03 Mar Cherish Your Awakening by Lilavati
Cherish your awakening
by Lilavati, February 2022
Guruji’s message for this year – ‘Cherish your Awakening’ – really resonates with me.
In my experience, receiving the awakening, or Shaktipat, was a major marker in my life that profoundly changed both the course of my inner and outer life.
The concept of an ‘awakening’ presumes that you know you are asleep. In my case, it was only after I received Shaktipat, and emerged as if from an inner fog or a dream, that I realised how profoundly asleep I had been.
As a teenager and young adult living at home, many things conspired to keep me spiritually asleep. My parents were good people who adored me, and I adored them back. But various family tragedies conspired to keep any discussion of ‘feelings’ off the table. All our family emotions went underground and, instead of dealing with them easily (which Swami Shankarananda‘s Shiva Process technique does so brilliantly), they became volcanic, popping up as anger and frustration.
The suburbs of Canberra, where we lived, felt like the end of the road not the beginning to me. Everything appeared mundane and dry. But how to live a real life – whatever that meant – when I was so disempowered that I could barely do anything? University promised freedom but I was so painfully self-conscious that I couldn’t walk into a room without blushing; and talking in a symposium or giving a presentation – no way!
When I turned 20, I got a job that I flourished in. However, soon after I started, I realised that there was a problem: my work required me to be an academic – content to be in the background – but it also required showmanship. I was often asked to give talks in front of large groups, and it terrified me. Sometimes on stage I thought I would faint from the anxiety and that would be a relief! I gradually developed a strategy in which I would imagine a wall between myself and the crowd. Even to me, that seemed like a cop-out.
One of the notable and inspiring things about the Gurus of this lineage is that they are profoundly themselves, and profoundly free. They have fully identified with consciousness and attained a state of freedom or svatantrya. They don’t take on a religious mantle as an artificial role, bending their characters out of shape. Instead, they are each robustly individual people who are fully and powerfully themselves. Their differing character traits seem illumined because they have so completely identified with the divine.
Before I came to this path, I was anything but myself. I often felt like a character in a play who got occasional muted applause for being quiet and obliging. I wish I could have told my younger self that what I needed first and foremost was to find my Inner Self, however, my inner world was a confusing, opaque muddle and I couldn’t have heard that advice at the time.
Eventually, after many years, I found Guruji and felt an immediate attraction to his teachings. At my first Intensive, my experience of Shaktipat was quiet and encouraging. It was a gentle but firm nudge towards ‘something’ inside of me. Bit by bit the magic of the awakening began to change me. It started a paradigm shift in me towards my inner world; it fired my passion for meditation; it gave me understandings and opened my heart; and it saw me begin to turn away from those actions and inner narratives that hurt me and towards those that helped me to grow.
A few years after I became a regular at Satsang, Guruji had the launch of his first book, Happy for No Good Reason. He asked me to be the MC at the opening event and I was thrilled if nervous. As the day got closer, an article in the local newspapers had caught the public attention and our venue at the Glen Eira Town Hall was sold out.
I had the feeling that this event was going to be a do-or-die one for my anxiety about public speaking. Not only was I MC’ing but I was giving a little experience talk. I was revealing myself to a crowd in a way that I never had. My strategy of keeping a protective wall up in talks clearly wasn’t going to work here!
With the event not yet started, I stood backstage and heard an enormous, excited noise in the auditorium. I peeked out through the curtains and saw a sea of faces. Over a thousand people. This was going to be a trial by fire. With hands sweating and legs shaking, the time came for the event to begin and I walked out on stage. As I did so, unexpectedly every nervous cell in my body calmed down. I couldn’t see anyone I knew, it was just a mass of faces, but I felt that I was in communication with them all. There was an incredible feeling of Shakti or spiritual energy, and I took it all in. I felt myself open to the crowd and there was no fear. I was completely relaxed and totally myself.
I can honestly say that I never approached a public speaking event in the same way again. Through Guru’s grace and the power of the awakening, I had finally found my authentic voice, and there was no going back.
Lilavati, a devotee of Swami Shankarananda on retreat in Ganeshpuri, India.