Finally My Heart Could Breathe
When I first came to Ananda four and a half years ago, I didn’t know anything about Yogananda or Kriyananda. I simply came to visit my cousin Jayadev whom I hadn’t seen for many years. And because I was looking for a calm and inspiring place where I could reflect about what to do after having just finished high-school.
Though I was practicing meditation sometimes (rather rare times) in Germany and felt a deep longing for understanding the sense of and for life, I tried to answer all questions with my rational mind. At that time I was reading many books from saintly persons and on many occasions went to listen to talks of people who had deep insight into the depth of the soul. But I still found myself interpreting everything rationally, often even judging, grasping powerfully onto my limited brain, not wanting and not ready to let go and let my heart speak.
Thus I first met Kriyananda. It was in the summer of ‘97 and he just came back from America where he had spent several months at Ananda Village. Everybody, I think was joyfully excited. Except me. I remember, I was standing at the parking place, where people were waiting to welcome Swami Kriyananda. I was continuously asking myself what I was doing there and if I had become crazy waiting for somebody with rose petals in my hands – as everybody else – to shower them on him. It was all new and strange for me and I was confused. Finally seeing him and hearing him talk didn’t help much.
When I left Ananda that summer after two weeks, I decided to like that place, but that I wanted a more serious path without all that joy, smiles, devotion, rose petals and shining faces. For I thought that spiritual growth could only be attained through austerities and strict discipline and not through joy and with fun. It is not a play, I thought.
I came back to Ananda two years later. Not that I had planned so…! But it happened that I was in Italy and things didn’t go the way I thought, so I came to Ananda for three days until I could get my ride back to Germany. The day I had planned to leave, there was a train-strike, I missed my ride and in the end stayed three months at Ananda.
It was the most beautiful summer I had lived so far, a time full of understanding, sharing, experiencing. A time full of joy for life and of exploring myself.
I took part in the work-exchange program and found myself getting deeper into the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda. That all happened very naturally without anybody trying to enforce something on me or persuade me for something. I felt that I could open myself ever more, with all the time my heart needed to make itself heard and all the space I needed to reflect by myself.
When I think back now, I am gratefully surprised about all the freedom people at Ananda gave me to experience and feel by myself. And that is one of the most beautiful characteristics of Ananda: that it is open for everyone who is sincerely seeking the truth, no matter on which path or in which phase of searching. At Ananda there is love and space for everybody to explore, to understand and grow. I have met so many different people and personalities at Ananda who are all striving for the same goal of Self-Realization, having a wonderful and inspiring base in common and yet are all on their very own search for soul-union.
In that summer ‘99, I felt how my heart finally could breathe freely and with that inner freedom I learned to understand the life around me.
During these months I listened to many talks of Swami Kriyananda at Sunday Services and satsangs. Inspiring words for an ever fresh search for God. But what I remember most clearly is the expansion of my heart in his presence. It is as if my heart would listen to the words that through him reach so many people.
Swamiji, the way he lives his life, the way he sought, worked and taught and the great work of founding Ananda communities is of an inspiration to me beyond words. The way he is still helping so many people through his writings, talks, music and blessings fill my heart with deep gratitude. Swami Kriyananda is bringing so much light into this world.
I have met Swami personally only once for a very short time and it was a blessed experience for me. But we all meet Swami personally in every Sunday Services he gives, in every meeting and satsang to which he comes. Yes, in every prayer and silence. Because by opening our hearts to his pure love, we can communicate on a deeper level. These silent whispers from the heart are the most precious gifts on the spiritual path.
My gratitude for Swami and his work is so deep and heartfelt that I would like to shower rose petals on him in every occasion. Swami never takes these personally but offers them up to whom he receives guidance and inspiration from.
I wish that everybody may learn to listen and trust the whispers of the heart.
This summer I followed the call of my heart and came to live at Ananda. Already in the summer ‘99, I dedicated myself seriously to this path and became a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda.
The things I can learn through his teachings and the things I can learn here at Ananda are the most important things in my life. I understood that the discipline and strictness I was missing when I first came to Ananda can only lie within you and cannot be instructed to you from outside. What I found here is a joyful discipline, a joyful service and sharing and the silently-shining example of Swami Kriyananda without whom all this would not exist in this form.
In this month of November 2001, I am taking part in the Ashram program, a month of deeply studying and meditation, which is the deepest experience I have ever had in my life.
If we can free ourselves from outward influences, from judgments and prejudices, we find out the beauty of life!
Hanna was born and raised in Germany and now lives at Ananda in Assisi,
Italy, where she helps with translating, cooking, and housekeeping.