The Mirror

My experience with a woman called Gangaji

Dear friends

There were three significant experiences in one evening! I do believe it—I have to, I was there—but as you’ll see, it confused me for a while. Here’s what happened. Do let me know what you think (comments).

Two weeks ago, I noticed a small advertisement in the local newspaper. Someone called Gangaji was speaking in my town, on December first, a week away. I had never heard of Gangaji. I didn’t even know how to pronounce the word. Apart from the vaguely spiritual context of the ad, I had no idea what she represented, let alone what she would say. Also, I don’t rush off to listen to every spiritual speaker who passes by. But I was drawn to the name, and something kept nudging me to go. I marked it in my calendar.

The night before her speech, I had a strange dream. I dreamed that Gangaji looked at me sitting in the audience and invited me up on stage with her, to sit on her right hand side and talk with her in front of the crowd. In the morning, of course, I dismissed it ‘just a crazy dream’.

But before we get there, I need to backtrack.

If you read last week’s newsletter, you’ll know that I’m in the happiest space of my life right now—which I put down to a new realization. Here’s a list of the main points I made in that newsletter: stop chasing enlightenment; you’re already where you want to be; nothing has to be fixed because nothing is broken; look for the silence between your thoughts; your thought of who you are is not who you are. And more. (If you want to read it again, click here.)

I sent that newsletter to you (to subscribers) just two minutes before I left to listen to Gangaji. Then, in the first few minutes of her talk she said all of that. Every main point of my newsletter.

That was significant experience number one.

In those few minutes, I became an admirer—not because she was echoing my new realization, but because of her presence. Gangaji was radiant. I have rarely seen anyone with such love and compassion. Once, when a woman in front of her was fighting tears, she did not try to fill the silence with words, instead she just smiled at the woman. It was a huge smile, wider than a dawn, and it was the right smile.

And then the dream turned into reality.

I tell you I did not force it to happen; in fact, I resisted it. Unlike the woman in tears and the other three who went forward, I did not volunteer. Dream or no dream, I had no desire to be a centre of attention and no burning question. I was there to listen. But Gangaji clearly thought otherwise; when there was no one else on the stage, she looked directly at me and beckoned.
     “You have a question,” she said.
     In spite of the dream, I was startled. I  looked around at my neighbours, back to Gangaji, and said, “Who? Me?” (Okay, call me slow on the uptake.)
     “Yes, you,” she smiled. “Would you like to join me up here.”
     Now I knew that the dream was unfolding.
     “Okay,” I said. I went up there, I sat on her right, I talked with her in front of the crowd. Here was the dream in every detail, except, oddly, that the size of the real audience was smaller than in the dream.

That was number two.

I did think of a question to ask her, which she answered. But that’s not what stayed in my memory. It’s what followed. I was so captivated by her presence that I said, “I know what I want… I want the look in my eye to be like the look in your eye.”
     To my astonishment and the crowd’s amusement, she chuckled, produced a mirror (!!!), and thrust it in front of my face, forcing me to look at myself.
     “But you do have that already,” she said. “See for yourself.”

No, I’m not planning to parade as the next Gangaji. In fact, as I left the stage, I was puzzled. Her manner suggested more than stage playfulness… there was serious intent there. What was she really saying to me? What was the point? Well, now I have to laugh at myself. How could I have missed it? It took my friend Tom Newnam in Philadelphia, to take off my blindfold with an email. His words, summarised: What you saw in Gangaji is not only who she is, but also who you are.

Of course, of course. In admiring Gangaji, I was primed to see—in her—the best in myself. We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are. We don’t see people as they are; we see people as we are. She didn’t say that in words, but it’s what she was telling me. More to the point, she made me feel it.

That was number three.

Could there be a finer illustration of the second universal truth: that your life is your mirror. How extraordinary that she actually held up a mirror. How subtle, how playful, how mischievous. (And how startling… did she have that mirror ready?)

Had you or anyone else expressed the same desire as me, she could have made the same reply.

Turn it around. When 100 people look at you, they each see a different version of you: the version that best reflects them, their beliefs and aspirations. It’s not you that affects them, but their version of you. Not one of those 100 versions is the real you. So who is the real you? You’ll only find the answer by looking into the looking glass that is your life – yes, that life which seems to happen to you, but is really created by you. In this incarnation, your life, and everything and everyone in it, is you. Literally. The universe is not objective, it is subjective.

On the face of it, that stretches credibility. You could, for example, be in a coal mine one day and a cruise ship the next; so you might ask, How could I change so much overnight? But your physical surroundings are only the shallowest reflection of you. Instead, look to your relationships, the events you attract, and the attitudes you take with you from one place to another.

Here’s some Sufi wisdom, repeated from Finding the Field.

Once upon a time, somewhere between the mountain peaks and the shores of the azure sea, there was a village in which there dwelt a Sufi master renowned for his wisdom. One day, a stranger entered the village, and immediately looked for the master to ask advice. He said, “I’m thinking of moving to live in this village. What can you tell me about the people who live here?”
     And the Sufi master replied, “What can you tell me about the people who live where you come from?”
     “Ah,” said the visitor angrily. “They are terrible people. They are robbers, cheats and liars. They stab each other in the back.”
     “Well now,” said the Sufi master. “Isn’t that a coincidence? That’s exactly what they’re like here.”
     So the man departed the village and was never seen there again.
     Soon, another stranger entered the village, and he too sought the Sufi master for advice. He said, “I’m thinking of moving to live in this village. What can you tell me about the people who live here?”
     And the Sufi master replied, “What can you tell me about the people who live where you come from?”
     “Ah,” said the visitor in fond remembrance, “They are wonderful people. They’re kind, gentle and compassionate. They look after each other.”
     “Well now,” said the Sufi master, “Isn’t that a coincidence? That’s exactly what they’re like here.”

You do, most comprehensively, take your mirror with you wherever you go. You want to find yourself? You don’t have to go anywhere. You want happiness? You don’t have to wait. There’s joy to be had, even in the difficult times.

I have Gangaji to thank for the reminder. And also for the moment when she looked around at the audience during a silence, and said softly, “It’s all so very simple.”

Yes, yes, yes.
Joy to you.
Michael
P.S. Next week’s newsletter will be the last for this year.

To find out more about Gangaji, try this link.

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