Me? Live in a tepee? In the early years of Ananda Village, before we had the resources to build houses, we looked to the Native American culture for solutions in creating homes. Someone found a book about how to make Sioux tepees, and seeing this as both doable and within our limited price range, we didn’t look back.

Off we went into the forest (with permission from the Forestry Department) to cut down tall, slender trees, called lodgepole pines, for the tepee poles. One member, Sadhana Devi, got huge bolts of canvas, and sewed the “skins” for about a dozen tepees: a monumental effort!

I lived in a tepee my first winter at Ananda; it was a wonderful experience. The tepee adequately, if not completely, protected us from rain and cold, and offered a feeling of oneness and integration with nature. To enjoy the wind, I created a wind chime by sewing bells onto strips of cloth which I tied to the tops of the tepee poles.

One crisp fall morning I had a memorable experience. It had been raining hard all night, and after finishing meditation, I lifted the canvas flap covering the tepee’s opening to see what the weather was like. The clouds had dispersed, the sky was clear, and the nearby mountains were blanketed with mist.

I opened up the book I was reading, Saint Francis by Nikos Kazantzakis, and the first sentence I saw surprised me: “The mountains were blanketed with mist.”

Then I heard the wind moving through the trees outside. The next sentence read: “The wind began moving through the trees.” My curiosity now aroused, I thought, “This is very odd.”

As the wind continued, I could hear the little bells tied to the tepee poles tinkling overhead. Curious to see what would happen next, I continued reading: “In the distance, St. Francis could hear the tinkling of bells.” With mounting amazement, my eyes fell on the next words: “St. Francis knew that these bells warned of the approach of a leper.”

Quickly I snapped the book closed, thinking, “That’s it: I’m not ready for the lepers!” My part of the story ended there, but St. Francis’s was just beginning.

In medieval Europe, lepers carried bells to warn people of their approach. Though Francis was filled with great devotion for God, especially in the form of Jesus Christ, he still had a few human foibles. One was an abhorrence of lepers. As this disfigured man approached, Francis’s first instinct was to run away in disgust and fear, but something held him back. As he looked at the poor leper whose face and body had been eaten away by the disease, Francis was overwhelmed with pity and compassion.

Instead of running away from the leper, Francis ran towards him, embraced him, and kissed his ravaged face. In that instant, the form he held in his arms was no longer a leper, but his beloved Jesus Christ. The moral of the story: When we embrace our fears, we find God’s presence hidden there.

How to embrace your fears by turning to the divine presence all around us

Photo by Bhakti Ruggiero.

Whatever fear you are now facing—spreading disease, financial uncertainty, political turmoil—try to see the divine Presence behind it. God is coming to you as that particular problem to help you overcome your fears. Accept it willingly, even joyfully if you can.

Swami Kriyananda gave us a good tool for dealing with our fear. When faced by any crisis in life, he wrote, “mentally form a ‘worst case scenario.’ If some project I’ve contemplated seems to contain the possibility of failure, I’ve tried to visualize and accept that possibility, asking myself, ‘Can I bear such failure with an even mind? Yes, I can! because my happiness doesn’t depend on anything outside myself.’” With practice, you’ll get to the point where whatever happens, you can remain undaunted. At the end of every test, if we embrace it, we can find courage, joy, and deeper faith in God.

This was St. Francis’s lesson to us when he embraced the leper. And Paramhansa Yogananda gives us this prayer: “When fear or anger or any kind of suffering comes to me, I will view it as a spectator. I will separate myself from my experiences. At all costs I will endeavor to retain my peace and happiness.”

Wishing you courage to face your challenges,

Nayaswami Devi

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30 Comments

    1. Thank you for these inspiring words in this very difficult time.

  1. ”… because my happiness doesn’t depend on anything outside myself.”

    Yes, my story of ten years with ‘brain fog’ stress anf financial difficulties, a viscous circle. I have learned this the hard way, but haven’t put it to words.

    Thank you.

    1. Hi Madeleine,

      I have a friend who struggles with brain fog. Was wondering if you could direct me to getting more information about this, please. Thank you.
      Justin Epstein
      justinepsteinintl@gmail.com

  2. Dear, wise Jyotish and Devi,

    Thank you very much for sending this
    good, positive news into the world!

  3. What a beautiful lesson. We really need to internalize it so as to be able to face the challenges of life.

  4. Thank you for sharing that beautiful experience! The synchronistic events the Divine offers us at times are so heart filling ✨?♥️

  5. Interesting, lovely, inspiring and humorous article.

  6. In times of crisis. attunement with gurus and God will help ward off potential uncertainties and sufferings !

  7. Such a timely and beautiful message. Thank you Devi! The strength and courage you and Jyotish and others have demonstrated for all of us through the many trials Ananda has faced are guideposts for how we can stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.

  8. I appreciate this message very much. The mental image of St. Francis kissing the man’s diseased face is very powerful, and an unmistakeable act of spiritual courage and faith. I will carry it with me. A thought that has been with me lately is what Jesus said about courage and willingness with the teaching, “He who would not take up his cross is not worthy of me.” Having just been in Israel, and feeling the power of what Jesus did in his final days when he had to stand alone with only his love for God, I feel the “en-courage-ment” of Christ and our masters to bring all of my strength and willingness to life’s tests, and to appreciate even more deeply the courage and faith that I see manifested in my gurubais.

  9. Thank you, Devi. What a beautiful and inspiring message! I was smiling reading your blog post as right next to me on my bed was “The Perfect Joy of Saint Francis” by Felix Timmermans which I read last night. There is a bookmark on the page where Francis kissed the leper because it’s one of my favorite parts, and I like to re-read it again and again.

    As a germophobe, I’ve been scared to go to dance classes and yoga because of Coronavirus, and I sometimes I feel I am having a hard time handling this world crisis. While I know intellectually that God is behind everything and all this is nothing but a dream, your blog post made me wonder what lesson God is sending me through my fear. Thank you again. <3 <3 <3

  10. I am currently helping to care for my twin sister Jennifer, who is dealing with Alzheimer’s. The experience has brought joy and sorrow in equal measure. On her refrigerator in her handwriting she has this “Fear is a bad adviser”

  11. Beautiful, inspiring and so timely dearest Devi Ji. Thank you for your constant encouragement and guidance.

  12. Hi Devi
    Thanks for telling the story about the tepees. I don’t think too many of us are thinking to live in a tepee again, but it was fun at the time. However, I don’t think I would like to make another dozen “skins” for tepees. Maybe in a future incarnation.

  13. Thank you Davi for this wonderful, inspiring post. How amazing the link between St. Francis’s words and your experience that day long ago. The very thought of that alignment coming together for you sent God chills through me and brought tears to my eyes.

    Right now on my computer I have Ananda Assisi, singing God’s Power. It’s on Youtube, here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXWmurPjtzU (copy and paste to go there).

    It IS SO uplifting and healing.

    God Bless us, and fill us with His Vitality, Good Health and Strength, flow through me, flow through me, flow through me.

    In Master’s vibration we sing.

  14. In the early 1980s after just one visit to Ananda I was at my recording studio business one evening and there came knocking at my door. I found it was…and I know this is an old-fashioned term but back then it fit him best…it was a hobo. I forget what he asked me for but I decided to take him to a restaurant and buy him a dinner and then I paid for a night’s rental for him at a motel. Strangely, during dinner I telepathically picked up his thinking which was “This guy is a fool to spend his money on me.” Oh, well. Not every destitute person rematerializes into Jesus Christ or some other saint. Anyway, I got back to my business, picked up a little booklet by Yogananda and the first words I read were “I will be a lighthouse to those who are tossed on the sea of sorrow.” [Because I see the corona virus was mentioned in the comments I will share a thought I just wrote to a friend: “There is one thing I am certain of. The fear of the corona virus will cause at least a hundred or a thousand times more damage and harm than the virus itself. Fear is by far the most deadly virus.” I could have added, and this is true, I don’t feel any fear. If I trusted the mainstream news media I suppose I would be properly fearful.] Oh! I know this is long but I just gotta add… I actually did end up living in a tipi at Ananda in the 80s!!! OK, that brought me a smile and a chuckle. Gee! Maybe that canvas was sewn by Sadhana Devi!

  15. Thank you for timely advice. This morning a got angry too much in ATMs. In two ATMS I was unable to draw money. But in the second ATM another person came and drew money in front of myself. But only for me the ‘accept’ but was stuck after I entered the figure. I again tried in front of this person in his ‘supervision’ , and this time it worked. I think I should have separated my soul from my mind instead of getting too angry.

  16. Thank you Devi as I was in another car crash Feb 7th 2020 that left me unable to think or speak or move my head and still am not able to drive or face crowds or even walk very far like two blocks by myself. It was a lot for me to embrace as I had finally got back from the previous car crash of 2 1/2 years ago. This story and the book How to have Courage Calmness and Confidence have been very helpful. from that book ” I realize that God’s power is limitless, and, since I am made in His image, I, too, have power to overcome all obstacles”.

    Thank you again for the story – heroes get made as they embrace the challenge. Swamiji said to Love heroically this seems like part of that. Thank you Devi for being a “hero”.

  17. Dear Deviji,
    Pranam, thank you for sharing. Especially the experience with the book of St Francis and View, breeze and the bells!

  18. Uplifting messages are so important at this time! Thank you and Jyotish for your example of selfless service!

  19. Dear Nayaswami Devi Ji,

    Thank you for the blog. Much needed guidance and advice at this point in time.

    Joy,
    Prem

  20. Dear Devi ji,
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful message. I will put this into practice: it will be difficult, but I know it will help greatly.
    Jai Guru!

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