Communities

Phoenix: City Of Rebirth

Four Inner Views
Inner View I

As you travel the interstate into Phoenix, you're struck by the concrete, the John Birch billboards and the cactus. Everyone tries to love it, but there's no wild imagination that can make a cactus as friendly or as beautiful as a big old maple tree. There's a sparseness to the landscape which offsets the density of a million people trying to make the desert a home.

No one is from Phoenix. Premies here came from the Northeast, with a few from the Midwest and West Coast. We don't seem to know how we all got here. Some were heading west, but ran out of gas before California. Others filled up the ashram after Millennium. Sometimes, especially when it's 115, we question why we're here. A very good question. Phoenix is a crossroads, both geographically - and in spirit. No one plans to stay here forever, but it seems like an incredibly fine location for growth. It seems appropriate to our little community that the city is named for the mythical phoenix bird who dies and is reborn. We are in constant rebirth, and birth is a painful and beautiful experience.

Once known as the devotional center for "monks and monklets," then as a radical confederacy, Phoenix now isn't striving for any identity. We have very little organiza- tional activity after a flurry of it last Year. In arty other place, you would call it "grass roots." I We're trying to get down to that simplicity of loving to practice Knowledge. We're trying to remember why we came to this at all.

6    Divine Times, December 1976

The Arizona family on a retreatInner View II

Phoenix. God I love this place. An Australian premie who lived here for some time (and later learned how much he loved Phoenix) once told me, "Phoenix is just a bloody great replica of a city in the middle of a desert." I've always seen it as a city of rebirth. My rebirth. Knowledge causes me to continually rise from my own ashes as my experience outgrows my concepts.

The purifying hellfire of summer is past now. Man, you haven't even begun to feel distraction 'till you've tried to meditate under a sheet when it's 110! But the seasons move on and Arizona is settling in for another winter of springtime. Now I remember why people live here.

Outside, God is creating another "Arizona Highways" sunset, silhouetted against the ever present palm trees. I think back to a year ago tonight and palm trees of a different sort. Illuminated by fireworks. I silently said goodbye to Maharaj Ji and prepared to leave Orlando and make a futile attempt at returning to "normal" life. That meant going back to what I considered a "together" community. Perhaps we were more together geographically than any other way (congregated in one neighborhood), but still, it was so beautiful. So sincere. There was Love. It was truly a family. But like all families, we kept growing up.

The seeds of Knowledge had sprouted. Grown. The roots were getting crowded. The time had come to separate all the plants into bigger pots. Even Brothers and Sisters can hamper growth sometimes. Seems like a lot of us plants had trouble adjusting to our new soil and pots, even though we'd brought it on ourselves. It was so confusing. Yet so much was the same. Same sun inside us. Same water of Love. And us, trying to stem the seemingly endless tide of weeds from our soil. All under the loving guidance of our ever-faithful 18 year old Perfect Gardener. And you know, he's got quite a nice crop of little cactuses going here in Phoenix.

So here I am NOW. At times I'm even aware that I AM. Life goes on. Love goes on. And I look at this crazy city, with all its Martian vegetation, and I see that it's not Phoenix that I love. But I'm getting to a point where I can love and I'm aware of that, and I just happen to be living in Phoenix.

Inner View III

The importance of inspiring company is something I recognized at the same time I recognized my mind. The Phoenix community has always provided me with both the inspiration and also the reminder that imperfection still exists.

The community has changed since I first came to the ashram for dinner and a few days later did my first faltering pranam. The ashram was the main focus of the community. The premie houses, novitiate house, and even the aspirant house were all within walking distance of the ashram and all were on ashram schedules. After spending some time in this environment I was transferred to Denver, and when I came back nine months later, I felt as though I had returned to the Twilight Zone.

Gone was the strong ashram, gone were the crowds at satsang and the Knowledge enthusiasts. Also missing were the comfortable definitions of service, satsang and meditation. Yet what remained was love and respect for Guru Maharaj Ji. In the four months since I've been back, something beautiful and wholesome has taken place.

We've all had to deepen our understanding of service, satsang and meditation individually and experience it so fully that we come together on our own to share and grow with each other.

For instance, with the ashram here it was so easy to do "service." All you had to do was go in and help in the kitchen or sweep the porch or run a few errands. Now there's more service than ever to do - but you have to take the initiative and you have to assume the responsibility.

Nightly satsang can only be as fresh and open as the people who are attending are to their experience. Lately we've been putting much more emphasis on formal meditation -- sitting together at least two times a week for an hour. And I think we're beginning to understand collectively what it is we have in common.

I see the Phoenix community as a nucleus of love, discipline and determination from which emanates an atmosphere of love, discipleship and encouragement. I can't predict the direction in which this particular community is moving, but through my association with it and my contribution to it, I'm being brought closer to Maharaj Ji, which is all I want.

Inner View IV

For about three years I've been living in Phoenix and have made friendships with premies that have become lasting, much more than passing acquaintances. The number of premies here has never seemed so large that I couldn't get to know most everyone on some basis or another. That intimacy has affected a lot of our activity in the past and it seems pretty characteristic of what's happening now. We're working together in satsang, service and meditation very comfortably as friends. Our activities in community service or satsang are all happening at a level that's just within our means, just within our grasp.

What I feel is required from me is a very deep, consistent commitment in Knowledge, because in this small group of people in this town there's no structure that is going to pull me or push me into Knowledge - I have to be there in Knowledge because I get myself there. Right now I feel Maharaj Ji has provided me with a lot of chances to develop a potential and take more initiative than I have for a long time.

Inner View I Again

The love is deep. We almost know each other too well. Spurts of sell-consciousness hinder open communication, and sometimes the community seems scattered and unsure. We get side-tracked. But the quiet and intense desire of a handful premies to experience Knowledge overshadows momentary lapses from knowing our purpose.

Divine Times, November 1976    7

The Daytona Beach community on Shri Maharaj Ji's birthday Fresh From The Astrodome Energy

The Daytona community has changed and grown tremendously since Cathy and I first arrived in January, 1974. Being former ashram residents and still fresh from the Astrodome energy, the warm climate of Florida seemed the ideal place to marry and raise our child Kriya, now two years old.

Daytona at the time had five new premies: The Robbie family, Jack Mills, and the Paytas family. We all joined together and confirmed that satsang, service, and meditation were essential, and opened our home to the public. It's been that way ever since.

Florida has been pretty active with initiators, two Holi festivals and, of course, the Orlando festival. That was the icing on the cake. Daytona was getting a nice little group together when Jack and Marie Carson moved here from Massachusetts. Marie has really been instrumental in getting us connected with IHQ. The goals and objectives of the community became more fine-tuned when we had a spokesman, and more and more premies' needs were fulfilled.

We formed a modest community fund and council, and all our activities were directed toward the premie community. Inside Story, our premie newsletter, came into being. After doing service on the newsletter, I realized it was inspiring nonpremies as well. Listening to "community involvement" satsang, I realized that I was part of a larger community with its own goals and aspirations: my city. The same week I spent time photographing Jimmy Carter with some city fathers, which boosted my incentive to become involved with the whole community. Later I was asked to shoot a large picture photo story of the public services for the centennial committee. The photos would be placed in a time capsule to be opened in one hundred years. It humbled me to meet all those people who were dedicated to providing me with a clean, safe community.

Today I work in a studio, meeting people and sharing something, even if it's only a smile. Most of the business is from people who are permanent residents. Knowledge has built a permanent foundation in my life with its attributes of consistency and positivity; customers see that or feel that every time they come in.

The community is a family. We are bound together by the subtle knowing deep within that Guru Maharaj Ji is the master, and the love is undying. It hasn't stopped growing.

- Doug Davis

The Big Three

The Daytona community began in November, 1973.1 came to live with Dan and Barb, premies who had been my friends during three years of naval service. Some of their friends started coming to satsang. My job took me to surrounding towns and one day I met a premie named Bob, who knew of some other premies. Shortly after that discovery, we received a phone call from a premie in Gainesville asking for Doug and Cathy Davis, whom I knew nothing about. He insisted they were in Daytona and I didn't know what to say, especially as I was standing in a pool of water from my bathtub. He hung up, I dried off, and went downtown to investigate a metaphysical bookstore that Bob had told me about. I found out later that the store was run by a premie. Anyway, above the bookstore was a hotel and standing at the front window looking down at the street was Doug Davis. I drove up, got out, and he saw what appeared to be a Guru Maharaj Ji button pinned to my shirt. Meanwhile, I went into the store and leafed through a book, when this guy said, "Jai Satchitanand," and we started hugging!

Shortly afterwards, six of us - Dan and Barb, Doug and Cathy, me and Terri Ellwood, another premie who appeared around the same time - all moved into a beautiful house together.

The premie community is part of a larger community that revolves around the food co-op, The Good Food Market. Friendliness pervades and a lot of the barriers between premies and public are being slowly dissolved.

It seems that Truth won't leave any untruths in us, and everyone seems to be confronting lies and unconsciousness within. The couples seem to be getting hit the hardest, a time testing the validity of those relationships. In my own life, the big three - satsang, service, and meditation - have been emphasized with a renewed understanding that they are the key, period!

- Jack Mills

A Jekyll and Hyde Town

In November of 1975, we moved here and bought a home. We find it a beautiful place to live. The sun always shines. People here are from all areas of the country, and are very friendly.

Tourism is the main industry and it's like a small town and a big town all rolled into one. When the races are on, every hotel is full. In winter, tourists from up north come in droves. In summer, people from further south come to the beaches for their vacations. It's a Jekyll and Hyde town. Beachside is like the boardwalk at Atlantic City, with the crowds, the strip shows, and the noise; while the mainland is like most other suburban communities, pretty homes with beautiful landscaping and friendly neighbors.

For the most part, the rest of the people in this area are not familiar with our activities. Propagation has been low-key and only a few new people come to satsang. We play Maharaj Ji's tapes at satsang and set up the video programs and movies when they arrive. We have potluck dinners twice a week. Last night at satsang we discussed ways to aid DLM financially.

Although the community is small, we will progress if we dedicate ourselves, but I also feel that we need new people to inspire us to go forward. I feel that I am not as strong as I should be; however, most of the time I realize that Knowledge has changed my way of life for the better.

- Jack Carson

8    Divine Times, December 1976

From left: Doug, Kriya, and Cathy Davis So Many Changes

It was very difficult moving into a community with the nearest DUO center almost three hundred miles away. In Massachusetts I was so dependent on premies and very involved in the ashram where my daughter was living. I was very lonesome and missed dear New England where I was born and lived for over fifty years. I missed the premier who showered us with so much love and understanding, and some of our children and grandchildren who live there. So many changes have taken place in my life and now I can say happily that they were all for the best. Again I realized that real love and peace is inside and it is the only thing that we can depend upon.

Living in Florida is so beautiful: fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, fresh air and the warm ocean. My husband and I are changing our eating habits and are working naturally toward a diet of raw foods. We are learning so much, and more than ever we want to keep our bodies healthy because we have a purpose in life. A group of premies are going to classes on a healthier lifestyle, conducted by a natural hygienist. Recently a dear sister became very ill and needed constant care. We called an emergency meeting and with donations and community funds, we were able to send her to a health clinic, and her daughter is being looked after by premies. This beautiful hygienist spent endless hours, free of charge, with our sister, giving her so much love.

Thank you is so little to say to my Guru Maharaj Ji who has given me the love that I have always wanted!

- Marie Carson

True Gold Among Glitter

From prestigious parties for politicians to hanging out with the hippies, I've experienced the "surrounding social environment" on a variety of levels. Daytona Beach seems to portray vividly the blind search for satisfaction in this world: the roaring speedway, the crowded summer beach, the glittering boardwalk arcade, the lurid nightclubs, grabbing at our senses, promising fulfillment, only to leave us empty and searching again. It's difficult to find the true gold among all this glitter, but it's there.

To me, Daytona also typifies Knowledge in my life. As a child, I was in love with this town. Growing older and seeing more clearly made me want to leave it. But within the past three years or so I've found that it's really a beautiful place; something opened me up to the beauty here, although I hadn't heard of Knowledge. I began to see many people with loving hearts and willing hands. Though the people and potential were always here, I was blind to them. Something, grace, allows us to be shown.

During my days with the drifters on the street there was a saying among us: You always come back to Daytona Beach (the older folks said it was because you got sand in your shoes.) Everybody said the place was dead and they'd split but they'd be back around. I left a few times myself.

Funny thing is, that's like this Knowledge is to me, too. We, I know I do anyway, keep on tripping out, getting caught up, feeling depressed, being overjoyed, stuffing our senses, taking it to the limit, only to be rescued by a clear brother, or a Divine Times in the mailbox, or the grip of Holy Name on seeing an incredible sunset: Amazing Grace. Not fully understanding it, but loving and learning it more and more with each day, hour, moment, breath that passes. I keep coming back, something (that old sand, in my shoes) keeps drawing me home, inside where I belong.

- Mary Anna Adams

An invocation to the infinite on Premlata's first birthday Love Is What We Are

Thank you, Guru Maharaj Ji: If I could give satsang, I would remember to speak about the love I'm experiencing. If I didn't have the love, I would be empty. Our premies are warm and open to each other; they are gentle and soft with the children. I could say it was the blue ocean, the wind, but I know it's the love inside.

We don't have a reputation as a group of premies, we aren't really "known." The love is what we are. It's what we see in each other. It's what I can see in everyone. I can see us growing up and doing what we want to do. Thank you for the guidance we share, the encouragement and compassion we give, the hard work, the laying back, and each other.

- Nancy Clark

Although we lacked enough space to run all the contributions from Daytona Beach, our thanks go to everyone for their efforts. All photographs of the Daytona Beach community were taken by Doug Davis.

Divine Times, November 1976    7