This month, three ex-ashram residents talk about the recent happenings in their lives.
Stephanie Newlands is one of the old-timers. Housemother in many a renowned Sydney ashram for over two years, Steph moved to Melbourne - where she now lives - at the beginning of the year. She has recently left the kitchen to become premie doctor Henry Warszawski's receptionist.
A lot of what's been going on doesn't really seem to have been that important. What's been happening for me, personally, is just growing inside. All the external things - getting a job, living in a different place - are just making me go deeper in Knowledge.
I feel a lot closer to everybody in the whole community. I'm not judging anybody any more with the subtle feeling that by being in the ashram I was somehow better. Although I never said it, I really felt that. The ashram was really good for me-it was just the right place for me at the time, to develop. But that feeling of superiority wasn't necessary; that was something that was holding me back from communicating with people.
Since I've been mixing with a lot more people, and talking to a lot of people, community plus a lot of people who haven't heard about DLM or meditation, I've seen how for many people the ashram seemed so strange. People living in a place that is so cut off. It's so hard to explain to people. They tend to think immediately that it's got something to do with religion.
It doesn't really matter what you do, what action in the world, what service you do. It doesn't matter if you play in the playground or if you don't. The main thing is that you meditate. Up until a few months ago, I used to want everything to be perfect on the outside. And then I found out that it didn't really matter, whether I got all the washing done, or if the house was perfectly clean, the main thing was that I was really trying to practise Knowledge: being in meditation, and service, and giving myself. That was a
No. 34, November 1976
really beautiful opening up. Because I'd been living in the ashram for such a long time, 3½ years, and I was always very impressive, but yet I wasn't really doing what I should. And when I understood that - a lot of premies I met really helped me, and different situations, since I've come down to Melbourne - I started doing things very simply. I'd get up in the morning and I'd do the washing, and when I was washing the jumpers I'd really try to meditate, really try not to rush, just try to do it. And when I found myself rushing again, I'd reel myself back and start meditating again, just come )ack and be fully conscious of doing it. It was so beautiful, I started to really experience what service was.
And now, it's much more of an internal thing, just between me and meditation. I just have to be in that consciousness to be fully enjoying life, to be really in love. That only happens when you recognise it. And that recognition is a growing thing. I'm just more and more aware to do what I need to do.
I'm also finding that when I remember to meditate, I'm not thinking so much about how much I've forgotten, I'm more just happy to be in meditation. Because there's no time to scold yourself, or think about it. When you remember all there is to do is get right in there, and be grateful. It's just getting much more simple, much more beautiful.
Jenny Halliday, who lives in Sydney, moved into the ashram in early 1976.
Since the ashram as a system dissolved, what I've more or less been forced to do is find, or at least endevour to find, my own individual balance in practising Knowledge. The ashram system provided a routine to live by, where you weren't distracted by other things at all - I mean you could be, but because you had this idea that you were in an ashram, you didn't allow yourself to be distracted. And then suddenly that protection wasn't there, and you were more or less free to be distracted if you wanted to be. And it's easy to be distracted, it happens and it has happened to me. But in a way that's been good, because in being distracted by external things, I've discovered the importance of having a firm connection within myself.
Lately it's gelled that I must be really conscious, personally, of practising Knowledge. That I can't be aided by anything but my own action, my own discrimination, my own ability to connect and to help myself to get there by finding the most viable situation externally and internally. Because I find I do have to help myself get there; by going to satsang or by doing service, or by simply being conscious that my life is to serve Maharaj Ji.
And I find that there are certain things and situations that help me, and others which don't. Before I lived in the ashram, I found it really hard to be emotionally stable and centered enough to be open to Knowledge, just because of the the way my personality was. In the ashram, I really felt incredibly sheltered, which gave me the opportunity to get it on with Knowledge. And now that I'm no longer in the ashram, I'm finding I have to work out for myself how I need to live in order to be able to practise Knowledge -how far I can step over lines and what my limitations are.
I guess it differs for everybody. Some things might be cool for somebody, but not for me, at least not at the moment. Because I'm weak. I really see that.
So it hasn't all been easy for me lately. And yet it's not been detrimental, it's been incredibly good, because I've had to reevaluate, and get it together for myself.
Bob Wright, also a Sydney resident, joined the ashram at the same time as Jenny. A systems analyst for IBM, Bob lives in the same household as before the ashram system dissolved.
I guess the biggest thing has been realising, not so much even that I have to depend on myself, but that I can depend on myself, that I can depend on Knowledge. Actually, for me it happened a bit before the ashram closed down. We went away on an ashram retreat, and it was different to any other retreat I'd been on, in that it wasn't filled up with service and satsang. At that point I suddenly realised that I was using those two things to hide the fact that I really wasn't meditating properly, I really wasn't putting concentration into meditation, and therefore I wasn't experiencing much from it.
So what happened to me from there was I started trying harder in meditation, and through doing that I started to experience a bit more, and a bit more, and soon I really started to experience something beautiful. And I really got blown out, because I'd always been hoping that it would be like that, but I didn't really quite believe it. There was always that reservation that maybe everyone was making believe, and it really wasn't that good.
So it was really an incredible awakening for me, but I did notice that after a little while I started to get stale, I did become very stagnant. I'd made a break, but I'd stopped: I got to the point about two weeks ago where it was all starting to get to be a drag, and I could understand what people were saying about satsang being a drag, and I really got bored. Eventually I couldn't cope with it any longer, so I thought "Okay, I'm going to try harder," and when I started trying harder, that just stirred up everything again, and I realised I'd been sitting on my backside for too long.
And now it's just coming out beautiful again. I can't believe what's happening at the moment, actually: Knowledge is getting really exciting. It's getting exciting not because of all the activity and flurry that's going on outside, it's getting exciting because that real conflict of mind and Knowledge inside is really starting to happen. And it's not like they're so close to each other that I can't distinguish one from the other, but it's almost like they've drawn sides, and I can really see them, and I have the choice to go with one or the other. And it's really exciting, because I know now that I want to do meditation, I know that I really want to. Not because there's a whole group of us get in a meditation room, but because I'm understanding a little bit more about Knowledge.
And it's amazing how our household has changed, too. How as things relaxed and we got to become more of ourselves, we started to communicate properly, have proper satsang with each other. Before we sort of felt we had to say these inspiring things to each other at the dinner table. Otherwise we didn't say anything. But now you can come home and say what Knowledge is really doing to you, how it's affecting you, what's happening. And you get the right satsang back, or give the right satsang to the person who who needs it, because you're at a point where you know that Knowledge is so important, and you know you want to be there, and you're willing to take any tips from anyone, anytime, anyhow, just to get in there more and more. Nothing more. And nothing less. Nothing less will do.