By Nancy (Pushkala) Wittenberg
Interviewed by Lori (Priya) Kenney
Every time I go to the Ashram, something shifts. Something has cracked open in me since my return from the Ashram Weekend. It’s changing how I’m doing things for others.
The first evening, Gurudevi talked about seva. She said that doing simple, mundane activities for someone else’s benefit and giving of yourself is Guruseva. It benefits everyone and opens you in a way that doesn’t happen otherwise.
My seva was to wash windows at Lokananda. Others washed murtis (sacred statues) and cooked our meals. Sharing this seva while repeating mantra and sharing group meals with other yogis was enriching and intimate.
I’m one of those people who tends to be in my head. I especially wanted the weekend to open my heart. Even at the end of the weekend, I still felt closed up, with my mind still extremely busy.
The day after I came home, I realized something had shifted. I took an elderly family member to an appointment. Often, I’ll do what needs to be done and move onto the next thing. But I was in a different state. I had intended to go home and do yoga afterwards, but I knew she would enjoy doing something together. I suggested we stop for coffee. She was so full of joy, just sitting there. She said, “This coffee is so good. This donut is so fresh. I’m just enjoying sitting here talking with you.” When I took her home, I could see how full she was.
I didn’t do it because I thought I should. I was surrendering into the gift of the moment. I did it out of love, making it a Divine offering to God and Guru. It was so simple and sweet. Doing things because someone wants me to or because I think I should drains me. Instead, I was doing it from my heart, not from my head. Doing it for God and Guru is a totally different way of being.
I shared this experience with a friend. Just hearing about it, my friend said, “That is the highlight of my day!” She was so joyful, from hearing about another’s joy.
As it turns out, the weekend really was a great heart opening experience. I’m repeating mantra more often and more easily. A depth of awareness has opened, and the last few days have been more peaceful and quieter.
l felt the depth and power of the in-person meditations and chants. I melted into the aliveness of Gurudevi’s words. She is so vibrant in person. Just seeing that love and light in Gurudevi’s eyes reminds me why being in her presence is so beneficial.