Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Fruitful Journey of Self-Realization

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Last week I stayed in California, dividing my time between my chosen family in Santa Barbara and my beautiful sister, Cybil, in South Bay’s El Porto. The afternoon I arrived in South Bay, Cybil had plans to drive to Laguna for a concert. I had already ridden on a bus along PCH for several hours that day, and now she wanted to hop on the 405 in Friday afternoon traffic. Laguna isn’t necessarily ‘close’ to El Porto, and if you aren’t familiar with Los Angeles traffic, consider yourself lucky. I didn’t realize that hours later I would be thanking my sister for her patient persistence.

When we finally arrived in Laguna, we pulled up to a neighborhood church and walked across the street to grab a tostada from a local joint. I could already tell the night was going to be interesting. The news channel was predicting rain, and we rollercoastered through depressive states until we finally realized it was a Chicago news station. It was the only U.S. establishment I’ve been to that served Imperial (the cerveza of Costa Rica). I was having a hard time remembering where I was.

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We walked across the street to the church and two men were praying in meditative yoga positions on a bench outside. Inside, about 25 people ordered chai tea and found a seat. As the two men entered the church and approached the stage, I realized that it was singer/songwriter Trevor Hall and his Grandfather Guru.

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In January the two traveled to India together and stayed at the Yoga Vedanta Kutir ashram. We were all there for a concert benefiting the orphan children that Trevor had stayed with on his trip. The “ashram boys" between the ages of 5 and 14 were orphans at one time or another, and the head of the ashram took them in, cleaned them up, taught them yoga, and sent them to school. While Trevor stayed in India, he fell in love with the boys who showed him their yoga postures and sang chants with him, and he decided he wanted to help them in return for how they helped him.

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The Ashram Boys

Trevor stood alone in a white tunic on a simple church platform surrounded by candles and pictures of Indian children, and he shared humble and very personal experiences of his struggles and spiritual realizations. Between songs, he told stories of his journeys in India … of the holy union of Rama and Sita … of bathing in the holy rivers of India … of lane lines in India as ‘merely suggestions’ … of beautiful temples and ashrams … of wonderful yogis and saints … of the beauty, grace and joy of the children he stayed with and the holy places he visited.

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I was particularly amused by one particular story about a banana. When traveling in India, he and his grandfather guru visited a holy ancient meditation temple to visit a saint. He was given a banana in the temple, which, given the holiness of the circumstances, is considered prasada. Prasada literally means ‘a gracious gift’ and is believed to be karmically beneficial to its recipient.

As Trevor traveled down the dirt road from the temple, he saw a man on his knees with his hands extended begging for nourishment. The man had uncommonly beautiful crystal blue eyes, and he decided to offer the man his banana. He bowed his head to the beggar and extended his banana in front of the kneeling man, but the man did not take the banana. He did not smile, and did not reach for the blessed fruit, but his hands and eyes remained open.

Trevor shook his head and admitted that he began to grow angry. “Negative thoughts started coming to my mind, like ‘Why won’t this man take my banana?’ and like a domino effect, within 20 seconds my mind was filled with terrible thoughts. ‘Is my banana not good enough?’ ‘Is it because I’m white?’” Trevor lowered his head at this point of the story and softly laughed in humility.

The gurus and other men watching from further down the road finally yelled to Trevor that the man was blind.

Trevor said that an overwhelming sense of emotion took over, and uncontrollable tears poured from his face. He grasped the weathered hands of the kneeling man and placed his banana in them, clasping them around the holy prasada.

In contemporary Hindu religious practice in India, two major aspects of pilgrimage and temple visits are the desire to get prasada and to have darshan. Darshan means vision or "to see with reverence and devotion" and translates to epiphany. I believe this experience granted both for Trevor. A blind man had given him vision.

No one in my memory has told such a story about what life can teach you if you only seek the knowledge and listen with your heart.

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The benefit concert raised about $5,000 for the ashram boys. All proceeds will benefit their education, clothing, food, etc. If you would like to make a donation to the orphan children at Yoga Vedanta Kutir, you can send Trevor a message by visiting his Myspace.

You can find Trevor’s single Other Ways on the Shrek 3 soundtrack.

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Blogger heckofaguy said...

I was at that magical night as well. Fantastic show the crowd was blown away. I always love it when one person can entertain acoustic for 1 1/2 hours. Pure and fun.

11:17 AM  
Blogger dances on waves said...

i love you lindsey. you did an amazing job on this. the benefit was unbelievable. i'm happy that i was able to bring you along. (and that you suffered through the hours on the 405.) i'm proud to be your sister. you are beautiful. the sunshine is always here waiting for your visits.

12:07 PM  

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