction to alcohol and my 10-year addiction to cigarettes (two packs a day), practices which devastated my body. My Guru gave me this thought today as I spoke to him about my feelings: “Remember, it was God in you who was in darkness and acted in that way.”
By the grace of God, I have been given the strength and clarity to take the next step. Although I’m at peace in knowing that it’s my time to go, the prospect of leaving Ananda, the opportunity to serve, and all the love I’ve received is causing the sadness I sometimes feel. When you’ve put so much of yourself into something, it’s not so easy to walk away from it even though the project is finished. I attained my life’s dream when I returned to Ananda and was able to serve wholeheartedly with my spiritual family. If there’s any sadness it is in leaving that life of joyful service.
Update: Nayaswami Brindey passed away peacefully in her home at Ananda Village on March 9, 2016, surrounded by her closest friends.
Brindey, thank you for my life! Your words of honesty have filled my heart with divine love. Long ago I too came to know the design of life is to give unconditional love and service to others. You are a way shower and the path has been well lighted by you experience, strength and hope. I pray your days may be filled with deep joy.
Thank you for this absolutely beautiful, deeply meaningful article. Peace and acceptance shine through every word you’ve written. You have so clearly outlined a template for preparing to transition to the next dimension, and I am grateful. Peace be with you, my fellow traveler. The love of the Divine accompanies your every step.
Jai Guru! How beautifully you have shared your story. With perfect honesty and openness. Your life has been victorious! May your awareness of Divine Mother and Guru’s presence within you grow until as They take you in Their arms, all the veils of delusion are dissolved and you merge into the Self; in perfect bliss!
You remain in our hearts and in our prayers; now and always.
Dear Brindey, you are daily inspiration to me of your discipleship and your deep devotion and faith. Thank you for showing us all the way to freedom. I love you, my dear sister-in-God. May you soar in eternal bliss!
Once again you have touched me dearly with your open and honest sharing. Your Conscious Recovery confirmed for me how much I am
blessed to walk the path of Recovery with my Ananda family.
You are in my thoughts and prayers.
AUM AUM AUM
Brindey, what an open and vulnerable message you’ve shared with us. I was blessed to watch your Conscious Recovery webinar series last year, and it continues to impact my life each day. Not only will you miss your life of service to Ananda, but Ananda will miss you, deeply. The Lord has blessed you at this time in your life with peace and harmony… peace and harmony. What a testament to God’s love for us.
Good job dear loved one in God!
Master’s eternal blessings.
Dear Brindey, thank you for this beautiful love letter. It is truly a blessing. I now and always think of you as a beautiful ray of light, whose smile touches my heart. I will admit that I was in denial when you first made your announcement last year, but seeing your calmness, gracefulness, devotion to God and Guru, and your willingness to share your experiences during this time, fills me with acceptance and gratefulness that our lives have met each other. Gladly, our Souls will meet again. I love you Brindey.
This is beautiful, Brindey.Thank you so much. Narada looks forward to greeting you in the astral world!
All my love,
You are on our prayer list.Namaste Daniel Daniel Knutson
Don’t worry about losing your inner awareness of Divine Beloved. She is always there! All you must do is mentally seek Her manifestation. I know this to be absolutely true from inner spiritual experience. Master has said if the devotee yearns and demands Her Presence, She is compelled to manifest.. Swami has said that when a soul passes to the astral world, it is usually to a much better experience of consciousness. So be joyful! you will be floating on vaster realms of consciousness. I will keep you in my prayers.
I had the opportunity to serve with you in the karma yoga program in the past. I recall your deep sincerity, and joy at being back home at Ananda. Your joyous service greatly appreciated will be greatly missed and always remembered. Congratulations on a life well traveled knowing with peace where you are headed.
Sincerely Yogi Peter
Dearest Gurubhai and beloved friend Nayaswami Brindey,
Go with love.
May we be One in that Light someday.
With deep, eternal love. . .
That is so beautiful. Thank you.
This is so beautiful, thank you so much beloved gurubhai.
What a beautiful and personable story. I was so excited to see what you had written–I don’t know why–but I knew it was going to be good, thorough and deep!! And it was. I hardly know you personally, yet because of your super friendliness and huge, generous smile, I always feel I know you. Thank you for sharing your story. It meant a lot to me to get to know the person behind your smile. Victoria
Peace and joy to you, dear Sister. I’ll always remember our talks on the grass outside my converted chicken coop in the early days of Ananda. We are the same now as then. Surely at least one of our masters will greet you at death and take you to the other side where no darkness abides. Have courage.
In Master’s love, Kalyani
You are gifting all gurubais with your example of being consciously in the timeless space of PRESENT, as our guru explains it.
I remember when I first met you two years ago, when I came to the Meditation Retreat Center. I was wearing my favorite color–yellow–and so were you. Later on during the retreat you gave me a bright yellow bandana. Then you gifted all of us on retreat with your gentle presence and your honest sharing. Now, once again, you have gifted us with your amazing story of courage and confidence as you prepare for your passing from this life. Thank you, dear soul, for your example and inspiration. May you be blessed with a peace that surpasses all understanding in the days ahead.
Touched, blessed, encouraged and uplifted by your words here, dear Brindey. Grateful for your life and teachings! Grateful to have been with your serving heart and light-filled smiles while on retreat. Continued blessings to you, Beloved One!
Dearest Nayaswami Brindey, Your courage, honesty, and deep devotion to God and Gurus shine through every word of this article. Thank you for taking the time to offer us an intimate look into the last chapter of your beautiful life. We are blessed to have you as our friend and fellow gurubhai for all these years. Death will not stop your service to this ray of grace–that I know for sure!. With all my love to you, dear one and with continued prayers. AUM! Savitri
Dear Sister Brindey, I surround you with Master’s light and love. Blessings to you always.
Dear Brindey, what a great teaching you are giving us all in embracing your death. May you continue to feel the light of the Gurus surrounding you. Thank you for the inspiration. May you find Freedom! Mary
Dear Brindey, I have been reflecting on your words over the past few days. All events can be faced with peace when the Divine Presence is felt in the heart. That is my prayer for you daily, that your Divine Beloved’s Presence grow ever stronger as you transition from this world to the next. In Divine Friendship, Laura
Thank you so much for sharing this with me. Please know that it has helped me today as i sort through things. May God continue to bless you.
Looks to me like you’ve finished the race. Deep, heartfelt love to you, smiling sister!
Just being with you a few times in the last couple weeks have been so inspiring. It is obvious you have given everything to God & Guru and have gained so much inner freedom. A truly victorious life. Divine Mother bless you forever. Love, Paalaka
My dear soul sister, Brindey,
Blessings and light fill you, dear one, on this the biggest journey of your life. I loved your honesty and openness in sharing this amazing story with us. I have felt a wonderful warm connection with you since we first met. I’ll always remember that day at the meditation retreat just a year or two ago when I walked into the office and talked with you and Durga about how I felt I was being drawn to take the Nayaswami vow soon. You were so sweet and happy for me. You are such a generous and loving soul. I send you prayers for ever deeper peace and divine bliss as you move ever closer to the astral world. Master and Divine Mother, and all of us, your Ananda gurubais are with you. Your courage and devotion to God and Guru is such an inspiration and help to me.
Love and Joy be with you,
Such an honest and sincere expression!! Very touching and inspiring…. There’s no doubt that you have Master’s and Swamiji’s grace. Otherwise you couldn’t have had this kind of clarity. Hoping to have the same grace in our lives too… Keep it going and we are all with you?
In divine friendship,
Gayathri (Ananda Chennai)
Dear Brindey, we spoke to you a few times when we we’re in the meditation retreat in february 2014. I remember your peacefullness and I would Luke to thenk your for your open letter. You are an example for all of us.
We wish you a beautiful, blissfull journey in/to Gods Love and Light.
Gurupriya and Shantanu
To all my dear ones who have and will find inspiration from this article…..the honor is all mine to have been afforded the opportunity to give and share what each and every one of us knows. This was drawn from within out from all of you! These days are the most joyful of my life! I take all of you with me, as our Swamiji did and I will be waiting on the other side with hands in Pranam as you enter into the Light of our Divines’ Love!
Thank you friend for this heart felt letter. In friendship always, Jerry.
Dearest Nayaswami Brindey, As a fellow person in recovery and Kriyaban I thank you for sharing what God can do for us what we cannot do alone. I have tears of joy for you that you are passing into the cosmos free of your addictions. Your letter has given me strength to face whatever Divine Mother’s will is for me.
You are in my prayers that your ascension be filled love and bliss.
Aum, Shanti, Shanti,
Thank you for this inspirational story of discipleship. You have led a victorious life. May your final surrender be surrounding you with Gods peace. A courageous step toward eternal freedom. Aum Tyagi Chandi Holliman.
Do you and Ananda brothers and sisters address God and Divine Mother by their names? What are they?
I respectfully admire your advancement to this supreme surrender or sense of abandonment and freedom in neat preparation of your coming life-changing moment. Vita non tollitur sed mutatur, isn’t it? (Life is not taken away but changed).
So deeply touched dear precious friend – may God Christ Guru and Swamiji bless you abundantly here on earth and on the other side. Pray for us to be like you when our time comes
Tears flow & my heart fills….feeling your joy….as I read your blessed words of great wisdom. You have shared your soul with us & we shall, therefore, be with you – together – all ways – eternally!
I love you deeply, Brindey, forever
Thank You for sharing this beautiful story of your life!
You have explained the true reason for making amends,,in AA we often think that making amends is solely to live this life free of remorse and to clear the path back to God,,this part is only a piece of it. You tell us the whole story!
Know that I will share your story on amends at my meetings,,,,your service will continue!
Save me a seat at the Big Meeting!!
Thank you for this frank, honest and heart-felt account of your life’s journey as it comes to a close. I feel deeply honored to know you, and have shared in a small piece of your blessed life. You are truly a great soul whom I shall always hold close in my heart. Your words, your courage, your light…all give me much hope, inspiration and comfort amidst the travails of my own life and aging body. I know without a glimmer of doubt we will meet again in other realms! I am so glad to have had the bit of time to visit with you last weekend. Many, many blessings and much grace in your Divine transition, Dear One!
Much love to you always,
Your courage and love is breathtaking. I will always feel your presence in my heart. You ran the race, fought the good fight, you did not quit. A perfect life in God.
And thank you for the weeping laughter we shared! Laughing with you at the often ridiculous events of life, leaves a great warmth in my heart.
In Eternal and Divine Friendship,
Wow ~ thank you Brindey for such an honest and inspiring reflection of your life and love for God and guru. It can be so difficult to move beyond identification with past wrongs, and you surely have with grace and wisdom. May Divine Mother bless you, hold and guide you on your journey.
Thank you for a truly inspired piece. I hope you have had a chance to read Swami’s Evening hospice letter. He shared 12 precepts that I have put into a prayer and will share with you. He also suggested that we listen to the gyatri and mahamuntrenjai mantra while actively dying.
Conscious Living Prayer
May I have the courage and wisdom to face the past.
May I offer every regret into God’s Love and Infinite Consciousness.
May I accept past errors as simple facts, trying to see that it was God, through my imperfect understanding, who did it all.
May I relinquish all attachments.
May I release the grip of ego-consciousness.
May I release one by one, every desire and attachment into the Supreme Bliss.
May I forgive past hurts and betrayals.
May I give universal love to everyone, even to so-called enemies.
May I see that everyone is motivated, however misguidedly, by the same soul-craving for Satchidananda (Ever Existing, Ever Conscious, Ever New Bliss).
May I concentrate on Infinity.
May I practice devotion.
May I learn to overcome fear, by realizing that I am not this body or personality, but a unique aspect of the Divine, finding my way home.
Aum, Peace, Amen
Prayer by Hanuman based on “12 Precepts of Evening Hospice,”
by Swami Kriyananda
Dear Brindey, dear teacher, I first met you at the mediation retreat and was profoundly inspired by your devotion, compassion, and dedication. You touched a place in me that was ready to open and blossom. As a result I embraced discipleship and Kryia initiation. As a Kriyaban I move through life with new awareness of the world and attunement with master. When I heard the news of your illness I was deeply sad at the thought of no longer being able to sit in your presence. Now I am in awe of the power and grace with which you make your transition. Again dear teacher through your journey you show me the way to embrace each day as an opportunity to move closer to the divine.
I treasure the time we spent over the Pacific on our way home from Mumbai and all that you shared from your beautiful soul. Thank you, Brindey, many blessings to you, Carol.
Dear Brindey, I was just told that you made your transition a few days ago, so you are receiving my heartfelt thank-you for this beautiful article “on the other side.” I’m so glad I had the privilege of getting to know you before you left. Short though our time was as friends, sharing as we did about our early family life and the need for not only forgiveness but even gratitude touched me deeply.
I will try to live by your inspiring example.
Dear Brindey, although you made your transition more than a month ago, I just confirmed that it was you who had passed. I met you a few years ago when you lived in Las Vegas and my daughter and I attended a Sunday Service at the Las Vegas Ananda Self-Realization Temple. Although I knew nothing of your personal life, I did enjoy our chats whenever I saw you at Expanding Light. Thank you for your very beautiful letter of how you prepared for your transition. You are a shining light and you have provided a template for the rest of us in preparing for our own transition. I will never forget you. Ana Marie
I met you around 38 years ago. I always knew of your kind heart and soul. I was just reading a message you sent to me a few years ago. I honestly did not know of your passing. I went your page and saw that you had transitioned. I am shedding tears mostly because of the illusion of separation in our world. You were a light.
You lived your truth. I miss you in the world and I am happy for you being in the truth of oneness.