Grateful Beyond Measure
It's July 6th, the day before the Festival, and I'm walking around the Miami Arena with a legal pad filled with lists of everything I need to do before the doors open tomorrow - a list that would make no sense to anyone but a few of us who'd arrived five days earlier to help with ushering. I feel really good, happier than usual, and extremely glad for the chance to be helping with the preparations.
I woke up laughing early Sunday morning on the last day of the Festival of Knowledge. There I was, in a Miami hotel room, a lifetime away from home and family in Vermont, with astonishment and joy spilling out of me.
What I'd discovered the previous day during the festival was the surprise of my 39-year life, and I laughed till I cried.
I'd come to Miami expecting to enjoy the program, and hoping to learn more about Maharaji and Knowledge and myself, and about the evolutionary process I'd found myself undergoing since early March when I'd first heard about Knowledge.
I knew well before Miami that Knowledge was the key I'd been looking for my whole life. How else could I have justified five days away from my young son, my husband, and a demanding job to participate in something I Couldn't really explain?
What I'd learned at the festival - a subtle blend of speakers, music, and images -reinforced what I already knew about the value of my own life and my need to make Knowledge a part of that life. But the bigger Surprise of the program was Maharaji himself, and the implications of what he Would mean in my life.
During the program, I became a student once more. I found the second part of the triangle that Maharaji speaks about - the triad of self, teacher, and Knowledge. Even before the program, the process of seeking Knowledge had helped me accept that the eternal beauty I'd seen in this world and in other people was indeed in me also. I am feeling it even deeper now.
What I experienced at the festival defies analysis. As I listened to Maharaji, I felt an energy and love flowing from him through the massive arena and into a smaller space inside me that needed to be filled. And when he spoke with so much strength, I heard him the way everyone else seems to - as if lie was speaking to me alone. After Maharaji left the podium. I finally turned to look around and saw that others had been touched by the same grace and magic I had felt. It was all over their faces, just as it was all over mine.
I am grateful beyond measure and accept that my heart understands all of this, even if the cerebral part of me does not.
Today, just thinking about the festival calls forth certain images: Waiting for the program to begin…. noticing my friends being so immersed in the gift Maharaji had given them. And me? I'm not excluded. I'm enveloped in a circle of love, so happy I can't see straight…. marvelling at the perfection of finding Maharaji.
A View from the Inside
COMMENTS FROM THE STAFF AT THE MIAMI ARENA
Anthony Salvatore is 59. He moved to Florida to retire, but took a part-time job with the security staff at the Miami Arena to make some extra money. I ask him if he's noticed any contrast between the crowds he usually works with and the people attending the Festival of Knowledge.
"Interesting," he says, pointing to his heart. "It's a lot different than concerts. Basketball, too. Basketball is a sport where everything is directed outside. Everything here is directed inside. This is the first time I've seen so many people be so quiet."
Anthony goes on to tell me that he was able to hear a little of what Maharaji had to say. "I'm interested," he explains, "but not actively interested. I came down here to boat and fish. To retire." And then there's a long pause……I Could be wrong."
I continue my walking tour of the arena and meet Tammy McCrae, supervisor of the ticket takers. "Different events draw different kinds of people," she explains. "These people are very laid back - except that they actually run for their seats when Maharaji comes out on stage. I've never seen that before."
Tammy confides in me that, among the ticket takers, a rumor had spread that it cost $800 toreceive Knowledge. We talk some more and I finally figure out how she came to this conclusion. Apparently, someone had told a ticket taker that it cost $800 to fly to Miami from their home country. The story mushroomed from there. I was glad to let Tammy know that Knowledge was free, which greatly surprised her.
After Saturday's program, I approach a few Security ushers who'd been listening to Maharaji from their posts by the exit tunnels.
"He's articulate and knowledgeable," Ron Miller tells me. "His analogies are right on the button."
I ask him what, in his own words, Maharaji's message is.
"It's all about the knowledge of self-enjoyment. There is a certain amount of void in people's lives and Maharaji fills that void. Another message is that there is value in everyone. Each person should seek that value, dwell on it, and expand upon it."
I walk out into the muggy, tropical night. There, before me, is Police Officer Valdes. He's beaming. I ask him what he thinks of the people attending the festival.
"Only the best," he grins. "You people can come back anytime. Absolutely no problems."
As we talk, his supervisor, Sergeant Burgos, approaches. "All I have to say is that my feet hurt," he complains.
Sunday morning I continue my tour of the arena. Eighteen-year-old Peter Ward tells me it was "super easy" for him to usher. "Except you can't get them to leave."
Ticket takers Kiowanna and Joyce join in and admit that the Festival of Knowledge was even better than the circus, although they did find it a little "boring."
Later that night, Glenn, the emcee, comes out on stage and says what no one wants to hear, "Maharaji has left the hall." I make my way down to the arena floor and introduce myself to Ted Marshall, a 33-year-old native of Chicago. "The behavior of the people here," he explains," gives me hope for the human race -all these different nationalities coming together…."
I am surprised, for some reason, to discover that all of the people I've talked with have been so open. It's as if they were waiting for their chance to share the experience they were having. They, too, had a need to share their thoughts and feelings about Maharaji and the event they had just witnessed.