Meet Nancy, a passage meditator living in Seattle, Washington. Nancy shares the story of beginning her practice, participating in the young adult program and then transitioning into a post-YA life focused on infusing her family life with her spiritual ideals.
The first time I encountered Easwaran and his program of meditation was in 1986, when I was a junior at my university. I was trying to figure out what I should do with my life when I graduated. I wanted to do something that would be of service to people, to the world, but I didn't know what it was.
During my summer break I became fascinated with the Religion section in the Undergrad library, reading about aboriginal spirituality, Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and Christian mysticism. All of this reading, and thinking hard about what I was reading, led me to think I should start meditating, but I had no idea of where to go to learn.
I didn't want to join any particular group or change my religion. I hoped I might be able to find a book on it, so I looked in the B. Dalton bookstore near the campus. I picked up a book titled Meditation, which had a picture of man who looked very kind. I started reading the introduction. In one short chapter the author introduced and led me through the eight points and three profound concepts in the simplest way: "You are not your mind, you are not your body, you are divine."
"Having discovered that we are not the body, not the mind – both subject to change, to growth and decline – the question remains, “Who am I?” In the third stage, the tremendous climax of meditation, we make the most significant discovery any human being can ever make: we find out who we really are." - Eknath Easwaran
Nancy's original book Meditation (now titled Passage Meditation), which she found in college. Nancy spent many years reading Easwaran's books, which gave her a strong foundation to eventually start her own daily meditation practice.
I was enthralled, and hooked. I was certain I wanted to learn to meditate. Except it took me another 10 years to get there. I started reading the daily thought from Words to Live By each day before I started work, repeating my mantram, and trying to slow down. I kept reading Easwaran's books, Meditation (again), Take Your Time, The Bhagavad Gita, Conquest of Mind, Dialogue with Death, and Climbing the Blue Mountain. Before I knew it, 9 years had passed and I was turning 30.
I was worried about all sorts of world issues – big, giant problems that I had no clue about how to solve. I read Climbing the Blue Mountain again and the message I got from it was, "Don't wait another day! Start now!" and that I should change myself first, that the resources I needed would come from that. So I finally started.
I began meditating every day. In 1996 I attended a one-day regional retreat and started attending a local satsang (fellowship group). A woman in our satsang encouraged me to attend a retreat in Tomales because there was a chance I could see Easwaran and hear him speak. So in June of 1997, I went to a weeklong retreat. We stayed and met in Dillon Beach because the retreat house was not finished yet. It was a wonderful retreat and the first time I saw how I could be practicing all eight points throughout the day. It was also wonderful because I saw how Easwaran absolutely lived and embodied everything he was teaching about. He clearly was an authentic spiritual teacher, and his students were sincerely living the program he was teaching.
Nancy (circled here) met Easwaran in 1997 at her first weeklong retreat -- a life-changing experience.
I eagerly embraced my practice and continued to attend retreats. Then around 2001 something resembling a YA program and eSatsang popped up. I felt a wonderful kinship with the people who were writing in... we all shared this burning desire to grow in our practice, to apply the eight points in our daily life, to figure out what we were doing in our life choices and how we could make these choices in a spiritual way, and to find ways to help our world.
I attended a couple of YA retreats during the summers of 2001 and 2002. They were full of spiritual study, selfless work, meditation, wonderful satsang, and "right" entertainment. The time I spent in these retreats was so motivating and so inspiring. I will always carry them with me in my heart. We were all trying to figure out what our svadharma (personal dharma, life purpose) was...that was a huge topic.
I started to think of my spiritual practice as my real job, and started looking for ways to infuse my practice into all of the other things I did in life – my work, my relationships, everything I did during the day.
Throughout this entire process of discovery (starting in 1988), I was with my boyfriend, then partner, now husband. The entire time I was trying to figure out how to blend my practice into my daily life, and into my life with him. He does not practice this method of meditation, nor has he ever shown any interest in doing so. But he has always supported me in my practice.
Something I was struggling with throughout all of this time was when we would get married, and would we try to have children. I was scared of both. And I was worried about how I would keep my practice going if we had children. My practice helped me to be able to face these questions head on and finally make a choice and commit.
We got married in 2003 and our daughter was born in 2005. And my practice now is not the same as it was before I had a child. But it's still good and growing. One of the changes that has occurred is I'm learning how to consciously live in unity as a family. I feel like I'm taking a lot of higher-level courses on selfless service: "How to become more and more selfless," which is a wonderful antidote to my self-centeredness.
The YA programs helped Nancy figure out her own svadharma (path). Deciding to marry her long-term partner and start a family, Nancy is now sharing her high ideals and spiritual tools with her husband and daughter.
I stopped participating in the YA eSatsang a few years ago, partially because I thought I was too old, but mostly because I finally felt settled about the direction I've chosen in life, and what my svadharma is. For satsang, I've transitioned from the YA group to the family program. And I continue to participate in our local satsang group.
Participating in the family program has been a wonderful resource for learning ways to infuse our daily life with the spiritual ideals that Easwaran taught and lived. The BMCM family program offers an online class that families across the globe can participate in. We share our experiences of weaving the eight-point program into family life, and learn about resources that we can use to do this. We've also gotten together with other families to share satsang together, and we've even performed skits and plays about St. Francis and St. Clare, and Sri Krishna.
In this new stage of life focused on her family, Nancy has found helpful resources in the BMCM's family programs. Gathering with other passage meditator families, Nancy and her daughter dressed up to put on a play about the life of Sri Krishna.
I keep working on finding ways to include my family in my
spiritual practice, but not in a forced way. My biggest desire for my daughter
is that she discovers the joy I first discovered, and keep rediscovering in
following this spiritual path. She is 7 years old now. She has her own mantram
book, and a puja (altar) "shelf" in her bedroom. We have written the mantram
together when we were worried about a loved one who was sick, or when she was
upset with one of her friends. We sing mantram songs. We attend church together
as a family, and my daughter also attends the parish school.
The puja shelf (altar) belonging to Nancy's daughter showing holy pictures and statues from many faith traditions.
I am finding that our parish affiliation, my daughter's school, the BMCM family program, and my eight-point practice are all providing different angles from which I can find ways to share high spiritual ideals and tools with my husband and daughter.
What I'm learning through family life is, it's all yoga. Everything in my life is part of my spiritual practice. My spiritual practice isn't confined to the period of time I spend meditating, or the bits of time I remember to repeat my mantram throughout the day, or the piece of chocolate I did or didn't eat. It now includes getting up multiple times during the night and not being grumpy about it when my daughter is sick or our elderly dog needs to go out. It means planning healthy meals that we can sit down and enjoy together, and not cramming too many activities into our day so we have time to enjoy each other’s company.
It's a mode of operation throughout the day, a constant striving to find ways to live in harmony with my environment and people around me. I'm learning that it's a way of being that includes learning from my mistakes, and then trying to make the better choice at every next opportunity.
"When we come into life, we come as servants of the Lord. Nobody is unemployed. When we live our lives selflessly, helping in every possible way, which the earth needs from everyone, we are living in the Lord." – Eknath Easwaran