The Heart of the Matter
July 11, 2008
WAITING DOWN UNDER: A Timeless Moment in Amaroo


When asked to explain his highly abstract Theory of Relativity, Albert Einstein made it comprehensible in just two sentences. "Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute," he said, "and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute."

I can relate.

There are entire years of my life I can barely remember, but singular moments that seem eternal. The birth of my first child was one of them. So was the birth of my second... as was the first time I saw the woman who would later become my wife... and the time I almost drowned.

"Peak experiences," they're called, moments when time seems to stop and we connect with something timeless -- moments when thinking gives way to feeling and we realize, without words, what life is all about.

And though the catalysts for these moments are different for each of us, the experience is universal.

Something takes us over. Something opens up. A Red Sea parts and we feel totally alive, far beyond the usual ways we measure the world, our worth, and life itself.

I've had my share of these moments and am grateful for each of them. But the most memorable ones have been in the company of my teacher, Maharaji.

Being around him brings out the best in me.

I laugh the loudest, feel the deepest, and experience the kind of spaciousness within that contains everything. Home sweet home. Free Parking in Monopoly. The peace that passes all understanding.

Maharaji, for me, is an amplifier of all things good, a human tuning fork vibrating at the frequency I most love to frequent -- the frequency of love.

Which brings me back to the reason why I began this article in the first place.

Last September, I attended a five-day event with Maharaji, in Australia, along with 3,500 other people from more than 30 countries.

It took me 27 hours to get there, but it seemed like a minute.

Life was simple in Amaroo. I lived in a tent. I went to bed when the sun went down. I woke with the birds. I had no cell phone, no laptop, no worries, and nothing to do but listen to Maharaji -- twice a day -- hold forth beneath the vast Australian sky.

I was a happy camper.

On the fifth day of the event, I began to feel an old melancholy creeping in -- the kind I used to feel as a kid on Sunday afternoons when I knew the weekend was coming to an end.

Ah... the paradox!

On one hand, I was immersed in an experience that left me wanting nothing. On the other hand, the more this awareness grew, the harder it was for me think about leaving.

And so when I bumped into Michelle, an old friend of mine now working at Daya's Fine Dining, the on-site restaurant Maharaji was known to frequent, I asked if there was any way I could get in tonight -- my chance, I thought, to see him one more time before I flew home.

"All the reservations are taken," she replied. "But we still need waiters. If you meet me after the event, I'll introduce you to the woman in charge of personnel."

Fast forward a few hours.

The next thing I know a very focused woman is introducing me to Carl, the Head Waiter -- a well-dressed gent oozing confidence, purpose, and five-star restaurantiness.

Quickly, he explains my role, the difference between salad plates and dessert plates, when to bring the bread, when to pour the water, when to open the wine, when to take an order, how to take an order, where to find the spoons, how to fold the napkins, when to present the check, where to get the checks, what the consecutive numbers of my tables were, and a thousand other things that went over my head like an empty thought bubble in a Homer Simpson comic I had no time to read.

I wanted to take notes, but couldn't find a pen. I wanted to ask questions, but there wasn't any time. I wanted to confess my ignorance, but no one was available to play the priest.

I still didn't know where the kitchen was.

And then, before you could say "What are the specials tonight?" the doors open wide and the guests come flooding in.

I go to my section. I meet. I greet. I pour. I nod. I try to remember how the pork is prepared.

So there I am, walking across the room, carrying a chilled bottle of an Italian mineral water I couldn't pronounce if my life depended on it, when the entire restaurant becomes totally still.

Not the sound of a fork. Not the clink of a glass. Just pin drop silence and everyone looking in the same direction.

This, I knew, could mean only one thing.

There, at the threshold of the room, stood Maharaji, radiant, buoyant, completely present. He is looking in what I think of as "my direction," (though I'm convinced he's looking at someone else over my shoulder.)

"Hey Mitch!" he calls out. "So it's come to this? You've been demoted to a waiter!"

Everyone laughs. It's funny. But more than that, it has opened the floodgates. He's broken the ice and opened my heart with only 13 words.

It's clear that Maharaji is talking to me, not that mythical dude over my mythical shoulder. It's also clear that, standing halfway across the room, I'm much too far away to be having a meaningful conversation with him.

I should be closer. Much closer.

And then... I have one of those moments Einstein must have been referring to, years ago, when explaining the Theory of Relativity to people like me.

Time twisted. A second became a lifetime. A lifetime became a second.

Next thing I know I'm standing next to Maharaji.

I have no clue how I got there. Technically speaking, I walked, but not really. I didn't move an inch as far as I could tell. I was moved -- as if the entire restaurant had just been tilted in his direction... and I simply slid towards him.


Now next to him, before any other conversations in the room had a chance to begin, we continue the thread of what started as his humorous ice-breaker. I look at him and smile. He looks at me and says something about ADI, the new magazine he likes so much. I respond with news of my recent meetings with Ole, the editor. He says something else. So do I. Small talk, you could say, but for me it wasn't small at all.

It was huge.

Now everyone in the room is getting into the act. The guy at Table 12 (Trout Almondine and the broccoli soup) asks Maharaji about a new software program. The couple sipping champagne at Table 9 talks about music. Someone asks about this. Someone asks about that. And he is totally gracious and present with everyone -- as if each person speaking was the only one in the room.

Me? I'm just standing there next to him, soaking it all up.

And then, just before he continues on his way, he turns and, out of the blue, says something kind about my writing.

Then he pivots and is gone, schmoozing forward into the next room where more people who love him are waiting patiently. I follow behind, a self-appointed member of his entourage, but I know my moment with him is over. I have people to wait on, wine to pour.

And so I return to my station.

Everyone seems a bit different now than when they first came in. Lighter. More expansive. And no one is asking about food.

Of course, that moment passes, too. Soon someone is asking for more butter. Someone else complains about the bread.

The odd thing?

If you look at this story from the outside, it doesn't seem all that extraordinary. OK, so I fly to Australia, live in a tent, don't use my cell phone, and listen to Maharaji for five days. Then I dress up like a waiter, walk across the room, and have a seemingly mundane conversation with him.

"That's it?" one could easily conclude.

Ahhh... This is precisely where the great mystery kicks in, my friends -- the mystery of the off-the-grid relationship between Master and devotee.

It's never about the what. It's all about the who and how.

When you're in love it doesn't matter what's happening. Everything you do, everything you say, everything you don't do or don't say is infused with a feeling.

And that feeling is what it's all about.

My moving across the floor at Daya's Fine Dining took just a few seconds. My conversation with Maharaji took just a few minutes. But the feeling of it all will last a lifetime.

This is what Knowledge is all about. This is what we were born to experience: the timelessness of love. And it is available to each and every one of us every single second of our blessed lives.


PS: This posting is actually one of two articles on this blog about being a waiter for Maharaji. To read the other one, click here. If either of these move you in the slightest way, please consider forwarding them to a friend or (ahem) a...relative.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at July 11, 2008 11:14 PM


I love your stories so much! They remind me of my own little stories that might not seem extraordinary to most folks I talk with or spend my time with, but to my heart they mean EVERYTHING!

Posted by: Cindy L [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 14, 2008 08:06 AM

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