This is the autobiography of a woman Realizer, Santosha Tantra. It clearly describes the process of seventh-stage sadhana and Realization given by Avatar Adi Da Samraj. It is an inspiration for all and a living demonstration of Adi Da's Work and its authenticity.
This book is awesome. Just the title is so beautiful, it is a blow-away. And she tells these stories, one after another, that are incredible – what she experienced, what she saw, what she felt – it’s all so full of clarity, so intelligent, so passionately, unerringly driven by love and certainty about God, no matter what. Awful and beautiful things happened to her, and it all seems to just feed her heart, her drive to know the total complete Truth about life and Love. And she does not stop until she is enlightened. And it doesn’t end there.
I get a rush reading it every time I open it. She’s an amazing woman. It’s worth reading no matter what you think or believe about God or enlightenment or spirituality. She goes through all of it! All of it. What I feel is true about life in my heart, she uncovers it, all the aspects from happy to sad to wonderful to awful – she just uncovers it all and makes it part of something bigger, a bigger point of view, part of a process of discovering my heart in all of it, of discovering the real Truth. It’s a great story, wonderful.
The Innocence Of Her Form is an inspiring and unforgetable story. It's like Santosha Tantra opened her heart and took me on an intimate journey with her. A journey of passion and love for the Truth, to be love. The story itself is incredible, but as I read her book I feel the actual transmission of who She Is, her love and Presence and her forever giving heart giving love to the reader. It is a fearless story of great courage that every woman should read. She experiences the dark side of what it is to be a woman, but in it, she uncovers the female programming, that shows her that she is not being singled out by life to suffer--rather the programming is impersonal, and it is what is being pressed on her as a woman in this culture. I was stunned that she was able to make this discovery while living the experience and know that it was not her true identity of "Free Flow" as Love itSelf.
Her journey in sadhana is remarkable, in itself, but throughout her journey I feel her passionate quest and heart devotion to Avatar Adi Da Samraj, her Guru and later, after her Awakening, her Consort. I was overwhelmed at times by her courage, purity and innocence.
I recommend this book to anyone who is longing to see and feel the truth and who is longing to go on a pure heart journey. Even as an Awakened Master she lives to respond in love to her "Heart-Husband" Avatar Adi Da Samraj--all the while saying, "I have fallen in love with everyone and everything." When I read this the transmission was so strong that my heart sighed and relaxed into that love that even seemed personal to me.
I loved how the short stories at the end of the Innocence Of Her Form carried me further into the journey and mystery of the Divine love affair between Santosha and Adi Da. It is a must read.
"The Innocence of Her Form" is a remarkable book beyonds word to me. I love the fact this book is about the Divine relationship between two Realizers and Santosha's constant devotion to her Guru, Avatar Adi Da Samraj both before and after her realization. I am amazed at her discrimination to stay one pointed and yielding to what is truest through her sadhana and teaching period. To me, Santosha is a great hero and our role model because of her innocence to answer higher calls and lives her life knowing that great love is a sacrifice. This book teaches us to realize that such love exists. Pure Masterpiece!
Or, if you would like a paperback version, send an email to email@example.com with your name and address. We will send you a book through the mail. (we will cover the postage)
Throughout the book, Santosha gives many beautiful explanations of her unique and mysterious relationship with Avatar Adi Da Samraj. Two excerpts are included here that are particularly descriptive of that mystery, along with a letter she wrote to one of Adi Da's closest devotees.
Happy Celebration of the birth and life of the Beloved of All. His appearance remains alive as the form of all Beings. We will continue in the work of the great love that He Is.
Dear Ruchiradama Quandra Sukhapur Rani,
Hello, dear sister of and as the Heart. I am writing to you today to tell you of my secret, though it is an open secret and given freely to all those who are in need of it, today is the day I need to make a special specific gesture to reveal it in this personal way to you. I recognize your special dedication to the life and work of Avatar Adi da Samraj; your love and work to serve the Great Beloved is a shining example of how beautiful the guru/devotee relationship is.
I have been waiting to reveal to you my life and relationship to our Great Beloved. I have been his open secret, living a quiet life revealing to a small circle of friends the beauty of this realization of Already Happy and acknowledging Avatar Adi Da as the Source and Source Transmission. Since the dropping of Avatar Adi Da's body, I have met a few leaders of Adidam and enjoyed the news of their life with Adi Da. I also felt their grief in His Passing and their struggle to carry on with the great purpose of continuing to serve Beloved's work. They all felt that at a certain date it would be a good occasion for the two of us to meet. They did not know how to bring this about and today I felt Beloved’s internal urging to open up my arms and heart to you. I am asking for nothing, except to offer my love for Beloved to you and hopefully you will feel my love towards you as well.
I did not know of any way to bring you my offering of love, it occurred to me to use my website as a means to accomplish this. This website includes both my story of my life and recognition of Adi Da and some of my artwork that I have been doing for over twenty years. It will tell my story so to speak so you can understand my relationship with Beloved. It has been a great mystery why He has kept me his open secret. The Divine works in very mysterious ways and Its wisdom cannot, at times, be revealed and even when it is revealed, at times, we can not understand it.
For many years I have been frustrated at Beloved's impulse for me to come forward and at the same time Beloved has blocked this from happening. This has served me to serve his work in my own way, which has strengthened my work and life in so many positive ways. Often I have received His instruction via dreams and visions. He often worked in dreams to bring about a connection between us. In the early period of this internal work you would accept his instruction to ‘go hang out’ with Santosha to accomplish his instruction. In the later periods we slowly learned to accept this arrangement of being thrown together by Beloved and began to enjoy a natural friendship based on our love of Adi Da.
Perhaps you have some feeling of me, I don’t know. All I can say is I am here for you and I offer my service of open heart to you. It stands , I am happy.
Always love, always the
Avatar Adi Da Samraj
(p 124). . . my love and submission [to Adi Da] were not as one who submits to law, to mere belief in rightful knowledge, or to superiority. But it was as one who is guided and attracted beyond conditioning into the disposition of the vastness of unknowing, of Divine Ignorance, as Heart-knowing and Heart-revelation in direct experience. His Presence in my life was not one of demanding forceful submission, or of forfeiting my own impulse of intuition. It was His direct demonstration of His yielding to me, to attract me beyond false identity as the separate one. He taught me the grace and art of yielding conditioning, roles, identity, and even attention itself and the primal root of being the separate one. He always asked me to discipline what was false and to allow what was true to be felt, and to sensitize the body-mind. He literally did this as mySelf, as the Divine Force that attracted me (what I thought was me) to let go and allow what was True to be realized and made manifest.
I was the ordinary woman
in understanding Himself
He has understood everything
Everything now understands
because of His understanding of everything
He is the man that love
always points to
In the dictionary of meanings
Love is His name
His name is Love's definition
I was the ordinary woman
who was attracted beyond mere appearances
to this miracle man
His recognition of Me
is the miracle He opened
I am now and forever the woman of understanding
I am the She of He
Everyone now understands
because of His understanding of every One
If you have felt a connection to Santosha through her writing and art and would like to make a heartfelt communication to her, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to pass it on to her.
Some Realizers have suggested that there are always a number of Enlightened people on the planet at any given time. For example, Meher Baba used to say there were a certain number of Enlightened people (perhaps 48?) with no particular duty, a certain number to serve people as Perfect Masters (perhaps 4?) and occasionally an Avatar.
Santosha is curious how many people are Awake right now, specifically through their connection to Adi Da, and thought it might be interesting to try to create a kind of guest book of those who are Awake as a result of Adi Da's Work. She is inviting people to email her and tell their story in brief. We will not make information available to anyone else without permission.
If you are interested as someone who is Awake with a connection to Adi Da, please send an email to email@example.com. We look forward to hearing about you.
November 16, 2012
It used to be people came to their Masters when they were prepared and mature, having seen the world for what it was and having relinquished all their attachments to it, they were ready to get down to business. This certainly wasn’t the case with me. I came to Santosha Ma totally unprepared, quite immature with all my seeking in the world fully intact. I am an example of the White Woman’s syndrome of fakery, as Santosha Ma calls it – a poser, full of arrogance and entitlement, all the while spouting I just have good intentions, that I care. I expected spiritual life to enhance my agenda instead of undermine it. I used Santosha Ma for my own gain.
I have been with my Guru Santosha Ma all these many years (26) and although she has continuously showered me with love, transmission, and teachings I have regretfully remained fundamentally unchanged, never abandoning my egoic seeking in the world. Instead I still animate my lower tendencies and use her and her gifts to help me do this, to make my seeking seem legitimate and to make me special. At the same time I get puffed up that I am a spiritual aspirant actually doing practice.
On a recent trip Santosha Ma laid everything out for me to see about how my ego operated and to experience a training period to become internally focused, riding on japa and not as distracted by events etc. She explained that there are three phases in your relationship with the Guru. In the beginning there is a great enthusiasm as the bond is forming. The next phase (the faith phase) involves the necessary wearing down and denting of the ego which the Guru does through criticism of the devotee until we can learn to be honest. Ego transcendence requires ego transcendence not just cleaning things up a bit and trying to be a better person or look like a better person. My reaction to her critiques was to take it personally that I was a bad person and retreat to lick my wounds, laying low and then trying to reenter with some dignity. It was all a play of pride and social face on my part.
If I had really grasped what she was trying to show me I would have begun to understand the nature of the ego and that it is just lower tendencies – you can’t get a “better” or “nicer” ego. There is no “good” ego. All I am ever doing are my preferences and my agenda until I become conscious of this and take another action. Either I am enacting an ego agenda or I am focused on the Divine. My only option, only refuge, only answer, is to keep my attention on the Divine. I never really got this. I never understood the impersonal nature of the ego, I always took it so personally, even though she gave many teachings on this subject. She tried to show me that if my focus is on the Divine then events and circumstances don’t effect me. My internal connection to her is all I should care about. This doesn’t mean I can be irresponsible. I have to take care of my survival but that doesn’t require much and my life is simple.
As we walked about she would at times turn and say, “How is japa going?” I would have just at that moment stopped. She was on it. How patient and dedicated she is. She has often said she cares more about our Enlightenment than we do.
So all these years I had my secret life of “cookies” (as she calls them) where my seeking and attachments were hidden, but not really. A big one is relationships: children, family, friends, all relationships really. I use them to create a sense of being special, to feel I am loved, to be taken care of and as a back door should things not work out with Santosha Ma. She talked about my attachment to my children and how that wasn’t love. They are grown and don’t need or want a mother or my advice. I had to let go and accept the empty nest. Money is also a place where I am secretive and overly cautious, actually miserly, filled with unfounded fears for my survival.
She felt my worries and my ambivalence about paying for things on the trip and offered the option of making a gesture which involves a sacrifice. Only then does it really mean anything. My job was where I was seeking heavily to be the special one, actively asserting my individuality, instead of it was just a job. I justified it by reasoning surely Santosha Ma wanted me to succeed at my work. She had repeatedly corrected me about this but I was addicted to the power. I was very unconscious of how these attitudes, attachments, and patterns effected my actions and behavior and created separation from the Divine, from her. I have to face them and break them up. They are not love. If I really want to be a loving person, I have to surrender the ego.
On the trip when we were standing on a path near the rim of an inactive volcano she asked me to give her a “cookie”. Surprisingly “Jealousy” jumped out. We had been talking about my past history and a leading corrupting emotion is/has been jealousy and it is always arising. When she pointed out I am jealous of her, I was shocked. I am so un in-touch with what I am up to! I am jealous of who she is, her power, her life, everything. I am also jealous of anyone I perceive is close to her or she prefers or she praises or really anyone I perceive is better or has it better than me. It was only by her persistent examples that I had to admit all this is true. She offered that I can give this to her.
When these feelings of jealousy or whatever lower tendency arise and try to assert themselves, give them to her and return to japa. Go to her picture and admit it and then release it. All my reactivity was complicated because I could never admit to such things. I held onto this idea I was a “good” person and I didn’t have all these ugly negative emotions and motives. This stubbornness cost me the understanding I sought. “See the ego agendas hiding beneath. Get onto yourself and do the different action.” I thought I was, but not really. This fakery has a price, a big price. It undermines what is real and I can’t be who I truly am because I’m trying to look good, save face at the expense of integrity.
The trip provided an excellent role model for the White Woman Poser in the form of Linda Lingle, a woman running for the US Senate in Hawaii. A white woman in a muumuu wearing a lei saying “I care about Hawaii.” Just seeing her made you mad. There was something so unctuous about her manner that she was a good mirror of how offensive this arrogance and entitlement are. This is a persona I reflect, this fakery. Very sobering. And her ads were always coming on, so she was constantly in my face. Seeing someone else play out my tendencies makes it easier to understand how insulting the behavior is. It is difficult to honestly see myself. This was perfect.
Seeing myself as a failure is a negative mind loop – it doesn’t change anything but it does have consequences. These negative mind loops create bad karma because they build up and then I do some stupid action as result. When my mind is focused on God it creates good karma. As the saying goes your attention creates your world – it’s either on God or it is on the ego. They are mutually exclusive, one or the other. It can’t be anything else. There is no trying to fix anything or make a better me. Once this principle is really understood then true practice can take place and as events occur which will test me I will be able to respond in a different manner. She has repeatedly told me once I start seeing the results, I’ll want to do it. It will become easier to relinquish the small patterns based on my fears and insecurities when I see they keep me separate from her. She reminds me to just always keep the Big Picture in mind. I’m old. I’ve seen it all and it ain’t pretty! What am I waiting for??
The path takes real strength. Get pass my timidity and be willing to stand as I am and be true to myself. I have to take the initiative and stop being a follower. Just state what I want and go directly for it, being aggressive when it is called for. “You have to always be making decisions in each moment to choose the Divine. Things change when people see you stand firm in your belief. No one expects the Pope to act conventionally and play social games. Why should a spiritual aspirant? Aren’t you tired of being a fraud? You have to be strong to have me take the ego, otherwise it won’t give up.”
On this trip with Santosha Ma she was showing me all these ways I am selfish, mean, lazy, abusive etc - in the past and presently how I was now interacting with her, in my comments, actions and attitudes. How she gets ignored when I try to fulfill social gestures like when I was talking with the parking attendant instead of helping her load her things into the car. How I engage in casual conversation and comments instead of staying in japa. How I over or under exaggerate in everything I say instead of just being honest. Just be straight without the fake niceness! Stop hyping. How I cut up some fruit for her but didn’t tell her it was ready or inquire if she wanted some more and just went to take care of something for myself. How I worry about every detail (while ignoring her) and yet I see how easefully she lives without fussing over anything. How I continually miss parked the car even though she was constantly correcting me.
The last one became a metaphor for arrogance and defiance. She said it was my passive aggressive way of saying “You can’t tell me what to do.” These are just a few of the many that occurred. I tried to stay with japa and didn’t do my usual hysteric reactive drama which was only by her grace – I could feel she held me there so I could receive this teaching. However upon return I started thinking I had failed and got insecure. A phone call from one of the women, with Santosha Ma in the background asking what was going on, broke it up. “I failed.” “No,” I could hear her saying. “That was just the ego getting confronted. You failed NOW thinking you failed and then reacting!” That just made me so happy and I couldn’t help but laugh. She felt it must have had to do with jealousy and indeed it did. I was jealous of the progress the men had made and felt they would never have made the foolish mistakes I had.
Years of drama over lessons and corrections but I never surrendered the cookies. So here I am at the beginning after all these years, but I am not depressed or despaired. There is a true process and it is not a secret or mystery. We all start at the same place – there is nothing to do, nowhere to go here, except ego transcendence. I want to move to the internal relationship where I give her all my desires, plans and cookies. “People think they can just live their lives and something will happen, but that’s not true. You have to do the work of non-attachment, non-seeking and directing attention to the Divine. Keep asking the big questions, seeing the big picture. Answering them will result in changing your perception and behavior.” She and Adi Da have given us the answer but it isn’t done for us, I have to consciously participate in this process. It takes great focus so despite what is going on I remain located in the internal relationship to the Divine. It is perfecting my inner life not my outer life.
This brings us to the third phase with the guru which is that of conviction. No matter what arises in your life you always live love and keep your focus on the Divine. The ego has been well dented at this point and you live a humble life in remembrance and appreciation of God. How unique and beautiful this guru-devotee relationship is.
There is no way to understand the sacrifice the guru is always making to help bring her devotee to understanding. Santosha Ma withstands all our abuse and anger to break up the painful misunderstandings we live by so we can be free and know God. And she does it in the midst of seemingly very ordinary circumstances as you walk with her or share a lunch. Being with Santosha Ma is this wonderful dance of love. She works 24/7. It is remarkable to see that at the same time she is working with me she is blessing the woman standing on the corner and acknowledging the trees and all of nature. Nothing escapes her notice because she sees all is Consciousness and wants everything to realize this Truth. Her love is the greatest force in this universe. It is bigger than anything and holds all in its embrace.
What is your standard? and Everything is ‘the walk’
On July 1, 2010, I was following behind a small caravan of cars on the way to June Lake, CA. Leading the pack was my Beloved Guru, Santosha Tantra. She had invited me to spend 5 weeks with her at a retreat house. Various visitors would come and go, and I would be able to spend the entire time with her (because of my job as a teacher, and having the summer off. Yes, lucky me!) Her generosity is incredible.
I was so happy and excited! I was to be her cook for three weeks, and then another person would arrive and take that job over, and I could carry her camera on the hikes for the last 2 weeks. I was very happy to do all of it, and this last job is SO GREAT! because it meant I was going on all the hikes with her from that point on.
Important to know about Santosha for this story is that Santosha loves the earth, loves nature, and loves hiking. She is not mild about it, she is a wild force about it! At the age of 57, she climbed Half Dome in Yosemite, CA, which is a hike over 19 miles. Now she is 58, and in better shape than ever! Hiking with her is nothing less than a rush - a real challenge, and exhilarating!
So, Boot Camp! We arrived there on July 1st, in the afternoon. I had brought a lot of food and loaded up the fridge. I began preparing her food for the next day. I discovered that at the altitude we were at, 7000’, things took longer to cook. I was especially having a hard time getting brown rice to come out right. I still had not figured it out after 3 days, and this brought about the first discussion of ‘standards’ we live by, which was one of the main themes of this trip.
One of these early mornings, Santosha asked for brown rice with a poached egg on top for breakfast. Easy enough, yes? Well, the ego will rear its head at random when the sunlight is shining over the well! While I was poaching the egg, I began to ramble on about my mother and how she cooked these eggs… blah blah blah. (Truth be told, my mother was not a gourmet chef, and I have always thought of myself as a really mediocre cook, so I was randomly rambling and nervous right then.) I gave it to her, and the rice was mushy. Like I said, I had not bothered to really figure out the rice problem yet.
Santosha took the opportunity to begin a consideration with me about “standards”. After teasing me about the eggs and ‘mom’, and snapping me back to where I was and what I needed to accomplish, she told me I should figure out how to make the rice correctly! It’s not hard, you just need to apply yourself to it.
THEN she said, you have a different standard for ‘beading’ than for cooking. (I make jewelry out of beads, and have for 15 years. I love it.) Santosha continued, “I want you to write down your standard for when you are beading, and then your standard for when you are cooking.” I knew this would be telling…
After she left, I sat down and started writing. Beading standard first – I wrote: “I have to love the beads I am working with. Making something for Santosha, it has to come out over a 9 (out of 10) or I won’t give it to her. I’ll fix it or something.” I add later, “I make sure I have everything I need before I start. I have to love the design I am working on, but may alter it to make it better. If I make a mistake, I fix it if possible or just work with it, and if not, I take the thing apart and start again. I am not upset by this, but just want to make it right however that needs to happen!” (I am making these pieces of jewelry for Santosha about 98% of the time.)
Next, cooking standard! First I wrote: “for ME – has to feed me, taste good to me, not make me feel lousy (i.e. too much junk, too many days in a row) – I like good food. For Santosha is different – I try hard to cook it as a recipe says, and make it look good. I have made mistakes…” I began to see how my standard for ME creates the problems when I cook for her.
I realized that whenever I am cooking, if a problem comes up, I go to my standard automatically and do not get into creative problem solving mode (like I do when I’m beading), but just make do with whatever works out. I do not start over again, and I do get nervous and upset. This is so different from beading! Why?! Some silly belief that I have that I cannot cook? But I can! I have been cooking for Santosha once a week for years! And I’m good at following recipes now. But I came to this trip very nervous about it.
Before we left for the trip, she told me, “Drop all ideas, and it will be simple and easy, you’ll see.” She would tell me directly what she wanted, so I wouldn’t have to worry or be concerned about it. It was actually VERY much easier and cleaner, and simpler, and quite wonderful! So when she asked me to write these standards, I was more relaxed already, more ready to really look at it. I could see how the standards I emotionally hold in myself FOR MYSELF are the ones I end up doing, regardless of what I THINK! So, my standard for cooking had to be rethought, and changed! Made higher! And because I was in her company, it did change during the trip. I was able to make things for her and she was fine with it all. I also figured out how to cook rice that very day! (Imagine that….) Not hard to do, I just had to have the standard for myself that I COULD figure it out, and make good rice for her, and for myself!
It’s amazing how simple it really is when Santosha cuts through the emotional garbage that we are living our lives in. She makes it conscious in us, and then shows the other option - which is to use the clarity and intelligence of what we already know, and apply it to each situation that comes. She always is saying that we do the same things day after day after day for a lifetime – why not do it better and better? That is the real way to apply intelligence, and live this life with dignity. This discussion naturally went into all areas. She said we needed to have a real standard in relationship to all aspects of our lives. We need to be clear about what those standards are. Are we happy with them? Do the standards challenge us to grow, do they support our growth as human beings, and do they move us toward a more spiritual life? Are we always growing toward a higher standard for ourselves?
‘What is your standard?’ is the question Santosha would ask over and over. It carried through everything we did, and the higher standard was being lived and demonstrated to us by her, as it always is, in everything she did. That standard of enquiry and passion and ever forward movement is the sign of her life, of everything she does. To live in her company is to see the keen intelligence of her passion and Realization applied to everything she is doing. It is not a small thing – it gives a wide open door to change your behavior, change the emotional and mental and physical patterns we animate if we are willing to GO WITH IT!
I was willing! And so she set me in motion into different patterns than I had been living for quite a while – my ‘giving up’ patterns - to patterns of intelligence, the best ones I know how to live. I had lived better patterns sporadically before, but had abandoned them in the last year, especially.
My year-long tantrum was because, like everyone, I am aging, and I turned 56 this year. I had ‘given up’ on myself (no longer looking like a sexy momma!), and gained 15 pounds, and stopped exercising, and randomly binged on bad food. I didn’t animate caring or discrimination about anything about myself – diet, health, finances, meditation, entertainment ... So, you can imagine how I was feeling about myself! The words I heard in my head were ‘no one cares’ and ‘it doesn’t matter’. I gave up as a way of dealing with my freaking out about aging, and let myself go. I was suffering my own childish ‘tantrum’ very much because of my attempt to numb out.
Before the trip, Santosha teased me one day about being pudgy, and did I think I ever wanted to lose the pudge? It is so sweet how she teases you and makes you laugh, and lets you talk about something you never talk about.
And then, to my surprise, on the first day of the trip she said she was going on a diet, and planned to lose 5 pounds during her time there. She said nothing to me directly, but I took it as an opportunity to do that if I wanted to. I said nothing either, but from then I was dieting too, by my choice, to raise my standard with diet. We did not talk about it for almost a week. She noticed I was not indulging in any foods, or eating too much. I was doing the best diet I knew for myself and not ‘fudging’ on it at all. It had been a long time since I had done this. Her diet made it easy for me to do it. She is always giving help like this, an opportunity to grow, and there I was for 5 weeks, so I jumped right on this one!
The next standard pattern that got changed was TV watching, or my entertainment standard. I watched a lot of movies and TV in the past year! So on the second day of our trip, that element came up.
On that day, I got to go on a long hike with her. And I loved it!! We hiked over 9 miles past some gorgeous lakes. The next day we took it very easy. Later that next day we were watching TV, and I was slouching over in the chair like a slug. That was my word for it later…I had collapsed, and was bringing no energy whatsoever to the situation. Because of that, I forgot some of her food for the next day - I was being such a slug in front of the TV! In the morning as I scrambled to get her what she needed food-wise, she said ‘no more TV for you!’ I agreed wholeheartedly, knowing I could not indulge myself in that frame of mind, and still carry on with my service to her. I have always known that I become a dope when I watch TV. I am not sitting there discriminating about what I am seeing, having a conscious process with it. I am a slug, like my mouth is hanging open, duuuhh!! So right then I was happy to stop watching it! I knew I had to.
When she returned from her hike that day, she said to me that she thought it would be better if I d idn’t go on the long hikes with them until I was relieved of the cooking service in a couple of weeks. I could come on the shorter ones, but not the really long ones. Wo! That was exactly what I had been thinking during the day, and so I said, Yes! I agree with you totally. So for the remainder of the first 3 weeks, if she was going on a long hike, I was at the house cleaning, cooking, doing what I needed to do with a clear head and conscience, relaxed and happy. I’d go out for short hikes in the neighborhood trails, and be home before they returned. I was so grateful to see how to do the service really well, without stress and worry and fudging and trying to get away with doing as little as possible, or trying to get to go on all the hikes with her. My standard for doing my service was raised a lot, and all the stress was taken out of it at the same time. I see now that they go together – higher standards and less stress!! Amazing
Another standard is meditation. I have never been a successful meditator – obviously, or I’d be Awake by now!! But I had really given up on it, just as I had on everything about improving myself or my life. But now, each night I sat to meditate. Santosha had asked that since we were there with her, she wanted us to meditate every day. The first night I realized I had to stretch again before I sat, so that my body could adapt to it again. So I added my old yoga routine each night to my schedule from the first day, upping my exercise standard too!
Then I sat to meditate. In the mysterious way things happen, on the first night I heard in my head the sentence “I’m here, I’ll just really meditate and not do anything else!” And later, “whenever I’m able to really begin a true spiritual practice, I’ll have really practiced meditating and can begin from there!” So I began to engage it like something I really wanted to learn about, like an art form. This was something new for me, and I’m still working on it, and no doubt will for a long time. But it makes meditation into a process, not something I just cannot do. I just have to keep to this standard.
And then, there is THE HIKE! Santosha has kept herself in TOP physical shape! She works hard at it naturally, and at 58 can leave me in the dust! She is strong and fast and passionate as a hiker. Being on the trail with her is one of my favorite things in the entire world. She moves with such a love of it. She is perfect in how she moves and rests, and drinks and eats, and moves and rests and on and on until we have completed the hike. She loves nature and everything about it so much, it is so happy and exciting to be with her. And her sense of beauty is so developed, the places we end up hiking are exquisite, gorgeous places. Some hikes are easy, some are hard. Quite hard! But I love that physical challenge, and always have (until I ‘gave up’ last year…that’s over!!).
She uses the hike to teach us so much about how to be here in life. “One foot in front of the other” is the main phrase. Be present, not thinking, worrying, planning, complaining internally or externally - just keep walking, one foot in front of the other. Just do it!
Be prepared for the hike. Bring everything you need – the right clothes, shoes, water, food, hiking sticks, bug spray, chap stick, snacks, water, and more water. Rain poncho, band-aides, Plackers, silverware, lunch, right hat! Carry the camera! If we are prepared, that stress is non-existent and we can just do the hike now!
At 10,000 feet, the hikes are incredible! The uphills are a workout on the lungs, gasping for oxygen at that altitude. The muscles strain, but if I put one foot in front of the other, I will make it. I can always trust that Santosha will rest when necessary. She always rests before her body gets really tired, and drinks before she gets really thirsty, and eats before she gets really hungry. That way her body feels nourished, hydrated, and rested for the next push, all the time! She is brilliant at it! So if I am with her, I just work at doing what she does, and trust that. It always works.
Having said that!! On one long hike she DID leave me in the dust! I was walking behind her, and my goal was to KEEP UP! And I was trying to match her stride and stay with her. But at 10,000 plus feet, I began to get rubber legs and had to sit down. She was just cruising along, and I said “I have to sit!” And I gave the camera to Neil. She said "OK, we’ll be at the top eating lunch!” I sat and drank almost ½ a bottle of water (which showed me I had not been drinking enough for myself!!) I got up to go again, and from about 3 switchbacks up she saw me walking and said, “Small steps! Take smaller steps!” and Neil yelled out, “Lean on the sticks!” I followed the advice and was able to get up there a few minutes after they did. I was very shaky though.
I sat and ate lunch, devoured everything in my pack except some crackers. I was still feeling shaky, silently wondering about whether to go on or go back. I said nothing out loud at all about it, but in a few minutes Santosha said, “You’ll be fine, it will be just fine.” Yahoo! That’s all I needed to keep going the next 8 miles downhill with her and everyone. And she was right, it passed and I was normal again – and even better because I was taking small steps whenever we were climbing at all. And I continued to do that for the rest of the trip. It helped me to climb some very steep places, which I thoroughly enjoyed doing!
Later on that same hike, we came to a roaring river about 20 feet across, and one skinny log to cross over it, about 10 feet above the river. It was obvious to me it could not be walked on unless you are so used to doing that kind of thing, like a tightrope walker or something! The narrowness of the log and the noise and movement of the river made it a very dangerous thing to do. So? Santosha sat down on it, and skooched her way across it on her butt. Phew! She had figured out a safe way to go! It was still a little scary, and awkward, but do-able! I did the same thing she did, and so did everyone else. Even the ones I thought might be ‘brave’ or ‘macho’ and try walking it, ended up doing the safe thing. It was a humorous moment for all of us, and Santosha took pictures of it for fun.
Of course, my hiking standard went up on this trip too. Two of us and Santosha walked around Saddlebag Lake, and through to Lake Helen, and then DOWN THE SHALE!! into Lundy Canyon. This shale is a STEEP side of a mountain with almost no trail in it whatsoever, made completely of rocks. They slide down when you step on them, and they are not small, they are big enough to have spaces between them where you can get your foot or leg stuck in there and then you are in trouble! Before we started down, Santosha turned to me and seriously said, “This is a trail where you have to be conscious of EVERY STEP you take. Test every step.” This put me in another mode, thank you!! Santosha went first. I let her go a bit ahead of me since the rocks were randomly sliding downhill wherever we stepped and I did not want them to land on her! In fact, in the first minute, one of the rocks I stepped on DID roll down to her and stopped on her leg. She did not say whether it hurt or not, but from then on I let her go much farther ahead of me, and was even more careful of what I was doing. I followed her lead most of the time. When she is being careful, it is in every move and motion her body makes. It helped me so much to stop and watch her every couple of minutes. I think we went down for a long time, but at the bottom she yelled out and shook her fist at the ‘slide”.
We made it! What an exciting adventure, challenging and a bit dangerous! What followed were fields of wildflowers, mountain streams and ponds – sheer beauty and delight. I said, “Can there be any more excitement in one day?”
Another day, Santosha and I were going to do a previously unknown hike, which is a fun adventure - Santosha loves to discover a new place. During the drive to the trail, I was driving and the sun was in my eyes from the side window. I was moving my arm around to try to block it, and was getting agitated. Santosha turned to me and simply said, “Just make peace with it.” I felt my state and just relaxed, and suddenly there was no problem with the sun at all. I turned to her and she gave me a little smile, and we continued driving.
We hiked the Parker Lake parking lot to Silver Lake. We ended up hiking up steep hills for 2 ½ hours. At one point Santosha said, “Do you still have hope?” I said, “Nope! I let it go!” She was referring to the hope I was carrying that the uphill would end soon! She talked about holding a psychological barrier in our mind toward something, and how that effectively will STOP people from accomplishing something they certainly COULD accomplish otherwise. But we set up a line, an imaginary stopping place in our minds, where we will refuse to go any further. This is our downfall! If we, instead, do NOT DO THAT, but just put ‘one foot in front of the other’, we can complete the task at hand. It may be difficult, or much easier than you imagined, but it CAN be completed, and you will feel WONDERFUL when it is completed. Satisfied! and amazed that you did it, when you did not know if you could or not.
And the beauty of that trail we were on was SO great! When we got to a high plateau, we were walking nearer to the face of one of those BIG craggy mountains, all rock and texture and color – and it was awesome. Then we crossed the plateau for a while. We ran into a line of people on horses, come up from the Silver Lake area. The lead rider looked baffled and asked us, “Where did you come from?” Santosha answered, “Parker Lake.” She went, ‘Wo…”. She knew the terrain, I guess! As we walked on, we came across pockets of beautiful wildflowers. Santosha was taking photos. She said something like, “You feel so a part of everything, you can’t even name it – it’s all just consciousness, all the same thing.” Later on I had to say, “This is the most perfect life, if it could ever be.” She said yes.
Her total enjoyment of adventure was shown when she and Crag returned from an off-road experience they had tried. They are both novices at it, and it ended up to be a 21 mile ride, way more than either would have imagined. They were laughing so much, and Santosha was hilariously telling the story of the ride for a long time. It still brings hilarity and joy to ask about it or mention it – they had to completely go with it, and keep going until it was over. “One foot in front of the other.” And they loved it!
Another standard that was ‘upped’ was my treatment of others. Santosha has always worked on this with us all! Our standard around her is higher, by necessity, but we slip out of it in front of her, of course, since we do not keep the same standard all the time! Lesson is sinking in here…
On two occasions I made some casual, less than kind response to someone, and she called me on it. Someone else teased me about one of my comments also, so I saw myself being mean! I did not want to do that, it’s hurtful for no reason at all! So I worked at being just present with everyone, and not playing games. On another day Santosha said to me that she sees that sometimes we get mixed up – how she teases and talks to her devotees is one thing. She has only our growth in mind in every moment of our relationship – I know this is certainly true. But we may talk to someone in a way that seems to us like something she might say, but we are in a game with it, a mean-spirited game that is not caring, much less concerned with helping the person out in the moment with their growth.
It is good to be caught in the act, because in her company, I can feel my intent and the result, and it is painful and callous, and not humble in the slightest! That is not how I want to be. She is always “cleaning” me up when I am with her. She does it so that she can have a good time! And so can I, because of her help!
She always says that “life” is here to teach you to be humble. NO experience, no matter WHAT it is, will make us happy like we imagine it will – forever, permanently. Life is not here to make us happy. Life is here to teach us to be humble.
Santosha says that there is no ‘special one’ ; there is no “one” at all! Our lifetime of trying to become and be recognized as that ‘special one’ is the scenario for all our suffering. That is the basic idea for me – we are fiercely seeking something that does not exist! Over time this “special me” is not made permanently happy by anything. So we start indulging in any pleasure we can find. And that is our life – numbing out in small pleasures day to day, being angry and crabby about the way life doesn’t work out like we WANT it to! And still, most of us never ask any real questions about it!
Santosha talked about this a lot on the trip, as she always does in some form or another – this is the most basic lesson she is trying to help us to face. She has tried for SO LONG, and we are all getting old now! Can’t I see that there is only the ordinary life here, just as it is happening day to day? What is my standard in life, just as it is? Good question!
I saw a lot about how egos operate - in myself, and in listening to Santosha helping others. One thing in particular is the tendency we have to either dominate, or to be dominated (and then rebel later). I tend to be the one who lets others dominate, and after a while I get really punky with them. This is an endless cycle in my life so far! I have not seen it enough to stop it yet, although after Boot Camp, I am planning to have it stop!
Santosha is so funny in dramatizing our ‘act’ sometimes. This time she was imitating me by being Edith Bunker on All In The Family. Edith is coming toward Archie, all shaky and consoling and seemingly weak, saying, ‘Archie! …Archie!” It is such a perfect scene of that being acted out. She said, and it’s true, that I always allow people to dominate me. I release my own self-responsiveness, release responsibility for myself and my actions and choices. I let someone else do it and so act weak, and stupid, like Edith seems to be doing with Archie. In that serious moment, Santosha imitates Edith, and I can laugh my head off at it, and accept it as a pattern I certainly know I animate, and yet I know I can change.
She talked about how people take on more and more work, and allow it to overtake their lives; that I don’t do things I really want to do because I do not have the time any more to do them. I have chosen to become a slave of the dominant one or thing (like my job), and have stopped deciding what to do myself, and be responsible for my life. I’m choosing to allow someone or some situation to dictate what I do, rather than do what I want to do. And then I blame them!!
It’s all childish. That is the being dominated GAME. It never turns out well for me, either. The dominator never respects me, and I gain no self-respect. When I eventually get mad and punky about it, they are shocked, like it’s out of the blue – I’ve been fine until then! AND I live with a sense of shame that I am not living up to what I KNOW about life, and start numbing myself out with stupid pleasures - a slow self-destruct. BUT!! I can, at any moment, completely decide what it is I am going to do. Then I have more energy, more clarity, more capacity to relate to everyone without GAMES! I really want to work this out in myself, it seems so obvious and simple now. That’s what being with Santosha does!
On our last full day there, Santosha talked about CONCEIT, another thing that stops us in our growth. We believe we are deserving of all things because of our conceit. We think we are better than everyone, the ‘special one’ because of it. It is all false!
What makes this conceit in us? Why do the most ordinary people in the world think they are so hot? (That’s most of us!) For those of us with Santosha, we insert ourselves into HER experience, and we try to OWN it. This brings incredible conceit in us, about nothing!!! It is not our experience, it is hers! We do not KNOW it, we have not experienced it at all! She has! She is Awake! We are just conceited for being with her – like WE are the special ones. We are not, we are ordinary. And she is not conceited in any way. There is no separate one there to BE conceited! It has no place in her. She is free of it, free altogether.
These tendencies are not personal. I don’t have to take it personally that I do this. It is a pattern, and can be seen and changed. I have to make my own standards and live by them, no matter what. If a dominating type of person comes around, I have to live my own standard, and that’s all. There is no dominating that can be done if I live my own standards. There is no confrontation in it. It is a real freedom. If I live the standards Santosha showed me during this trip, I will have a life of another kind altogether, and I know it. And I know it is not hard, that I can do it. It is just my own responsibility to choose it, to live these standards.
Santosha asked me before we left, “So, Scrafford! Do you feel 100% better about yourself now?” I said, “YES!!” Do you feel stronger and happier with yourself? “Yes, thank you so much, Santosha!”
Late in the afternoon, after resting after hiking around Saddlebag Lake and Twenty Lakes Basin, Santosha Ma called up to me and asked if I wanted to go off-roading around Mono Lake on a road I had been bugging her to go on since we arrived. We did a little 4-wheeling in the Alabama Hills earlier in the trip and I wanted to try this road I saw on the map. This would be our first experience on a long ride, 20 miles. I had the sense that it would be spontaneous, adventurous, thrilling and fun. What I didn’t know was that the ride would end up being a perfect example of where I was stuck in my Sadhana.
On the road on the way to the road, Santosha Ma remarked that I was not a happy person and was not practicing the yoga of happiness. I played surprised, but I had to agree, I was more unhappy than happy. I had become a worrier. Yes at 55 years old, my favorite thought loop was that of worry, no matter how insignificant the worries, I would spin them into future suffering, bad experiences and near death experiences.
Earlier in the day on the Saddlebag hike, I created this fear that the recent heavy snow season was going to make the snowfields we normally have to cross on this hike very dangerous and likely impassable. We had to be very careful, even before we even got to the snow fields. I had hardly enough time to worry. As we approached the deadly snow fields, there was something missing, the snow, Santosha purposely waited to take this hike later in the trip because of the heavy snow season. She told me this earlier, but I still let my mind run rampant and failed to practice any mind yoga to break the cycle of worry. As always, my Guru was in the moment and taking care of us all. Through creating this fear, I not only lost the chance to respond in the moment to any real danger but was not able to feel the stillness and beauty of a Sierra paradise or bring any energy to the hike or my Guru.
We traveled towards Mono Lake and arrived at Navy beach, near Mono Lake’s South Tufas in Santosha Ma’s Toyota FX Cruiser. We headed northeast on a 4 wheel drive road named 1N54, it was barely a road, deep sand through a sage brush corridor. Santosha was driving and had the FX Cruiser in H4; we thought we better put it in L4; however we did not know how to do this. While we were bouncing down the road, I had the owner’s manual in one hand and the map in the other hand trying to read the chapter on shifting into L4. I was also holding onto the hand grip. It was hilarious. After a few tense minutes we were able to shift into L4 which gave us a lot more traction through the sand and over obstacles.
It was getting rough and crazy, so I decided I better start worrying. Was I on the right road? Was the map wrong? Did God purposely change true north just to mess with me! Was the ridge I was using as a landmark, really the ridge that was on the map. Were we going to crash? I was torn between the exhilarating thrill of the trip with my Guru exhibiting Rat Patrol like driving skills and the counterfeit fear that we were going to perish and everybody would be mad at the dead me for suggesting this crazy road. I lost my attention on the ride and gave it up to worry instead.
The road continued to consist of deep sand, lots of ruts, and series of rolling dips and a few areas of compacted sand. Santosha kept pushing through the deep sand and we continued down the road for another 12 miles and veered right, away from Mono Lake and through some small hills. Throughout the drive I was pressing on an imaginary gas and brake pedal on the passenger side and offering encouragements as we made our way through the sand pits. After a while we came to a barb wired fence that had a barbed wire gate blocking our way. We figured we had already come over half way, so I un-hooked the gate, Santosha Ma drove through, I reattached the gate and we continued on our adventure.
Nobody told me I had to go through a barb wire gate. I looked over at Santosha Ma and she was smiling and focused on the task at hand, driving through the desert. She was in the moment. However, I was getting more worried because of the degree of difficulty of driving on the 1N54, not knowing if we were on the right road. One positive clue was that the compass in the FX continued reading north, the general direction of the road on the map. But remember, I had my doubts about true north. We kept heading towards a mountain range probably about 20 miles away. I kept looking off into the horizon waiting to see some terrain change that might indicate when this road, 1N54 was going to tee into Route 167. So far, all I saw was sage brush, sand dunes and rock hills. Our first real 4-wheel drive experience was getting very precarious.
We continued on and saw a very tall sand dune ahead of us without seeing where the road was going, Santosha asked if we had to drive over the sand dune, I remarked that I did not see any tracks, so the road must go around the sand dune. The road actually did go around the sand dune but across the very bottom of the slope (toe) of the sand dune hill or what I found out later is what 4 wheelers call a side hill. Only to be conquered by experienced off rood drivers. The chances of tipping over is high on a side hill.
We had to drive on the side hill to get past the sand dune. The FX Cruiser slid one way, and then the other, and then the other way, this continued as Santosha Ma’s made her way around the sand dune at a severe angle. Santosha corrected each slide by steering into the direction of the slide and moving the front wheels back and forth to maintain and add traction. This was incredible driving for Santosha’s first off road adventure. She could probably fly a jet on her first try. After some roaring laughter we continue on our journey toward the paved road.
One substantial clue that we were headed in the right direction was the fresh tire tracks of other drivers that had taken this route recently. That was my theory anyway! We did not want to run into a dead end and have to backtrack 20 miles to Navy Beach, over all the obstacles we knew were behind us. After several more miles of rolling dips and encouragements, I spotted what I thought was a shack off in the horizon, then I saw a wide area off the road that had a fire pit, either an undeveloped camping spot or a local party hangout. As we were approaching the building that we saw off in the horizon, a regular car with a luggage rack drive by on Route 167, perpendicular to our sand road, 1N54. After 20 miles of off road adventure and 1,000 miles of worrying, we reentered the hard top world and high- fived each other. When we got home, I exciting told the story to our friends, I loved the spontaneity of the trip. Of course I left out the worrying part, why spoil a thrilling story when I can be perceived as the free flowing desert spirit that I fantasize I am.
Santosha Ma asked me to include the story as part of a trip report I was keeping. When I first showed it to her, she said I left out the most important part, the Sadhana lesson of the 1N54 trip. I fought this task for weeks. Kept putting it off until my Guru’s fire lit my heart’s pen into action. The lessons learned were numerous. As I get older, my mind wants to take life’s awkward moments and spin them into a survival threatening moment because I am closer to death. I am getting older and life is disappearing. I worry about the next suffering moment and don’t practice the japa to break the cycle of worry and let the next moment just arise without any pre-conditioned qualities. Life is just like the 4 wheel drive adventure, very spontaneous, full of awkward moments, suffering, pain and happiness. It all cycles through, but it doesn’t have to be an occupation of worrying. When will there be time for the Divine. Life’s actual experience or realty is not related to the mental mind. Reality does not justify the yoga of worrying. I live a graced life. I think the only way I would true fully deserve to be sad is if all that I worry about actually happen. Now that is a scary thought.
What to worry about next? How about worrying that I won’t do the yoga of discrimination that breaks the cycle of worry and I won’t have any moments available to me put my attention on God. Santosha Ma drove the entire distance of the off road adventure, and then gave me the teachings of the metaphor of the trip and where I am stuck in my Sadhana. I have paraphrased her teachings throughout this story. I Thank and Love Santosha Ma. As always, I would never have seen anything unless it was for her.