Transitions and Rituals – 2

Transitions and Rituals 2
By Wasentha Young (an excerpt from her Meeting with the Masters short story)

It was night by the time I arrived, and everyone was already at Satsang, waiting for Satchadananda to arrive.  It was a fourteen-hour drive from Ann Arbor to Buckingham, Virginia.  I had come to visit my sister, Vandana who was living the life of a Swami in Yogaville, for just a few days before going to the “Taste of China” tournament just an hour drive from the ashram.

Greeted by a pasted smile and a soft voice, “Welcome, Vandana is already inside,” I look around the room full of people all wearing peach colored loose fitting clothes.  Besides me and a visiting man, she was the only other African-American in the room.  Someone tapped her on the shoulder, whispered in her ear and pointed, letting her know of my presence.  Our eyes met and we both smiled.  She excitedly gestured for me to come and sit on the empty pillow next to her.

The room was richly scented from the many flowers, and everyone seemed to buzz with excitement as they waited to hear Satchadananda speak.  His Yogic lineage was present with pictures of the teachers before him hanging close to the ceiling on all four walls.  The stage was set with a large blue velvet chair, a mic in front of it, more flowers and a pitcher of water on a table just to the right of the chair.

Satchadananda entered, and everyone stood up until he situated himself on the chair and said good evening.  The talk that night was centered on simplicity and humility. He compared the extravagant frills of the Hari Krishna ashram to Yogaville and the importance of practice over appearance.  

After his talk, he relocated himself off the stage and closer to the people so that they may come to him for blessings.  I had a flash that maybe Satchadananda would bless my sword and leaned over to ask my sister about that possibility.  She lit up and said for me to hurry and go get it out of my car, while she passed my request on to Satchadananda’s assistants.  When I returned, the word had already reached him.  Camera’s started flashing and he asked if I would demonstrate my sword form for them.

After I finished Satchadananda gestured for me to come closer.  When I reached him the cameras started flashing, again.  He took my sword in both hands, bent his head and raised it to his forehead for a few moments, then handed it back to me.

I was psyched.  I was sure that since my sword had been now blessed by two different Masters (Trungpa Rinpoche and himself) that I couldn’t go wrong at the tournament.  I was sure to take first place.

I went to three meditations per day, 6:00 am, 11:30 am, and 5:30 pm.  During meditations I searched in my mind and asked the Great Spirit to help me understand why it was that I needed to participate and win in the tournament; to understand why it was so important to me to receive that type of recognition; and I prayed for the support of my T’ai Chi Ch’uan ancestors.

Walks with Vandana were always refreshing.  When we were children, we went on many walks together.  It had been a long time since we both had the time to just walk in the woods.

One evening Vandana arranged for the temple keeper to turn on the temple’s lights.  The view was breathtaking; a splendid light-show.  When I returned to my room, I asked the Texan woman if she got a chance to see the temple lit-up that night.  She said, “Sure did.  It looked just like Disney World”, and we all laughed really hard. 🙂

The drive to the T’ai Chi Ch’uan event seemed short. My excitement and anticipation grew as I pulled into the parking area.  Hooking up with a few people who were all just arriving, we looked for someplace to eat.  We decided that it would be fitting to the name of the event, “Taste of China”, if we ate at a Chinese restaurant.  At the end of the meal, we broke open our fortune cookies and some of us read them out loud.  Mine said, ‘You will receive great rewards’, so I did not share that with them, knowing that we were all going to be in competition with each other.  Secretly I thought – with all the blessings I’ve had and a fortune like that, they didn’t stand a chance.

Being that this was my first tournament, I had no idea what to expect.  I felt confident that with my years of experience and dedication to practice, it would not be too difficult. Was I ever wrong? A lot of the forms and costumes were expressive and somewhat showy.  My style was very simple.  I thought, T’ai Chi Ch’uan is supposed to be an “Internal” style of martial arts.  Little did I know that most of the participants and judges were from the Wu-Shu (external) style and that meant drama was a part of demonstrating.  The more expressive the higher the points.

My heart sank.  My scores were not even high enough to receive third place.  That was the solo form competition.  I scored a little better in the weapons division, but still not good enough to receive any reward.

Humility set in and I got depressed and went off to hide in my room.  A couple of friends of mine had shown up to watch – my failure.  They comforted me as I cried and laughed about it all; laughed about the fortune cookie, cried about my humiliation; laughed about my expectations, cried about my loss.

When I got the time to really reflect on all that had happened during my trip, from the time I arrived at the ashram to the end of the tournament, it dawned on me what Satchadananda had talked about at Satsang had set the tone for my tournament experience.  I then understood that the real worth is in my daily practice and connection to the spiritual aspect of what I am doing, and in that is my great reward.

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