She rides the roads of Pondicherry with a speed that belonged a century ago, happy to accompany the bullock carts and the cycles. She is careful not to allow life to zoom past her. She is in no hurry to get anywhere. No adrenalin rushes for her, a steady pace that allows her to be with herself. Not to confuse her with one who wastes her time. She has more full time jobs than anyone I know. She is the Director of the ” International Centre For Yoga Education and Research”, the resident acharya of the six month programme that trains teachers in Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga , she runs the Yoganjali Natyalaya that trains non resident students in Baratnatyam, Yoga and Carnatic music in Pondicherry city, the editor of the monthly magazine “Yoga Life”, author of four books and has been awarded the ” Puduvai Kalaimamani ” award for her contribution to Bharatnatyam.
When I met Meenakshi Devi I had no idea she had such an interesting and varied life. She was in a simple old “pavadai” in-skirt and a long kurtha. No airs of being a great achiever. I had taken to her right from the start but I’d decided that I would give it time. No more blind trust, I told myself.
I grew to like her. Love her I did from the start, not because she had all these titles but because it was the easiest thing to do as she exuded warmth and charm. She had the rare quality of being interested in another’s evolution. She was glad to see another’s potential unfold and was instrumental in it. I do not know many who can look at goodness or skill and not feel a pinch of anxiety with respect to themselves. Comparisons creep in and one feels threatened by another’s place in the world. It takes trust in the universal spirit, dignity and love to be as she is. She has seen the depths of pain, yet life to her is celebration. In her eyes I saw vulnerability, yet a Shakthi that grew with every hurdle she faced along the way. She did not have to prove that she knew it all. She was not competing for Miss.Perfect, neither did she have to project what she was not. She had ease and a childlike manner of approaching things. Maybe a bit too straightforward for the Indian panchatantra mentality but she did not have much time to waste.
Meenakshi Devi or Amma is not your regular Media Spiritual Special. She does not have a spate of followers doing errands for her or clearing the way.
She is more evolved than most so called Swami’s, not because she refuses to take the title of Swami or Master but because she understands the depth of what such a title entails.
She is a simple lady, an inspiring teacher, a wife, a mother and a wonderful human being. Sensitive and firm, humorous yet profound she is of a breed that is fast becoming extinct. Down to earth, she is yet more spiritual than most of the self proclaimed spiritual masters.
What is spirituality anyway? Is it just knowledge of the scriptures, an ability to quote the Vedas, an extremely flexible body, a few magic tricks up one’s sleeve, being a good orator, a smooth talker, a powerful or talented person, one who is well read or one who heads a big organization? Most of us are drawn to these externals. Being articulate is definitely a useful skill for a teacher. But teaching is not through language alone.
To me Amma symbolizes the pleasant wind that touches me softly, shifts a thought pattern, moves a discordant note and gently cleanses me of that which is stagnant and moves me to stillness. She is not the hurricane whose power is apparent, which with its sheer force can blow away all that you need to get rid of. Instead the breeze is invisible. It will touch parts of you that you did not realize existed. Before you realize it you will be more in touch with yourself. But if you are not aware you will miss it. You will think that’s how you always were.
The change was smooth and steady but not dramatic. So it might seem like nothing much happened. We like sensational stuff!! So this is definitely not one for your dramatic weekend workshop transformation diaries. I definitely see how attitudes and patterns need only a moment to be changed. Yet the preparation for it was there before and it has to be sustained thereafter. Growth is not a one-time event but a process, yet we hanker for the magic portion to give us overnight success. We look at the goal and miss out on the joy in the journey.
The breeze is a reminder of this constant flow of energy. A constant mild happening that moves with grace. Its flow is directed by ones consciousness. It would have brought along with it the fragrance of love and yet warned you of the stench that you can sometimes encounter in yourself and others. When we observe ourselves we can see what we have chosen. Do we carry a fragrance as we move or are we carrying the element of discord? Do we bring out the best in ourselves, others and in situations. Do we spread harmony and goodwill ? The breeze unlike the tornado can be seen only through the eyes of sensitivity and will touch only the subtle. Slow and steady is an old adage. Action dominates the times. Not that action by itself is bad but it is action that is there as a distraction, a distraction from our “self”.
Now add to action, speed and you’ve got the new mantra for the millennium. Yet despite all this fuss about speed we don’t seem to find time.
We have no time for all the good things that life has to offer. No time to stop and listen to the waves and the music in the breeze. No time to see your little plant bloom, no time to bring a smile to a child’s face. No time for your own evolution. No time for living.
The overworked achiever is glorified these days. The workaholic, the one who spends more time and creates the impression that he is doing a lot gets the accolades. You might feel you are doing a lot when you are flustered, hard pressed for time and pushing yesterday’s work today. Is it possible that you take up only as much as we can? Can you find the balance between doing and letting go?
Every time you ride your car or motorbike in a tearing hurry to be somewhere, ask yourself, where is it you want to be? How much time are you really saving? Can starting merely five minutes earlier save you a lot of frazzled nerves? Would it make you feel less important if it looked like you were not doing much? Where is this speed taking you?