By: Brandy Black
When I was 6 months old and living in San Francisco, my parents found their spiritual teacher slapped on a telephone pole on the side of the road. Prem Rawat (Guru Maharaji) had come from India to “speak the truth.” He was 14 years old when he first came to the states to share his knowledge. Supported by a few ‘hippie’ followers, Rawat gained celebrity-style exposure within the new age movement. Two years later my parents found him via grassroots marketing. They had been searching for answers to their many questions about life and death and everything in between. My father had been doing extensive yoga; my mother –praying on the beach with me in her arms — both hoping to find their purpose on this earth. Once they crowded together with many others to hear Maharaji speak for the first time, they found what they were looking for. He was a mere child, whose father had recently passed, and was quickly deemed by his followers The Perfect Master of his time. His words were clear and made sense to my parents. They began meditating daily and following the words of Mr. Rawat. I grew up traveling around from state to state with other devotees of Maharaji listening to his words in large halls and grassy fields. Many afternoons were spent dozing off to sleep in my mother’s lap while he spoke words of peace. My parents will say they weren’t hippies but in my recollection they were very much that. But in the truest sense, they didn’t need drugs (although I’m sure there was a bit of that); they were in search of a truth that would set them free and a feeling that would envelop their hearts.
I grew up with love around me –conversations of love, vegetarian food made with love, potlucks with loving pot brownies. I was living in a house full of grown-ups who meditated morning and night and were constantly “blissed out”.
At seven years old, I begged to learn how to meditate. It was not customary (and still isn’t) for Maharaji to teach meditation to children under the age of 16, but my requests were frequent and consistent. Finally at eight years old, I sat down with my special blanket and pillow and learned the four techniques of mediation. I too could now say I was blissed out.
I continued to meditate for quite a few years, morning and night. Sometimes it meant nothing to sit quietly for an hour; it was easy, it was home. Other times it was all I could do to get through it. I learned very early on that life was so much more about the experience on the inside than on the outside. I got it. I understood that life wasn’t about my strawberry shortcake dress or the jeans that the most popular girl in school was wearing but rather about the beauty of what’s beneath it all, the happiness that we hold in our hearts, the feeling of contentment.
As I got older I started to pay attention to fashion and friends and popularity and the importance people place on “things” and I stopped meditating. It became difficult to keep it all up during the teen years and I just wanted to be “normal”. I went to Church with friends only to find out that they weren’t going for the experience but for the accolades of attending and of course the powdered donuts after. I took religion in college hoping to understand what I might have been missing during my childhood and realized that we were all in search of the same feeling, the same understanding and the same outcome.
Through different leaders with different rules and rituals, human beings are all looking for similar answers. I had no judgment for those who were Christian or Jewish or Mormon or Buddhist because I was comforted by the understanding that we are all in need of the same thing.
Now here I am in my late thirties with a child, and I often think about how I want to teach our daughter about religion and spirituality. I love the balance of embracing the luxuries of the frivolous worldly things that we are raised to believe are so important with the understanding that they are all temporary and ultimately insignificant. I often fight for things to go my way, to control based on my wants, but I also have a fundamental understanding that when I let go and ride the rough rapids they will take me to the place I need to be. I guess I can only hope that my daughter can feel the two very different experiences that life has to offer—the worldly, greedy, needy, delicious, scandalous, enticing, exciting side and the satisfied, empty, whole, content, peaceful beat of her heart and pace of her breath that take her through each day, each step and each moment of her life with absolute perfection and precision. I can only hope the same for myself in my years to come.