Early on in my days as an ashram resident, I practiced celibacy, only to one day meet a man to whom I was very attracted. He was of all things a Baptist minister. An exceedingly kind man, what surprised me was not the feeling of intense attraction, but when I was in his presence, of all things, I felt Christ. I don’t know if it was because his passion for Christ was so authentic, but something spiritually significant awakened in me. Being raised Jewish, Jesus was not significant in my life and in fact, I probably still harbored a prejudice towards him, having been raised by post World War II Jews, for whom a Gentile could still be scary.
One day after meeting this man, driving down U.S.1, sending outward prayers to be rid of these distracting feelings of sexuality, I had what might be described as a vision. It was almost like a meditative state, being able to look within and yet focus outwardly simultaneously. I was seeing Jesus, carrying a heavy cross. Viewing him laboring under the great weight of the cross, I was to feel an extraordinary compassion and love for him, but then, my heart seemed to expand and expand until those singular feelings expanded to overwhelming feelings of love not only for him ,but all of humanity. What an extraordinary experience this was.
Through this experience, I felt I understood the true meaning of Jesus carrying the cross; how he as a Holy person, undertook to carry the pain under which we labor. Being human, we do carry a weight of human imperfection. Some religious people might call that “sin.” For me, that imperfection means my own laziness, fear, cowardice in situations or unwillingness to forgive and have compassion towards either myself or others. As someone who had committed herself to a spiritual life, I struggle with my lack of spirituality in situations and sometimes feel that much of my time is spent hating my human frailities. But here now was this holy figure willing to help me carry the burden of myself. My experience awakened a gratitude that someone had come to earth to help me in my “burden.”
Counseling others who live in convents, monasteries and ashrams, I sometimes feel that they perhaps have cultivated a sensitivity that actually makes it more difficult for them to be compassionate towards themselves and others because they are constantly attempting to rout out that one black spot within themselves that only they are aware of. The consequence of self-hate only continues unacceptance of both themselves and others.
The experience made me realize more deeply my own attraction and willingness to commit to my Guru. In her presence I have felt oneness within myself where I am no longer torn by judgment of myself and others. How wonderful to be in the presence of someone who having once found their place of inner peace, now sacrifice their lives and live amongst us as holy inspirations. Those who have had the fortune of being in the presence of Jesus, Mohammed, the Bal Shem Tov, Ma Jaya, or other enlightened gurus and teachers, how lucky we are. As we strive towards emulation of them, they help us and show by their light the way. They look upon our struggles with compassion; they do not blame us for our imperfections, they feel infinite compassion towards us and are willing to carry their own version of the cross.
I sometimes forget that what I see as their perfection is the very same compassion that I must show to myself and that this self-compassion and love are the tickets to my own holiness.