The Heart of the Matter
November 11, 2011
The Reception

bowl of salted cashews.jpg

The year was 1986. Or maybe it was 1989. Or 1990. I really don't remember what year it was, but it doesn't matter in the least because my story has nothing to do with time.

Maharaji (aka Prem Rawat) had just spoken to a few thousand people at a venue in Queens, NY. I was on my way out of the building when an old friend comes up to me and mentions there is going to be a small reception for Maharaji, immediately after the program, at the Carlyle Hotel in New York City.

In a heartbeat I'm out the door, zipping through traffic, and pulling up to the hotel entrance.

A smiling usher greets me in the lobby and points to the reception room on the second floor.

I bound the stairs three at a time and enter, fully expecting last minute preparations to be in full-frazzled swing. They're not. Maharaji is already there -- standing quietly in the middle of the room and talking to someone...

My first instinct is to rush across the room, go right up to him and say hello... or shake his hand... or thank him profusely... or offer an hors d'oeuvre... or ask if he needs help ... or volunteer for something... or remain inscrutably silent... or attempt to blend in like I'd been attending these kinds of gatherings with him for years.

So I do what any good guest at an elegant reception in a fancy New York City hotel would do. I sidle up to the buffet.

By now, it's clear I don't know how to approach Maharaji, but I do know how to eat. And though I'm not all that hungry, eating, I reason, will give me something to do as I wait for my opening to get closer to him.

The crudite looks good, but too much like a picture from a magazine I wouldn't read in a dentist's office. And besides, carrots and celery are nowhere near my "celebration foods" -- the stuff I eat whenever I'm feeling really good.

Ah...look! Over there by the olives! Cashews! I love cashews! The perfect finger food! Nothing to drip on my shirt!

And so I grab a few and eat -- doing my best, at all times, to sense where Maharaji is in the room -- a curious kind of modern day yoga not yet featured in Time or Newsweek.

The cashews are good. Very good.

They are also, I discover, very salty. This is not good because my right hand -- the one I'd be using to shake Maharaji's should I ever get close enough -- was now completely greasy.

I pick up a napkin to wipe off the salt, but succeed only in further spreading the salt over both my hands. I think of going to the men's room to wash them off, but then I'd be leaving the room Maharaji is in and who knows how much longer he'd be there?

Trusting the moment, I quickly take my leave, wash both hands, and re-enter the room. Maharaji, I'm relieved to see, is still there, now talking to someone else.

And then... in a classic, pre-verbal, pure instinct, swallow-back-to-Capistrano mode, I find myself spontaneously migrating towards him, stopping only when I'm about an arm's length away.

He is talking about radio conversations he's had with Russian fighter pilots when piloting his plane.

I do my best to stand there without standing out.

He continues, making some kind of reference to the apocalypse, which triggers, for me, the following response:

"Maharaji, I've heard it said that the only thing that will remain after World War lll will be a McDonald's milkshake."

"No," he replies. "Cockroaches."


There are many ways a person could interpret the preceding story.

One could easily conclude that what I experienced at the Hotel Carlyle reception with Maharaji was simply a function of my own mindset and mood that night -- the quirky way I see the world and the choices I make based on those perceptions.

Show three people a sharp knife and you'll get three different reactions. Someone's going to think of a stabbing... another, the number of carrots they can chop in three minutes... still a third, how much they could get for it on eBay.

"We don't see things as they are," said Anais Nin, "we see things as we are."

I'm guessing the other 75 guests at the reception told very different stories the next day -- none of which had anything to do with cashews, salt, or Russian fighter pilots.

"Motivation affects perception," explain the psychologists.

Still, I'd venture to say that everyone in the room that night, at the root of their own story, shared one thing in common.

And that was a feeling.

Not a thought, not a concept, not an opinion, projection, abstraction, comparison, analysis, or conclusion.

A feeling.

A feeling of love and freedom far beyond the specifics of what they experienced at the reception that night and how they told their stories the next day.

This feeling is why I was happy to be at the reception with Maharaji. And it's why I'd be happy to be in a desert with him. Or a bus station. Or a hallway. Or a field far away from here.

What Maharaji connects a person to is a place beyond the story of their life -- a place that cannot be found on a map.

A place that can only be found in the heart.

Intrigued? Click here or here or...hey...over here.

Not intrigued? Got other fish to fry? No problema. May you enjoy all the rest of your days no matter what you do. May you count your blessings. Then lose count. May you have the grace and the courage to let go of whatever is in your way -- and if you can't let it go, then at least kick it aside. If there's not enough love in your life, take a breath and look within. That's where you'll find it.


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at November 11, 2011 10:54 AM

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