by August Timmermans
Looking at a photo taken after the All USA Meeting of Dave Hutchinson, Lynda Lester, and myself in front of the Cultural Integration Fellowship in San Francisco, I realize how full I still am of this AUM. How did I end up there? The answer surely relates to the three of us, and needs some explanation.
About sixteen years ago, I left Auroville and India with the determination to continue the practice of Integral Yoga in society. My eight-year experience in India had made me a genuine Asia lover; this eventually led me to settle in Thailand, where I feel at home for many reasons—a Buddhist background being one of them. In Thailand, my yoga has intensified over the past ten years to such an extent that the need to visit the Ashram and Auroville never really surfaces.
Some four years ago, a personal computer connected me unexpectedly to Auroville and the Sri Aurobindo email forum (Auroconf) on the Internet. The latter stimulates interesting discussions related to yoga.
Last year, I received a surprising note from David Hutchinson with the invitation to join him and Lynda Lester in moderating in the newly created Integral Yoga (IY) email list. It felt like a new door in the yoga had been opened: a collaboration in yoga on the Internet! Gratefully I accepted the invitation.
The IY list is still developing; some 110 subscribers are part of it, mostly hard-working individuals who want to concentrate with others to study the yoga a little deeper. (For information on how to subscribe, see http://iy.collaboration.org.) Participation on this list, as a member and a moderator, has given me surprisingly new insights in the yoga and about myself, and on how others are standing in the practice of the yoga. This collaboration with Lynda and Dave worked out well from the beginning, a mutual understanding without tensions, doubts, or conflicts. Rare and promising indeed.
At this point, it is easy to indicate why I felt inspired to attend AUM 2001—to meet Dave and Lynda and all others I have learned to know from email exchanges who would attend as well. I was unaware of a greater surprise . . .
Climbing Mount Alverno
Having arrived in San Francisco one day earlier than the start of the conference, I planned to stay in a hotel until the next day, just to recover from the long flight from Bangkok. The next day I was happy to go to Redwood City. The helpful bus driver explained where to get off and told me to look for Emerald Avenue, where I would proceed with my solitary journey. Climbing Emerald’s huge hill with my luggage was not an easy task; the fact that it was all residential area almost convinced me that I surely had disembarked in an entirely wrong corner of the USA.
But no—as I came to the intersection on top of the hill (well, almost the top), a car slowed down, a window opened, and a sweet voice of the Indian driver asked me, “Are you going to AUM?” It turned out to be Ravi Garimella, one of the IY-list members with whom I had corresponded recently and had never met! What a kind surprise.
A fish in water
The welcome at AUM happened all in light, and from then on I felt no reluctance or timidity, just a happiness to be there—I felt connected with everyone in spite of not having seen them before. That is a spiritual fact.
On the way to my room, I saw Dave for the first time; it was like knowing him well already. A door opened, and Lynda appeared. Out of nowhere, we were suddenly together in the corridor, and while we all joked a little, it felt very right. Lynda apologized that there was only one shower for everyone on the floor. I quickly asked if guns were allowed in the building. No, no shooting for bathroom privileges!
Our meeting was harmonious; we had communicated through email, but now there was the physical dimension that made it complete. They suggested we have a meditation together. This was the first collective meditation I’d ever had, and it was like joining together at our highest possible. A sense of gratitude surfaced.
I met one great person after the other; it all went smooth and with a happy consciousness. Better not to mention names at this point, because it is too easy to forget some. During the meals it was possible to interact more with people and to exchange personal backgrounds.
At the end of the first day, having talked and listened and dined, feeling tired and glad at last to lay myself to rest, I discovered soon that my roommate would not sleep silently—he seemed to be engaged in a fight with two crocodiles! I tried to figure out what to do. I focused on the yogic attitude of trying to disconnect from the physical and remain concentrated in the inner being. This worked only partly, as I was tired and concentration did not come easily. When I heard, through the walls, one of the next-door neighbors also snoring, I concluded that the Bliss Stopped Here. Or so I thought.
Something told me, “Don’t think of yourself”—almost the exact line I discovered three days later in the meditation room where a text of the Mother was available for distribution. It said something like this: “Forget about yourself and you will become the divine being.” It worked! My head area opened up and I felt peace coming in. The sensation intensified, and a honey-like force of peace and ananda filled my being.
At this point, being fully conscious, I noticed that it had become dead quiet all over the building: I heard no snoring anywhere. A descent of force and peace filled and sustained the Mount Alverno center. This lasted for twenty to thirty minutes. I also became conscious of spiritual lights, which I related to the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.
Later, a white light with a golden glow touched my third eye, and a density of peace filled my total being. Something in me said that we, AUM members, meet during the nights as well, on the subtle plane. Having such spiritual experiences is not uncommon for me, but here, the experiences were stronger and wider, in the sense that they involved the collective.
The next morning I remembered the two life-size photos of Mother and Sri Aurobindo in the lecture room. I had sensed a Samadhi-like presence and felt an inner connection with the photos, and wanted to meditate there. Surprisingly, there was only one person who had the same idea, and it happened to be Dave. I sat down and asked if he would mind if I talked a little with him. I told him what had happened the night before. Later I heard from Lynda that she had a similar spiritual experience during the night, one of a solid descent, and she described the same spiritual lights.
The meditation near the photos was special. When looking at the photo of Sri Aurobindo, I experienced a palpable touch in the heart.
The lectures are the major happenings of the AUM, and they also can be major vehicles for forces to descend—at least, that is my impression. All the speakers spoke from a profound and living inspiration.
Arabinda Basu’s speech, “The Descent of the Immortal,” was a strong presentation. He emphasized that in order to know the all in one and the one in all, nothing but the Atman realization is the key. He was convincing as he embodied Atman himself when speaking, and an atmosphere of one in all and all in one manifested.
Lynda Lester’s presentation, “Sri Aurobindo and Mother: A Revolution in Consciousness,” was a work of love for the Divine. Her lecture was one of beauty and truth presented through the use of computer-programmed visuals accompanied by inspiring music. Being an American and having grown up in a time and culture that can be called free and wild, she discovered, as many of our wild generation did, the truth of life and deeper reality in the Mother and Sri Aurobindo—two beings who revolutionized spiritual culture, stepping away from the tradition of asceticism and introducing matter to spirit, the higher consciousness fusing with life. The dimension that the Integral Yoga brings to life is literally revolutionary, the inner gaining control over the outer.
No wonder that Integral Yoga brings more color to our practice and living. This is unique to the yoga, I find—treading the balance between inner growth and living life as it is, fusing the two seemingly opposite poles into one of progress and liberation.
Alok Pandey, the third speaker who spoke on “Evolution,” is such a colorful person. For him, the yoga means union with the Mother and her force. It is surrender. Life is lifted up by her force and inspiration, and becomes transformed. His speech was colorful and contained a great sense of freedom in expression while being infused with a healthy sense of humor. Off-lecture, he is as fascinating, being true to his own words. As is typical for Indians, speaking without reading from a paper came naturally to him.
Thus, Guy Ryckaert first made an apology that he needed to read from a paper. However, he also spoke in an egoless voice, feeling comfortable to present things as they are and in the way he felt was right. In a quiet tone, he explained how falsehood and division came into existence and how these must be conquered—and how life, within and without, must be brought back into the balance of truth. His talk on “Manifestation” focused on Auroville as a spiritual community providing an environment for embodying the future humanity, and the Matrimandir being the vehicle of the transforming force that affects collective living. This presentation also contained computer-programmed visuals. The pictures of Auroville then and now were strikingly revealing in how the land has been transformed from a desert into a densely green environment.
Prema Nandakumar also spoke with the voice of Atman, the true Self—but it could be named Atwoman, because she pointed out how significant a woman’s role in life and spirituality can be. No wonder, as her talk was on Savitri. Prema addressed the true qualities of womanhood with respect and dignity. She is well known for her in-depth studies of Savitri, and with a raised voice she captivated the audience in seriousness and laughter. From some women participants I heard that “we need more women speakers.” For me, listening to my Indian friends reminded me of home sweet home, Mother India.
David Hutchinson’s introductory notes on the first evening had revealed that we should be aware that we are among living yogis. “Maybe your neighbor, right here, is consciously connected to the inner realms of life and bringing in divine consciousness” was one of his remarks. He is right—we are in a collective that is growing within. During the conference, Dave gave in-between speeches that inspired and touched deeply, whether they were to start up the day or end the evening. His summary of AUM included a ten-minute collective meditation that changed the atmosphere.
Volleyball is one of those surprisingly revealing moments when we get loose in the outer being. Kalpana Patel was the guilty one who pulled my arm when I was talking to Kundan Singh about my first journey to India. She insisted I join the volleyball game outside—and actually I was ready for a physical outlet.
But it is still obvious that when it comes to playing sports and working as a team, sadhaks are a hopeless lot. While talking teamwork, they are actually thinking of how to make the next score. Not only that—somehow the touch with physical and vital reality seems to become one of disorientation or complete disconnection. When trying to meet the ball, someone can miss it because of having an instant out-of-the-body experience! Or the player receives an inspiration (I won’t call it absent-mindedness) just at the moment that the ball passes by. Teammate Guy insisted that we should not say “sorry!” after we had missed a ball, but in the end, he began saying “sorry!” too.
The good news is that such a sport activity is a kind of euphoric happening, and nobody knows really why.
Later in the evenings, Lynda, Dave, and I had the opportunity to be together. We liked to walk outside or sit somewhere under the pine trees talking, while being fully aware of the fresh scented air and the silent, pristine sky with its crescent moon and twinkling stars. Having known them from email exchanges only, it was marvelous to communicate now face to face. Talking of inner experiences and development happened naturally, without any reservations, and this gave a good basis for understanding each other and where we are in time and space in the context of the yoga.
I find these kind of exchanges rare, where one can freely speak from the inner and deeper without the ego coming in. It is profound that our friendship came from the yoga and will remain developing in the yoga.
My experiences of AUM during the nights were quite unexpected in that my third eye or ajna chakra had fully opened up. In spite of my wanting to sleep, the third eye remained open and active during all nights—mostly revealing unusual visions of three-dimensional images and transparent colors.
During one night, I observed visions in the ajna chakra, while the consciousness in the head opened up completely, all around, instead of being fixed to the body. The widening of consciousness made me feel “headless”—not sensing the head at all, but instead becoming one with infinite space and silence and peace while vaguely feeling connected to the body as well.
Later, back in Bangkok, I realized that AUM can be used for a deeper progress in the yoga, for the individual and for the collective as well. This inspired me to write this article.
The last word is Divine
Vishnu Eschner asked me to participate in a reading accompanied by music for the closing of the AUM on the last morning. This participation gave me the opportunity to give something back to this unique gathering. Aurelio Hammer, Vishnu, Larry Seidlitz (reciting the lines from Savitri that you see under each subhead in this article), and I (reading short texts by M. P. Pandit on yoga in Savitri) worked together to present a coherent whole of truth and music in meditative form.
The last sentence of the text was this: “The psychic alone has the consciousness that is directly in communion with the Divine.”
A triple Being in progress
Why so revealing about personal spiritual experiences? This is one of the questions we have today about our individual and collective spiritual development.
Speaking or writing is like materializing the inner into the outer—of course, provided that such speaking is done in the right spirit and with the purpose of true exchange, in the light of yoga practice and for better understanding of what is happening to us. The AUM lecturers made a conscious and successful effort in this regard. When communication goes beyond the social and has the aim of yoga practice and widening of consciousness, there can be an imminent progress for all involved.
The force behind AUM is such where the individual and the collective can make inner and outer progress. The AUM atmosphere fully supported the inner and psychic being. Instead of having to protect one’s own atmosphere, the inner windows could remain open and communication happened from deeper within.
I concur with Lynda, who said that “AUM is a five-day darshan”—a darshan where one is allowed to speak and play and where progress is made, which is exactly the true and solid aim of our collective. Chandresh Patel said that “there is the Ashram, Auroville, and AUM”: a triple Being in progress.
The organizers, Kalpana Patel, Dian Kiser, Theresa Boschert, Chandresh Patel, and David Hutchinson did a great job of karmayoga and yoga of devotion. It was obvious that much preparatory work had been done prior to the meeting. Throughout AUM, the organizers worked happily from early morning to late in the night, assisting whenever and wherever it was needed. The joy and quality of their work was evident and instrumental for this AUM to become profoundly inspiring and successful. Gratitude speaks.
August Timmermans (firstname.lastname@example.org) is originally from the Netherlands. He lived for eight years in India, mainly in Auroville, and since 1987 has made his home in Bangkok, Thailand. He is a moderator of the Integral Yoga email forum.
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