Sandra West   

Vail, Arizona

 

In 2013, at 64 years of age, I began for the first time to explore personal connection with the Divine. 2012 had been a year of devastating loss which changed my life fundamentally. I felt completely uprooted in the world. Mysteriously, usually in the middle of a sleepless night, I felt a benevolent presence that I had never encountered before. Somehow peace washed over me during these episodes and a brief lessening of my grief. These events were as unexpected as they were profound. After much consideration, I came to believe that the presence was of a divine nature. I was compelled to move toward a lasting connection.

 

In the process of rebuilding a meaningful existence, I joined a Methodist Church and was welcomed lovingly by the congregation. I had never been a church goer so being introduced to the realm of spirituality, faith and prayer was an essential revelation. Within a year, the pastor with whom I had such an important connection retired. I felt less drawn to the Christian message and eventually stopped attending services.

 

Over the next couple years, I explored several spiritual paths, read widely, attended seminars and studied Buddhism. Although I discovered many gems of spiritual wisdom no path stood out. The first introduction to Hindu mystical thought occurred in yoga class. The teacher read for 15 minutes from the Bhagavad Gita during each hour of yoga asana flow. The beautiful and mystical language of the Gita captivated me. I read several translations and continue to this day to find much that resonates deeply.

 

In the fall of 2015, a conversation with a casual acquaintance turned to religion and spirituality. I mentioned my interest in Hinduism and that I was looking for connection with a group. He said “I’m having a meeting of the Vedanta Society of Tucson at my house on Saturday. Would you like to attend?” At that moment I felt the guiding presence. Initially, I considered this chance encounter was a whim of serendipity. Now I know it was the Divine Mother’s hand leading me to Her. From the first meeting, I felt I had come home. The people were so welcoming and joyfully assured of the wisdom Vedanta reveals. I attended meetings regularly and met Swami Sarvadevananda that winter. Swamiji initiated me in February of 2016.

 

The teachings of Vedanta have profoundly enhanced my existence. This knowledge and experience are the foundation that supports and illuminates all aspects of life. The lessons are innumerable but these stand out:

 

When at long last I felt the undeniable presence of the Divine, I could not conceive of a more exciting quest than seeking that Ultimate Reality. With the help of Vedanta wisdom, I have been able to perceive, however dimly, that It doesn’t exist, It is Existence, is Consciousness and Bliss. The essential mystery of Satchidananda takes lifetimes to approach. That I am finally on the path is greatly reassuring.

 

Vedanta provides insightful teachings but urges the devotee to test the wisdom in one’s own life. As a person of scientific inclination, this is a natural mode of operation. Faith is important but it isn’t blind faith. Since initiation, I have followed the recommendation to authenticate the teachings and have achieved a firm foundation from which I can reach out with confidence.

 

The spiritual technologies of japa and meditation as taught by the Vedanta texts and Swamis are fundamental and essential components of daily living. Inseparable from these practices is the worship and tangible relationship to the Ishta. From the time when I first perceived the Divine One, I have endeavored to discover Spirit in all beings and all experiences. Japa, meditation and communion with my Ishta lead me ever closer to this goal.

 

On a practical level, meditation has given me insight to the workings of my mind, ego and emotions. I learned not to believe everything I think and to question automatic responses. This has led to the reduction of complexity in my life and a simpler, more worthwhile way of living. Jai Sri Ramakrishna! Jai Ma!

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