Fierce of Heart

While mystical experiences are not the basis of spiritual process and can even be a distraction, in my early years with Amma I believe they were a means for Spirit to get my attention and pull me in. They showed my normal logical mind that there were realms I knew nothing about and that I had to let go of my rigid way of seeing the world and learn to allow my life to unfold.

Last week, when I read Sreejit’s Dungeon Prompts: Only for the Fierce of Heart challenge, I thought of an event that occurred in 1994. Before I tell you that story let me say that I believe it takes courage and a fierce commitment to one’s spiritual journey to be willing to go places that take you out of the realm of normal experience, and also to be committed to doing “whatever it takes” along the way. Some of the processes that were happening to me in those days were public, and since I am very introverted, I believe my willingness to let them occur, with discrimination, exemplifies my fierce determination to do whatever it takes.

After I met Amma in 1989, I experienced tremendous separation grief whenever she would leave. I am so thankful that Spirit led me to places where that empty hole inside of me could continue to fill when I was not in her physical presence.

One of those places was the Power House Church of God in Christ. The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is a black Pentecostal denomination. I never thought I would go to a conservative Christian church again, but other than the fact that I was uncomfortable with many of their sermons, I loved it. The people were so loving towards me and their music filled me with joy.

At some point, my feet started spontaneously moving to the music while I was seated.  Many months later, I stood up and let the dance take over my entire body. Soon I  began “Dancing in the Spirit” along with other parishioners. My form of dancing often turned into whirling. That process not only removed the grief, it led to exhilarating joy.

In summer of 1994, when I attended Amma’s New York City programs, I decided to go a service at a COGIC church in Harlem. I had visited that same church the year before. At that time, I found it to be similar to Power House, but more restrained. Their music tended to be soulful rather than celebratory and I had not seen anyone dance.

This time, a friend decided to come with me. At the beginning of the service, the minister welcomed both of us and told us to have a good time. Like the previous year, there were no other white faces in the congregation.

During the time since my last visit, I had begun to experience the spontaneous dance almost every time I went to church. As I looked around this church, I saw the ushers were children. At Power House the ushers were adults. Part of their job was to protect the people who were dancing in the Spirit. I concluded that dancing was probably not a regular occurrence here and decided to restrain it should it occur.

I was not prepared, however, for the fact that all of my recent contact with Amma made that unconscious part of me much more accessible. The minute the music started, my body began to dance. While I probably could have shut it down, the energy was so strong I wasn’t sure about that. I decided to let it come. Later, my friend said people looked at her, concerned that I was okay. She just stood there helplessly indicating I was fine.

The energy became stronger than my body could keep up with, so I dropped into a position of prostration, i.e. bowing down with my forehead to floor. The energy inside of me began to calm down.

While I had no doubt that my dancing in that church was acceptable and that the congregation would probably enjoy telling the story of the day the white girl danced in their church for years, part of me was embarrassed. I was once told that the difference between shock and embarrassment is that shock drains life force energy whereas embarrassment may enhance it.  A person experiencing shock turns white and “death-like.” With embarrassment, the fear is joined by a bit of pleasure. Instead of turning white, the person experiencing embarrassment turns red from the increase in blood-flow. My experience at the Harlem church was definitely embarrassment not shock. I felt full of life!

At the end of the service, the minister, with a smile on his face, said, “We told her to have a good time, and she did!”  I have relished that memory for years.

As I was writing this post, “Hold My Mule” by Shirley Caesar came to mind. The recording starts with a story and turns into song.  I have used it in many workshops over the years and was delighted to find it on YouTube.  I think it is a good example of being fierce of heart so will use it to end my post!

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15 thoughts on “Fierce of Heart

  1. I am smiling as I was reading this lovely post, Karuna. My dear friend, Annette, who does not understand one word of English went to Montreal last year with her daughter to listen to gospel music during the Montreal Jazz Festival and she listens to it on CD`s…the music moves her so much. I`ve always said, if only had that in our church when I was younger I would not have missed a service.

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    1. That is so true. I would have insisted on going too. I know a minister of a Baptist church here who had the goal of creating a church where the children begged to stay rather than to go home….. and he did it. When you come to Seattle, I will take you! 🙂

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  2. You seem to be on the move most of the time, karuna, probably shuttling between Kollam and Seattle. I think you must settle in one of the places, as your spiritual journey will be strong wherever you are. Like you, I have also had some exposure to Pentecostal prayer groups, in my case in the Middle East. The people were apparently very nice binding you in a very strong fraternal spirit. But beyond a point, I observed that their interest lay very keenly on proselytisation, in somehow getting you into the flock. Needless to say those links simply diluted the moment I relocated to India, after my Middle East years. The only edifying take away from those associations is a strong briefing on the Bible, specially the New Testament. Right now my spirituality consists of living in tune with nature, practising vegetarianism, and living a good and simple life…best wishes.

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    1. When I started going to Power House I told the minister about my spiritual path with Amma and told him that I wanted to come to his church but if he tried to convert me I would be out of there. He said he believed in doing what God told him to do and then staying out of the way and letting God do his own work. He said that if Amma could inspire me to be on such a strong spiritual path she must be doing something right. I thought that was pretty incredible for a fundamentalist minister. I could tell you so many stories like that. I went there on and off for about 15 years and he never tried to convert me. Throughout my time there, my path with Amma never waivered.

      About being on the move a lot, know that I have lived in the same house in Seattle since 1973! The only time I travel is once a year to India for 6 weeks and when Amma comes in the summer! I may spend more time in India at some point but I know that for now I am to stay here.

      I appreciate you reading my post and commenting……. I always love it when I see you have visited.

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    1. Yes his statement was very nice..

      It is interesting that after 21 years I still have some embarrassment about that life event. But mostly I’m proud of it.

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