We are pleased to present Joan's compilation in book form. "I hold the Lion's Paw" available now on Amazon.com.
THE INNER SOUND CURRENT
"I am able to hear the inner ringing sound (the inner sound current) when I meditate, but what am I supposed to do with that ringing sound?"
What if I said, "I was listening to Mozart last night and I remember that while I was listening I was able to forget everything and just be 'blissful' during that time. But, what am I supposed to do with that memory of Mozart's music and the impact it had on me?"
I'm sure you would say that I shouldn't try to do anything with that memory - other than to enjoy it.
The inner sound current is eternally with us - as the space around us is constantly with us. And, this inner music is so compelling that when we allow ourselves to be absorbed in it, we're immediately transported to a different dimension - beyond the body, mind and senses, beyond time and space.
On that plane, all our (imagined) earthly problems disappear and a mysterious transformation occurs. I say,"mysterious" because that's what Shri Brahmananda called it. He told us that on that plane the body and mind are mysteriously healed and rejuvenated.
So, there's no need to "do" anything with the ringing sound. Each time you're aware of that sound while in the state of meditation, just keep focusing on it. No matter how many times your mind pulls you away, keep returning your focus there. After a while, you will feel its healing influence.
FOUR QUESTIONS RELATED TO THE THINKING MIND
How can I become more in tune with my soul so I can live out my mission in this life?
Your mission in this life is to be more in touch with your soul or Self! And all you need to accomplish this is to remove the thoughts that are blocking the soul itself. Just as clouds have to pass in order for the sun (that is always there) to be revealed.
How do I decipher what the soul is telling me and separate it from the thoughts?
The thoughts are the clouds that are covering the Self. Once the mind is empty of these thoughts, the Self, like the sun, which is self-luminous, instantly removes the darkness of ignorance. It is the mind that continues to produce those clouds of thoughts. And it would be foolish to use the same mind, that is creating the thoughts in the first place, to decipher them!
Also, how do I gain more confidence and trust my intuition and myself?
It's interesting that this is one of your questions. This morning, I posted a quotation of Shri Brahmananda on Facebook that addresses the topic of intuition. I believe it will answer your question. It reads as follows:
"The perfection, the mystery, that is hidden at the center of every cell and atom is working through the human mind. Intuition and invisible impulses impel us to discover our own complete Self." (Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati)
How do you let go of fear and attachment?
Remain very alert throughout your waking state and you will observe that your fear and feelings of attachment are the result of dwelling on the past or projecting into the future. If you clear your mind of past memories (even memories of 5 minutes ago) by means of the art of witnessing - which means being in the present moment, you will be able to instantly drop the thinking that has resulted in fear and attachment. We're either in the state of witnessing or thinking. It is the thinking that causes bondage and it is witnessing that frees us.
Learning who I am in relation to people is quite difficult. I feel that people are ashamed of me. I don't know where "home" is. I'm alone and can't seem to fight- nor flee - nor keep peace. I don't know how to love. Or so it feels. I don't know and am criticized every step of the way. It's excruciating. What do I do?
I'm sorry you've been going through so much pain. Psychological pain is far more damaging than physical. But, according to Shri Brahmananda and all the great masters, these "shocks" are often what are necessary to wake us up from the dream that the thinking mind presents as reality.
In reality, there is no conflict, no loneliness, no guilt, no shame, no frustration - because in the state of "No-mind", where there are no memories of the past nor projections into the future, we are in our natural state of peace and non-conflict, our natural state of unconditional love and compassion.
We cannot "work on" being in that state - because like the sun, it is always present. Never missing. But, we can remain ever-vigilant, awake as much as possible - in order to catch the thinking mind when it is interfering with our natural feeling of bliss and well-being.
All that is needed to be in that natural state of effortless awareness, our natural state of meditation, so we can live without conflict of any kind - is a quiet mind.
Therefore, ridding ourselves of unnecessary thinking is our most important task of every minute of our waking state.
That has been my own personal work for the past 48 years and it continues to be and will continue to be until the very last moment of this present incarnation.
Sri Nisargardatta Maharaj (from the book I AM THAT) has stated that when we find ourselves struggling with negative forces and circumstances during our lives, it's best to just let things happen by themselves and not continuously try to find solutions to end the struggle. There are times, he said, we simply have to "endure" and patiently wait for the difficult period to pass.
My life is full. My private practice is gong well. I am busy and seem to be of service. I am grateful and content in so many ways. However, I have become acutely aware as of late that I am being deeply affected by the people around me when I am not working. Any slight insult or oversight, real or imagined, physical or energetic, has been shaking me. I am witnessing this, noticing the pain in my belly, then moving forward with my day, supplementing myself with my practice and self-loving thoughts. Still I feel the ghosts of these blows.
If you were an ordinary person with ordinary sensitivity, I could simply advise you to take more breaks during the day, find time for a short walk, go on mini-vacations, and be sure to reserve 15 minutes a day to meditate or listen to the witnessing CD, so forth and so on.
But you're not an ordinary person with ordinary sensitivity. You are someone with exceptional skills, talents, a powerful mind - but also an extraordinary sensitivity. And in my view, this super sensitivity, extreme vulnerability, is at the root of your reacting in such an extreme way to even the slightest indication of criticism or negative feelings towards you. That's why all that you're doing to relax and free yourself of unwanted thoughts is not proving enough to shake off these extreme reactions you're having.
So, what to do about this problem of being overly-sensitive?
If you awakened tomorrow and your body had symptoms of a cold coming on, you would take ordinary precautions - such as cutting down on your exercise programs, avoiding getting chilled, eating lightly, etc. But, suppose you awoke with symptoms of pneumonia? Immediately, you would know that you need to have a chest X-ray, that you have to consult with a doctor and be prepared to offer your body a long, healing period of rest and rehabilitation. You would know that extreme measures would have to be taken.
What would further complicate matters for you would be if your doctor were to tell you that, unfortunately, your medical history indicates you have a predisposition for contracting pneumonia and that there's no vaccine that can help.
Then, you would have to consider a serious change in your life-style. A life-style that is, as much as possible, free of undue physical or emotional stress and strain.
In my view, overly-sensitive people have to think of themselves in the same protective manner as if their bodies were prone to pneumonia. Meaning, it is not only preferable, but absolutely necessary that they avoid the strain of a stressful job, the company (or telephone calls) of anyone whose language or presence causes tension and anxiety - and even avoid reading books or watching television shows that are of a stressful nature.
In other words, treat your symptoms of being overly-sensitive as if they were symptoms of pneumonia. Avoiding, at any cost, all forms of stress. Even good forms of stress - like planning for a wedding, addressing large audiences, socializing too often with groups of friends, etc. can be a cause for alarm when you're overly-sensitive.
Sometimes, what is needed most, is to be completely alone for at least an hour every day - away even from your loved ones.
Aloneness and silence - doing nothing but gazing at the sun setting at the end of the day. Amazingly healing and empowering.
All of this really means a brand new look at your current life-style. Just a few changes - changes that serve to simplify and bring more moments of quiet into your everyday life - can pave the way to your feeling much happier and much more in control.
Pneumonia cannot be cured by relaxation or self-help techniques. Nor can an overly-sensitive nature.
Deep Sleep and Consciousness
Ramana Maharshi has stated:
"In sleep man is devoid of all possessions, including his own body. Instead of being unhappy, he is quite happy. The conclusion, therefore, is that happiness is inherent in man and is not due to external causes. One must realize his Self in order to open the storehouse of unalloyed happiness."
"But you're unconscious when you are sleeping. Does this mean in order to be happy, we must remain unconscious?"
"The enlghtened masters ask, "If we are really "unconscious" while we are sleeping,
then how do we know, when we awaken in the morning, that we slept well or badly or had a lovely dream?
That we are aware of these different happenings tells us that although the body may be sleeping, Consciousness is still present. The enlightened are aware of the presence of Consciousness in deep sleep, whereas the ordinary person is not. Once you're established in the meditative state, you too can become aware of your body sleeping, while the "Witnessing-I" remains awake.
We all love to sleep soundly. And Sri Ramana Maharshi takes this as proof that our dreamless sleep state resembles our natural state. A state in which we are happiness itself."
ON THE TOPIC OF DESPAIR
Everything around me has been and is continuing to fall apart. I have lost all my savings as a result of all the negative events that have been happening to me. Every day there seems to be more and more problems and I feel as though I might have a nervous breakdown. I go to bed depressed - hoping that the following day will be better. All of my positive strategies for strength are failing me. I'm really trying to hang in there but I'm getting close to the end of my strength.
What should I do?
Something tells me that what you're regarding as a curse is really a blessing.
When Shri Brahmananda's students (and even some disciples) had periods in their lives when they were enjoying their families, their careers, so forth and so on - some of them often stopped coming to his programs at the ashram or even attending those in the city. And a number of them no longer felt a need to seek his guidance and counsel.
But when life turned against these students and everything turned negative and bitter, that's when they returned to the ashram and to Shri Brahmananda - seeking his grace, seeking comfort.
His advice during those hard and challenging periods was always the same. He always told those who were suffering to come to the ashram as often as they could, to "stay close to the teachings and to meditate - beyond the body, mind and senses."
Shri Brahmananda reminded us many, many times of the following -
As long as we are not really challenged by life, we run the risk of remaining spiritually asleep. But once we are faced with despair - which is considered the dark night of the soul for the seeker - then we are forced to be awake.
To stay afloat in the turbulent waters of challenging times, we need to do our best to wait and to trust.
Once the trust is there, you will find that you are automatically attracting positive and magnetic energy your way. The energy that will allow you to overcome all your difficulties.
The key word here - is trust.
A QUESTIONER ASKS SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI:
Q: What is that one thing, knowing which, all doubts are solved?
M: Know the doubter. If the doubter is held on to, the doubts will not arise. When the doubter ceases to exist, there will be no doubts arising. From where will they arise? All are jnanis (Knowers, sages). Only they are not aware of this fact. Doubts must be uprooted. This means that the doubter must be uprooted. Here, the doubter is the mind.
"How do I become what I feel is already within me?"
According to Yoga Vedanta teachings, all that is preventing you from becoming what is within is simply the notion that you need to become something other than what you are already.
This is called wrong identification with the body, mind and senses - the body/mind entity. This mistaken identification is caused by wrong thinking. Imagining that the emotionally scarred, conditioned personality is what you are.
Right identification is with that which is unchanging, without blemish.
In the beginning, this unchanging entity is experienced as the Witnessing-I. Later on, when you're more established in the witnessing state, even this identification is dissolved and all sense of duality or difference drops away.
Then there's no ego-mind or "judge" to prevent us from feeling a sense of Oneness with the entire universe. And with everyone who is part of our life.
ON THE TOPIC OF GOALS
"I've started a program in which I have to participate in online forums and state/write my goals & intentions. I have never been a goal-oriented person. Also, my many years with you and the teachings have cemented a goal-less philosophy. Unfortunately, the rest of the world is ensconced in goal setting. Any suggestions on walking the thin line?"
I smiled when I read your words, "I have never been a goal oriented person," followed by the news that you're involved in a goal-oriented program.
My thought: "But, if you're not a goal-oriented person, why are you involved in this goal-oriented program?"
The fact is that when goals are needed we set them and do everything we can to reach them. And, there's nothing wrong with that. In the work I do, I also set goals for myself.
Take the example of the silent retreats I offer at the ashram. My goal for these is that the people attending the retreats experience a sense of peace and freedom from the thinking mind. Yes, that's different from a worldly goal - but still a goal. And, in a way, a worldly goal, as well, because in the cosmic sense we are already the incarnation of peace and freedom - but, as yet, unaware of it.
Coming back to worldly goals - on the relative plane there's no harm in having them, as long as you're not disappointed or upset if you fail to reach them.
In the Bhagavadgita, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna, "Be thou merely the occasion." Meaning, everything is already determined. Your role is just to be an instrument for carrying out the prescribed action.
Setting the goal is something we can all do. But, reaching the goal is out of our hands.
In other words, be only the instrument or the "occasion" for the action that is destined to take place.
As long as we're not fully awakened, it seems we have to work and act according to the rules of the dream.
ON THE TOPIC OF REGRET
"Do you ever have any regret regarding past decisions?"
One of the strongest messages of these teachings is that everything happens by itself - and that decisions we thought we had made all by ourselves were actually made by Nature - by destiny. And, when it's time to move on, we simply move on - having nothing to do with any determination on our part.
Ultimately, we realize that 'regrets' have only to do with the past - and the past, being transitory, is not real. So, although the mind tends to nag us, our wisdom doesn't allow us to linger there. We're too focused on the Now to have regrets about what has happened before.
Below, a portion of an email I sent to a friend recently - who had posed a similar question.
"Whenever people came to Shri Brahmananda, with sad problems related to their relative life - family, careers, relationships, etc. - he would always say that these things were only temporary and would eventually pass away. He also explained that our life was merely "a drama" that has already been written - already in movement - according to our past karmas.
Shri Brahmananda would also remind us of Ramana Maharshi's legendary statement to his own mother "Whatever is destined not to happen will not happen. Whatever is destined to happen will happen, do what you may to stop it. This is certain. The best course, therefore, is for one to be silent."
And, this applies to having children - whether we're supposed to have them or not - careers, success, failure, relationships - everything! It's all pre-ordained. And, although we imagine we're the ones deciding, making decisions, using our will to make things happen, all the enlightened ones tell us this is not the case.
According to them, everything depends on the Law of Cause and Effect - or the Law of Karma. They tell us we have no control over the actions or statements that occur. But, we can be responsible for the motivations behind them and whether or not we choose to suffer as a result of these actions or statements.
So, now it's up to you. You can choose to dwell on memories from the past and to project worries into the future. Or, you can decide to enjoy each and every moment of your life - with all its ups and downs.
As is stated by Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."
ON THE TOPIC OF NEEDINESS
A mother writes:
"My elder son is so used to always being first, getting more, and so needing that!
My husband and I were talking about it last night and he pointed out that our son has been like that since he was a baby. Always greedy for things, attention, always fearful of not getting enough, of missing out on something.
Then he said: "God knows what he was like last lifetime. I wonder what made him that way?"
I told my husband our son needs to learn to deal with that. He's only a year older than his brother - and he's much more demanding than he is. In fact, he's often very mean to his younger brother - who adores him and is hurt by the way his brother treats him.
Maybe he has to work through his insecurities because there will certainly be a time when mom and dad won't be buying 2 of everything - making sure it's "all fair"."
I know what Shri Brahmananda would have said to you.
He would have said, "Not only does God know what he was like last lifetime, but both you and your husband also know. Because you were his parents last lifetime and perhaps other lifetimes, as well!
He would have gone on to say that both of you, as his parents in this and past lifetimes, did not give him enough attention, enough love - and that he never felt, even as a baby that he was No.1, (which is a baby's entitlement). And so, he has returned to you again - because you owe him this. He wants more now because in the past (other lifetimes), he always received less.
I know Shri Brahmananda would have answered you in this way because this was his usual response when parents complained that their children were too self-concerned, too needy.
When we're children, this is the one time of our life that we should expect to have our needs come before those of our parents. And each of us needs to have at least 2 or 3 years of being No. 1. In your son's case, in this present incarnation, he lost out again. Because, even if he had tasted that joy for a short period of time - before his baby needs could be truly satisfied, along came his younger brother.
And so, although not having had his fill of being No.1 and still unsatisfied, he had to yield to the new baby and then he was expected to be the big brother. While still a needy baby, himself.
No longer No. 1.
No wonder he's hungry for more, still needs more. He has never been given his rightful due.
It's certainly no fault of his that he's so needy. He was conditioned to be that way. It's not fair to expect him to "work through his insecurities." If he was born with insecurities, it's because others' behavior has caused him to be that way.
By the way, parents also do the best they can - but aren't always able to place their children's needs before their own. And that's because their own parents had not been able to do this for them.
It may take a while but I feel that if your son is given enough respect and a sense of being loved unconditionally (regardless of his behavior), he will finally be able to move past his former neediness.
And his fear of "missing out on something."
(following a silent retreat weekend at Ananda Ashram).
"By Sunday morning I was very, very, empty - void of personality. It was a sort of invisible energy, just being. It didn't have the vast, expansive, light feeling I get when meditating - when I feel that I'm in my natural state.
Which is the real, natural state? It was a bit sad and a feeling of distant energy on Sunday morning."
According to the masters of Yoga Vedanta philosophy, neither state would be considered your natural state. Our natural state is one in which we're not aware of being aware - the state of "Effortless Awareness" or "Pure Awareness."
When you're feeling expansive, light, empty, sad or devoid of personality, it indicates that there is a separate "I", judging how you feel. In other words, you're creating a sense of duality by labeling the feeling you're having.
Whereas, our natural state is a state of "Oneness", a non-dual state, in which labels, comparisons, judgments, opinions, expectations, all disappear.
Remaining as the "witnessing I" - just seeing what is - will allow you to be in your natural state of Oneness, effortlessly and spontaneously.
You can even witness the mind's tendency to label, judge and compare, noticing that the witness remains aloof and undisturbed. Witnessing opens the gate to real meditation - where even the witness is dissolved into an ocean of bliss.
Response to a reader's concern for his ailing mother
I'm so sorry you and your loved ones are going through such a difficult period in your lives.
Edgar Cayce said during one of his trances (paraphrasing) that we are never given more than we can handle. The most difficult challenges we're asked to face are those for which we are already well prepared.
I'm still hopeful there may be a new treatment for your mother. So many people, after they were first diagnosed, have had their lives extended for many years. I shall be praying and meditating that your mother becomes one of them.
This morning, I posted (on Facebook) one of Shri Brahmananda's legendary quotations. It is, as follows:
"There is an inner guiding light, a guiding consciousness, within every being's heart. It can be called by any name, but in all beings it is the force of awareness, "I-AM." This light is eternal - radiating in the center - in the heart of all beings."
Sometimes, the ego or personality is resistant to the powerful currents of energy and light pouring in from the higher forces. And so it enters into a dark state of depression and hopelessness. But the soul itself is receiving a constant flow of light and love - which will ultimately serve to help it transcend the life of the body, mind and senses.
Try not to worry. As you indicated yourself, your mother is so thoughtful of others she will begin to really worry if she senses you're worrying. And, that will cause her to feel more depressed.
If you're able to live more and more in the NOW, you will be naturally free of the sadness related to past occurrences and free of the anxiety that projecting into the future will bring. And, this is bound to affect your mother in a positive sense.
There's never any need to worry. Things will happen as they are meant to happen. And, everything, ultimately, is meant to take us up and up and up.
A reader asks about making decisions
I have been praying and asking to be shown the right path/direction I should take. I want to be true to myself and others around me, but I also want what I want out of life and if I am completely honest I might lose my chance of having what I want. Please give me some guidance.
A great teacher, J. Krishnamurti once said (paraphrasing), "If you find yourself hesitant about making a decision, it means you're not capable of making a decision at that time. It's best, therefore, to wait. To do nothing - until you have some degree of clarity and there's no longer this feeling of hesitation."
Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati, my teacher, said something similar. His advice was that before we even think about decisions that have to be made, we should first focus on being in a calm and peaceful state. He emphasized that our minds must be clear and quiet in order to see what is needed. Otherwise, if our thinking is desperate, panicky, we'll find ourselves making unwise decisions.
For example, you write that you're concerned about having a family before you "can't anymore." But, in the state of mind you're in right now, would you be able to create the best environment for your pregnancy - or for those important, impressionable months of a newborn? That's why the sages always emphasize the importance of a calm and quiet mind.
My suggestion would be for you to reacquaint yourself with you - what you need to feel peaceful and unafraid. That's where meditation and the witnessing process come in. In the true state of meditation, there's a sense of peace and a quiet security.
As you continue to practice witnessing, slowly getting the knack of it, you'll find that you'll experience a greater sense of empowerment - gradually becoming less and less afraid of life and of making "wrong" decisions.
In regard to the witnessing process - I am having a genuine difficulty in using such words as "I", "witness" and the phrase "I am the witness."
I feel there is more clarity in using the word "one" or "this one" rather than the word normally referred to as "I" when in the state of witnessing. Same with saying something like "I am the witness." When one is truly witnessing, where is the "I"?
Isn't there only awareness?"
I know just what Shri Brahmananda would say to you immediately after you asked, "Isn't there only awareness?"
"Yes! There is only awareness," he would say.
But then, if you stated that you have "a genuine difficulty in using such words as "I", "mind", "witness" and the phrase "I am the witness," he would smile and tell you, "So, don't use them. Use the words that do not give you difficulty."
And then I imagine he would conclude by saying, "But remember, any word - whether yours or mine - is not going to give you the awareness or the tranquil mind that will allow the state of meditation to occur. And it is only in meditation that all these distinctions, comparisons, likes and dislikes, merge and dissolve into a feeling of Oneness."
In his essay, "Peaceful Coexistence", Shri Brahmananda wrote:
Everybody has his or her own universe. All want peace and peaceful coexistence on the level of the thinking mind, but that mind is the cause of all multiplicity, division and disunity. The witness is always beyond the body and mind. Be the witness. Feel: "I have a body and mind, but I am not the body and mind. I am not the emotions. I am That ‘I-AM.'
Notice that he's not saying "Think: I have a body and mind, but I am not the body and mind."
He's saying "Feel" this.
He's also not saying, "Be the one who is the witness." He's saying "Be" the witness.
During the 30 years I was with Shri Brahmananda (while he was in his physical body) I heard him use many words to describe or explain the witnessing state and the state beyond the witnessing state. Sometimes he would say, "one" enters into the state of Pure Awareness. Or sometimes, the "I-AM" merges into the state of Absolute Godhood."
After a while, we began to understand that he wasn't much interested in finding the words to best express that feeling - because that wasn't possible. Language is language and feeling is feeling. As Krishnamurti liked to say, "The description is never the described."
What Shri Brahmananda wanted was for us to have a 'taste' of that state that was beyond the body and mind, beyond time and space. He wanted us to catch the "fragrance" of the unknown. And he told us emphatically that this could only occur when we were in the state of meditation beyond the thinking mind. His words: "Go beyond thinking into feeling - go beyond feeling into silence - go beyond silence into nothingness, Shunyam."
Eventually, we jump past the "I" and "the one" and even "the witness" and dive into the witnessing itself - wherein all our judgments and opinions disappear. And there's only THATNESS.
I know that I should be grateful that I'm joyful, pretty, smart, and have wonderful people in my life. I know I'm really blessed, and for the most part, I do feel joyful in myself and not lacking or wanting.
But, I don't know why I never have a boyfriend.
I try to run through a list of all the wonderful things in my life after morning meditation and prayers. I think my soul loves the comfort of companionship, but I'm also hardwired for something "more" than just lulling around with someone mediocre. I just slip, sometimes, and start wondering if I'll ever find someone. But the more I stick with the teachings and my practice, I feel increasingly content and completed in myself.
If you could give me any insight into this, I'd greatly appreciate it.
In 1998, when I was in New Delhi, an Indian friend introduced me to a very well known and highly respected astrologer. That day, my friend had her chart done and afterwards told me the astrologer had expressed an interest in doing mine.
I asked if he could do my son's chart instead.
The astrologer agreed to do so and after reading it, told me that my son's chart was extraordinary, and that he was destined to be a powerful force - that his future was "golden".
I remember telling the astrologer that my son would be pleased to hear that but something told me he would be unhappy if I didn't inquire as to whether he would meet his 'soul-mate' in this lifetime.
To my surprise, the astrologer said that this wasn't important for my son to know. When I pressed him, he said there would definitely be women present in our son's life but that they would not play a major role in his spiritual journey.
As I was thanking him and preparing to leave, he said with a smile, "When you see your son again, ask him this question: "Would you rather be ruled by a woman or by the Higher Forces?"
You're very attractive and charming and there's no doubt in my mind that there are other men still to come in this lifetime for you. Those with whom you still need closure - neutralizing. And that's why you were born with "plumage" (your beauty, charisma, magnetism) - to attract those who represent unfulfilled desires from past lifetimes.
But, in the end, when it counts most, I feel you too will realize that your strongest desire, your most passionate desire, is, and was, simply to find peace of mind. Through meditation - the gateway to this peace of mind - you will come to realize you don't need to attain happiness. Because you are That already. (So said my teacher, Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati and all the enlightened masters).
An email describing what happened during a "witnessing process."
This morning, I think for the first time, I was able to witness.
I have been trying and listening to the tapes and I've had some amazing experiences where I have found calm and peace but somehow I was never able to experience the state you have been referring to. Something was missing.
I awoke with a heavy heart this morning. I was about to go about my day, but I asked of myself to please take a few minutes to talk to Guruji. To close your eyes and meditate. Almost reluctantly (I can't believe it, but it was true - perhaps it's fear that tries to pull us away from the source especially in times when we need to be connected most), I sat in my bed and said ok, let me try.
And this is when it happened. As I closed my eyes, the image of Guruji appeared in front of me, then it seemed as if he merged with my very being and stood solidly in the background - as I proceeded to relax (unknown to me, effortlessly). Everything became very still and quiet. There was only a mountain-like solidity and this indescribable sense of unwavering calm. Almost like nothingness, but nothingness which contained all there is.
Thoughts would arise as ripples in a lake and I would watch them with attention, although disengaged - letting them drift away. Rarely have I known such a state of bliss. Nothing can touch one while there. And then I knew what you were describing - a true state of grace for which I am eternally grateful.
And I came out of it changed. Not only did I found my way back. I found more.
"How committed should I be to a particular path? Or can I pick and choose among them? Can I have more than one guru? Or am I just being indecisive?"
You should go where your heart leads you at a particular time. When I first met Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati (then, Dr. Ramamurti Mishra), his approach to Yoga-Vedanta was scientific, intellectual. That was in the 60's.
And then, in the early 70's, he introduced us to the Agni Hotra fire ceremony, Indian mythology, and encouraged observance of special commemorations of Indian holy days. Following his stroke in 1983, Shri Brahmananda placed greater emphasis on the study of Sanskrit, the scriptures and Vedic chanting.
However, his main focus was always on the deepening of meditation, the practice of self-inquiry, the art of witnessing and an in-depth study of Yoga Vedanta teachings. Shri Brahmananda also placed a strong emphasis on the need for practical application in our everyday life.
Throughout all these different approaches, Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati was also introducing us to the teachings of other masters, such as Lord Buddha, Shri Ramana Maharshi, Shri Nisargadatta Maharaj, Krishnamurti, Rajneesh (Osho), great Taoist and Zen masters, and many, many others.
And now, almost 50 years later, I still return from time to time to all these masters - according to my specific needs at a particular time. Shri Brahmananda taught us that any enlightened master whose teaching serves to free us from suffering and ignorance is serving as our "Guru" for that specific time in our lives.
According to Shri Brahmananda, all of these great masters are offering the same message by means of different approaches. That message being - to have as our ultimate goal the discovery that we are already free, already enlightened.
All we need is to stop identifying with the body/mind entity and recognize once and for all, I AM THAT I AM!