I adore Judy Garland, but Ms. Garland and I got off to a shaky start. It was 1950, I was five, and my mother dropped me off at the old Fox Theater in downtown Riverside, California to see The Wizard of Oz. Apparently no one had informed Mother that one didn’t usually leave a five year-old child alone at the movies.
Anka was a good, if slightly flawed woman who didn’t really get the mothering gene. She also delighted in telling the world (while looking directly at me!) how — though a proud, staunch, life-long Republican—she very much believed in abortion rights for women.
Anyway, my issue was never with Judy, of course. The film was terrific until that hideous creature, the Wicked Witch of the West, showed up onscreen. I don’t remember if it was the green skin, the black pointed hat, or that voice, but I became frightened and bolted from the theater. Lost and apparently looking for something familiar, I was picked up by two beat cops in one of those old, black 1950 Ford sedans—it was all very “Dragnet!”” (a radio and TV drama about Los Angeles police detectives hugely popular in the 1950s and 60s.)
I wasn’t reunited with Mother until after she went to pick me up and found I was no longer at the theater. She immediately called the police—only to learn I was already at the police station.
Anyway, even though Mother and I were happily reunited that sunny Southern California day, I remained perpetually lost for many years, which I talk about at length in my memoir, “Growing Old With Grace.”
My early years were quite troubled, you see, as were my 20s and 30s. By the time i was forty (as humanity was experiencing that unfortunate decade of overindulgence known as the 80s), Mother and I had become estranged. I’d become increasingly frustrated with her emotionally-wounding opinions of me and decided I couldn’t take it any longer. I was living in Denver then, paralyzed by agoraphobia, and was so desperate for solutions to my situation I facetiously announced to my actor friend, Alex, that I was thinking about writing a letter to Aurora Greenway (Terms of Endearment) asking her to adopt me.
“Dear Mrs. Greenway,” I would write, “I know you’ve already had one child, but could you possibly consider adopting another? p.s. I love you and I love Houston!” In the end though, thinking I knew Aurora pretty well, I was immobilized by the fear she would say, “Are you kidding??? You’re not special enough!!!” to go through with my plan.
Well honestly, what’s a poor down-and-out to do then when one of his best prospects for redemption says, “Thanks, but no thanks”? I don’t know about you, but I started looking for God. I’m not even certain I realized what I was doing, but God found me anyway. This is because while searching for answers I discovered a Hatha yoga class that ultimately led me to Babaji and his ashrams.
Babaji in the 80s
About three weeks after meeting Babaji I had my first shaktipat experience, in which I became “one” with my surroundings, an experience much like some I had had in my childhood. After that there was never any doubt in my mind that I had found God, and God had found me. Not only did I find Him/Her, but I found Him/Her right inside inside me! Furthermore, learning to experience God, rather than worshiping Him/Her separately as an “other,” I discovered that I wouldn’t need Aurora Greenway for a mother substitute. So there, Ms. Greenway!
But humor me please; the thing I loved so much about Aurora was that no matter how bitchy and controlling she was, it was clear to me (and I think to her daughter, Emma) that she really loved Emma fiercely.
I never sensed that’s how it was with Mother and me though. I knew Mother loved Chanel and Dior and she had matching alligator shoes and handbags in every (tasteful) color you could imagine — which she also loved — but I was an unknown. I know now that she did love me, of course, but I didn’t know it then.
Anyway my karma had brought me Mother — not Aurora Greenway. Eventually I realized I needed to learn how to deal with that. I won’t say I’ve always done it gracefully – in the beginning I wasn’t graceful at all. Even though I stopped speaking to Mother for three years and she died before we were able to reconcile, I still had to deal with her and her “eccentric” way of showing her affection — until I came to realize there was really nothing between us but pure, unadulterated love.
Furthermore, if I don’t resolve my Mother issues, I feel fairly certain someone with the same stuff would probably find me in my next incarnation. So in my mind it seems prudent that I come to terms with what the Universe has so generously bestowed upon me. If I do, perhaps I won’t need to have a next incarnation!
Our family members can push our buttons better than anyone else (Don’t we all know!) One thing I’ve noticed about life is that many people don’t change a whole lot. They’re always going to have a fixed view of who (to them) we are, which seems to reinforce their view of the world.
As we change and grow with yoga and meditation though, our family members sometimes tend to see and relate to us in old, fixed ways. Instead of becoming hurt or angry, or trying to set them straight, I’ve used Swami Rudrananda’s practice of energetic surrender to deal with these sorts of issues. Utilizing this technique, I have learned to detach somewhat from these relationships; and from that place I am much less emotionally invested in things being the way I want them to be.
When we are working properly with mantras and breath, our relatives sometimes run out of steam if we let them rant long enough. In fact, when we surrender deeply enough we can often change the entire dynamic of a relationship or situation. Sometimes we can’t, but it doesn’t matter. By energetically surrendering these situations we arrive at a place where we are “above” the tension, and therefore unaffected by it.
Therefore, to me it seems like a good idea to come to some reconciliation with any family member with whom we may have strong issues. Failing to do so is essentially defaulting on a karmic debt. Furthermore, if we don’t pay now, we’re going to pay later—perhaps in some future incarnation. A karmic debt is just like the loan on our houses or cars. The bank can repossess our car, but that doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility for the balance of the loan.
By utilizing this practice of energetic surrender I’ve traveled light years in my quest to rid myself of infinitely limiting, negative thought patterns regarding myself, other people, and various situations i find myself in as I go about my day. I’m quite pleased to reveal that thanks to these extraordinary spiritual practices Swami Rudrananda shared with the world, I feel much more at peace with my family (as well as myself!) and much less lost these days.