After she had blown out the few candles on her cake, Gloria said, “I’m glad they didn’t put all 90 on it. I’m not sure I could have managed that.”
We were gathered, over a hundred of Gloria’s friends, at Crystal Hermitage (Swami Kriyananda’s home at Ananda Village) to celebrate her 90th birthday. She has lived at Ananda for nearly thirty years. Her daughter had moved here many years earlier; when Gloria visited her, she fell in love with the people, the peace, and the place. Still, she wondered whether this was the right place for her.
She had read Autobiography of a Yogi, and had an interest in this path, but was not yet firmly committed to such a demanding way of life as we live at Ananda. So, she did what so many of us do when in a quandary: She prayed to Yogananda. Then, she had a vision of him standing before her, with his arms out in welcoming. She moved here as soon as she could, and her life at Ananda has been one of quiet service, love, and friendship, very much in line with the mother that she is.
While at the party, we were shown a photo of our youngest member, born only a few hours earlier to one of the young couples in our Assisi, Italy, community. This got me thinking about birthdays, and the span of life. We know our youngest member is only a few days old, but who is our oldest member? It would be interesting for you, our faithful readers, to let us know the age of the oldest Ananda member you know.
Our son, Mark, also has a birthday in a week, and that got me thinking about families and raising children. He was born here at Ananda in our dome that I had built. Eleven days later a raging forest fire destroyed the dome as well as almost all the other buildings, and suddenly he had no house. But he did still have a home. It is not wood and shingles that make a home, but love and caring. And these he had in abundance, not only from us, his parents, but from everyone in our small community.
We never tried to push our ways on him and, at this point, he has not chosen our spiritual path. But he is a beautiful, dharmic, giving soul, and has taught Devi and me some of our most important lessons. Now, as a wonderful father, his three children are giving him his own education. Here are a few things that Devi and I have learned along the way:
Unconditional love. This was a fairly easy lesson, which came naturally for us. After all, it is what God gives us and the essence of our spiritual path. That is not to say that our patience and faith weren’t tested. Divine Mother gave us a very strong-willed child with ideas that, let us say, were not always in sync with our own. Still, our love never faltered.
Acceptance of differences. As he grew, and began to exert his individuality, his choices in clothing, music, and friends were very different from ours. One time we were driving one of his colorfully haired, punk-rock-loving friends home, and mentioned to him that we liked all of Mark’s friends. The rather outrageous-looking young man taught us a good lesson when he replied, “I’m not just Mark’s friend. I’m your friend too.” Everyone, especially those closest to us, needs to feel accepted at the core of their being.
Support others’ enthusiasms. When our son became captivated by rock music and started playing the guitar, we gave him our full support. We were able to see past the form to the benefits of the endless hours of practice and positive energy that it took to play lead guitar in a band. When we went to our first concert (not exactly a kirtan), he stopped after one of the songs and said, “I want to thank my parents for all the love and support they gave me.”
Young or old, devotee or not, God gives us, each and every one, His love, acceptance, and support. If we try to do the same, we will help create a better, gentler world.
In unconditional love,