A Short Memoir
By Padmasri Esmeralda Williamson-Noble
Day One – Morning Satsang
I’ve come to wonder if I’m being held hostage.
I have to go up to the microphone. I have to expose the nasty voice that I heard this summer that said that it would never let me go. But Mooji calls on someone on the other side of the hall. I sit on the edge of my seat; I am alert. As soon as the first person moves away from the microphone, I raise my hand and stand up at the same time. Mooji sees me and beckons me to come. Another woman gets to the microphone before me. I sit on the floor and wait my turn. I’m used to public speaking, but now that it is my turn, I am shaking.
I take a deep breath and start, “Thank you Mooji, Sangha, and everyone here, for holding this sacred space for all of us. Mooji, in the summer there were times when I didn’t think I’d make it, physically, or mentally. During those times I often felt your presence watching over me. Thank you,” Mooji nods. “What I want to share now is something that has happened twice. The first time was many years ago. I had just finished writing my first book. I was on the sofa meditating when suddenly I heard a vicious, nasty voice, saying that my work was a piece of shit.”
“It said what?” Mooji asks.
“That my work was a piece of shit.”
“My work, my book,” I repeat.
“Ah, your book.”
“It made me jump from the sofa. Then this summer…”
I cannot finish the sentence, Mooji and the entire hall burst out laughing. Many times Mooji tries to stop, but can’t. I look around and see that everyone is laughing as hard as he is. I am confused, bewildered. Mooji covers his face with a handkerchief. What have I missed? I ask myself.
Guruji does his best to subdue his laughter. More than once he invites me to continue, but every time I open my mouth, he laughs even harder. He laughs so hard in fact, that he ends up with a stich on his right side. I see that he is in pain. I am mortified. He asks if someone can help.
“I can give you a massage,” I say.
“No, not you,” he replies. Then a man goes up to him and works on the painful area.
“Can I come and bow at your feet?” I ask him.
“Ah? Ok, come.”
Deflated I go up to the stage, “I’m sorry,” I say, kneeling at his feet.
“Don’t be sorry,” he says. “It was worth every stich,” he says lovingly.
Day Five – Morning Satsang
The second or third person to the microphone is a woman. She is blond and wears her long hair in a modest low bun. She carries her slight body with quiet dignity. She speaks her words softly.
“My son decided to end his life six weeks ago,” she says.
I gasp. A guttural sound rises from my breast and gets stuck in my throat. I want to hug the woman, but she is at the microphone. I jump from my chair. I don’t know where I’m going. I sleepwalk for a few steps, and then I slump on an empty chair, next to Shree. Was the disquiet I have been feeling for the last few days connected to this woman and her son?
Mooji calls her to him. I can’t stop crying. He holds her hands in his and looks at her with great compassion. He hugs her. I too want to be hugged; I too want my grief acknowledged.
I, I, I…
I watch her as she comes down from the stage. She walks in my direction on her way back to her seat. I jump up and hug her; she hugs me back.
“My son killed himself too,” I whisper in her ear, she responds by hugging me tighter. “We’ll talk at the end of the retreat,” I say, and let her go.
Day Five – Afternoon Guided Meditation With Mooji
I’m all stirred up. A shiver is lodged in my spine. I move my legs, turn my head from side to side, but nothing happens. After closing the meditation, before leaving the hall, Guruji invites us to stay for as long as we need. I swap my chair for the floor. I shake my body as though I’m having an apocalyptic fit – or is it apoplectic? Anyway, I rock myself from side to side and finally the shiver dissolves. Meanwhile bedlam erupts on the floor and throughout the hall. It occurs to me that anyone looking in from outside, would call the police to have us all locked up.
Day Five – Evening Satsang
Before Satsang starts, Shree, and then later Guruji, “tell us off” for jumping on the bandwagon of other people’s releases after the meditation. This “rebuke” causes anxiety to grip my solar plexus. I hyperventilate. The threat of depression is like a wild lion asleep in the corner. Terror washes over me. I start crying quietly at first, but I hear it getting louder. I bolt from my seat.
I must get out of the hall fast, but the row of chairs along the way slows me down. I’m outside now. I take one step one way, then another the other way. I shift my weight from one foot to another; I don’t know where to take myself. I notice the grass between the hall and the bathrooms and slump on it.
I cry at the night sky. A tissue box appears on the grass next to me. A bald-headed woman is peering down at me. I take one look at her and scream even louder. Anger is rising from my belly. I grab the tissue box and bang it against the ground over, and over.
A hand touches my shoulder. It is Prema’s.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” she murmurs.
“I want Mooji, I want Mooji.”
“You want to see Mooji? We’ll take you to him then,” she says softly.
Prema walks me to the stage; Hari Om helps me up the steps. I kneel at Guruji’s feet but hold on to Hari Om’s fingers until Mooji turns to me.
“What happened?” Mooji asks when he sees me. “Ok, ok, sit down and talk to me.” But I shake my head. I don’t want to talk. I just want to be near him.
“What is it?” he asks, and takes my hands into his.
“I feel like when I ended up at the hospital,” I say, but this is no longer true. Being so close to him, his unfathomable eyes peering into mine, I feel better.
“You feel like when you ended up in hospital?”
“And I can’t breathe,” but as I say this, my chest relaxes. “And I’m already full of medications.”
“This has nothing to do with medications,” he says gently but firmly. I lean closer and he takes me into his loving arms.
“I’ve been wanting a hug since I left,” I tell him.
“You’ve been wanting a hug since you left,” he repeats.
“You could be making millions being a comedian,” I hear myself say next.
“A comedian?” his eyes are laughing.
“Yes, you are so good at it. You are so funny. It’s unbelievable. We are so lucky to have you. I am so grateful.”
“You do make me laugh, you know? But no stich, Ok?” he says, wiping my runny nose with his handkerchief.
“What are we going to do with it?” I ask, thinking that the handkerchief has my runny snot now and will need washing.
“Do you want it?” he asks and gives it to me.
I am back in my tent now. I cover my face with Guruji’s white handkerchief. I lay still and breathe deeply through the fabric that smells of him.
“You’ve made it all up,” my mind says. “You are quite the actress aren’t you? Talk about jumping on some body else’s bandwagon.”
“Did I? No, no, it’s not true, I wasn’t pretending.”
“Oh yes you were! You wanted Guruji’s attention in front of everybody! Hahahaha.”
Just then I am reminded of Mooji’s words:
The thoughts are not the problem. It’s the attention that we give them that creates problems.
Something shifts and I see thoughts for what they are—nonsense—and I lose interest.
“I would love to write Guruji’s biography,” I think. Then I’m asleep.
Monday, Day Six – The Morning After The Night Before
“Namaste. Welcome to everyone here and all the friends around the world who are joining us live via broadcast. We are very happy that you are here with us in real time,” by now hands have shot up everywhere. “You come,” he signals someone. Satsang starts and eagerly we wait for whoever it is, to come to the microphone. It’s interesting and magical to see that whatever and whoever asks the question, it’s relevant to all of us. It is as though we ask each other’s questions.
“I am having trouble with my mind,” says the woman at the microphone.
“Who is having trouble with mind?” he asks.
“I am,” says the woman.
“And who exactly are you?” Mooji asks.
Someone else tells Mooji how difficult it is to stay present in the face of challenges. “And who is having the challenges and aren’t they also in front of you?” he points out. With never ending love and compassion, sense of humour and patience, Mooji takes us all through our paces, as we wrestle with the primordial question:
“Who am I?”
By the time the fourth person goes up to the microphone, I have to go to the loo. I walk to the back of the hall and across to the other side. I see Shree get up from her chair and walk in my direction. I get the feeling that she’s been on the look out for me. Is she going to tell me off for breaking the silence when I hugged the suicide survivor yesterday, or for going to the bathroom now?
For God’s sake! Stupid, stupid thoughts again! Why do I often feel that I’m doing something wrong? She follows me outside to the bathroom queue, and fiddles inside her little bag. I turn and stare into the distance. A hand touches mine; it is Shree’s. She slips me a note. She’s hovering around, looking like she’s waiting for a response. I can’t read without my glasses but I unfold the note. I don’t know how, but I can read it!
“Dear Padmasri,” the note starts.
“I hope you are feeling well today. Would you like to join Guruji for lunch today in the dining hall? We’ll go for a little walk-about fifteen or thirty minutes after Satsang. We’ll meet on the deck.
I look up; Shree’s looking at me. I don’t know whose smile is bigger, hers or mine. You kidding? Of course I want to have lunch with Guruji! I am back in my seat. How much longer before this session ends?
“But I won’t be able to lie down in the hall after Satsang,” I find myself thinking. “And I’ll probably be too self-conscious to eat. Hmm, lunch is my favourite meal of the day. Will the walk about be a long walk? I’m only wearing flip-flops.”
What the f…k? I can’t believe I am thinking these thoughts! I get annoyed with myself, then, like last night, I suddenly see these thoughts for what they are: rubbish! What’s more, for the first time in my life, I realize that thought activity is automatic and I don’t have to feel bad for the thoughts going through my mind any more that I need feel bad for the clouds moving in the sky!
When satsang ends, instead of getting in the waiting car, Mooji walks to a room laid aside for him, a few yards from the hall. Devotees line up the short distance and one by one he hugs them. I wait until he disappears behind closed doors, then I head for the deck.
I fashion my cardigan into a pillow and lie down on a deck chair. From here I can see when Mooji re-emerges. But then I become anxious that I might miss him, and I sit up every few seconds.
At last I see him. He walks towards the deck surrounded by his attendants. Soon people spot him, and line up along the way. Even the parrots in the cage get excited when they see him, and squawk like mad. I stay on the deck and watch. Just when it looks like he’s greeted everyone, more devotees join the line.
Now I realize what Shree meant by walk-about. Not that we would go about for a walk. Silly Padmasri!
He’s almost on the deck now and I look for Shree. I think she must have been looking for me, because when she spots me she hurries towards me. We meet half way.
“Now you go and take Guruji’s arm,” she says smiling.
“Ah, Padmasri,” says Mooji when he sees me, as though he’s been waiting for me. The walk about continues and all the time he holds my hand.
“Padmasri, sit next to me,” he says when we at last get to the table laid set for him.
To sit I have to lift one leg, than the other over the bench. The table is full full. I sit at the end squashed between Mooji and the wall.
“You do make me laugh, you know,” he says, while we wait for the food to arrive.
“I suppose that’s better than making you cry.”
“Not necessarily,” he says.
“If I make you laugh, it must mean that I am not a hopeless case.”
“No, you are not hopeless, nobody is hopeless. But it’s more than that,” he explains. “It’s the innocence, and the way you say things is very funny.”
“I’m a writer,” I say by way of explanation.
“Not all writers are funny.”
“You know Mooji, I love writing,” I say. He turns towards me and looks me intently in the eye. “Is anyone writing your biography?” I ask.
“There was a woman a couple of years ago talking about it. Shree knows about it. But it didn’t come to anything.”
“Can I write it?” I hear myself ask.
“I’m open to it,” he says and then he bursts out laughing. “But first I want to read your book. The one that’s full of shit,” he adds.
“It has not been published yet, but I will send you some chapters.”
Then someone else at the table says something to Mooji, and the conversation moves on, by in my heart I am still communicating with him.
As we finish eating the sky turns laden. When Guruji leaves thunder and lightning render the sky and I make a run for Zala Odemira.
Do I remember right? I ask myself now that I am lying on one of the bean-bags. Did he actually say that he’s open to the idea of me writing his biography? Now that I am no longer sitting next to him, I doubt my recollections.
The biography would cover every stage of his life, from Tony Moo-Young, to Mooji, to Guruji. It would start in his birthplace and follow in his footsteps to England, India and the many countries he visited before settling down in Portugal.
“But I’ve never written a biography before,” I hear myself think now.
“But I’ve loved writing since I was a little child,” I counter, as though there are two people in my head. “And people have always told me how well I write.”
“That’s all well and good, but when did you last write a biography?” the mind counter attacks.
“All I need is a mentor!” I insist. “Mark Matousek!”
“But Mark doesn’t coach for free does he?” It’s like a mental Ping-Pong, and my head is the table. “Then there is the cost of travelling for research. And a new laptop is needed. How will I support myself in the meantime?” Mr. Mind-a-lot knows exactly where the underbelly is. “Hugh’s driving doesn’t bring enough to cover the rent. If it wasn’t for Medicaid and food stamps …”
Money has long been my Achilles’ heel. I am taken on a memory tour of the nightmare of Hugh losing his highly paid jobs; of going from being well off to eventually having to sell our home after the 2008 crash.
But if I take an honest look though, I see that the fear surrounding the whole money thing has been both, the impediment, and the teacher.
Mooji’s words, telling us that God didn’t create us to pay bills, suddenly make me laugh. But more importantly, the truth of those words resonates deeply in my heart. Thanks to him, I am learning to trust that life supports life. Deep down a knowing is felt that if my writing is in service to Truth, I will be supported all the way. And more.
I look outside and see that the clouds are dissipating. The thunderstorm has spent itself and the sky is bright again. I get up from my bean-bag and go outside.
I don’t know if I will write Mooji’s biography or not. As I walk into the sunshine and the newness of the moment, I hear Guruji telling us that we don’t live life; we are life.” Suddenly something truly relaxes and I realize that whether I or someone else writes his Biography, it doesn’t matter.
What matters is now, and right now, and within and without Life feels good.