In View

Plucked from the Ozone Plucked from the Ozone

It's July 6th, the day before the Festival, and I'm walking around the Miami Arena with a legal pad filled with lists of everything I need to do before the doors open tomorrow - a list that would make no sense to anyone but a few of us who'd arrived five days earlier to help with ushering. I feel really good, happier than usual, and extremely glad for the chance to be helping with the preparations.

Wandering backstage, I see Maharaji has just arrived. He's talking to some people about the translation booths. I want to be closer, but don't want my approach to distract him from his task. I am watching him talk, fascinated by how purposeful and relaxed he is at the exact same moment. The next thing I know, I'm standing next to him, but don't know how I got there. It's almost as if the room had been tipped and I just sort of slid his way. I like standing next to Maharaji. It feels good. Like I'm the best man at my best friend's wedding, with nothing to do for the rest of the day except celebrate. And though I'm not much taller, it seems as if I'm looking up at him.

Maharaji asks the band to play and takes a seat in the third row to listen. Song over, he moves to another seat. This time on the side. Another song and he is all the way back in the Lipper deck. He wants to hear how the music will sound for the people who'll he sitting there tomorrow. Torn between watching him and watching what he's watching, I end tip feeling like a spring-headed doll on the back ledge of a car.

Before I know it, Maharaji has gone and I'm standing next to Glenn Carver, congratulating him on being asked to emcee.

"Congratulations to you!" he replies.

"What?"

"Haven't you heard? You're speaking tomorrow night."

Suddenly, I'm 14, my pants are too short, and I'm thinking there must he a terrible mistake. Me? Quasimodo with an English degree? I look around for someone to acknowledge my confusion, but everyone is smiling.

I start jotting down my thoughts on a very small piece of paper. You know, key words. The kind of notes you tried to memorize before THE BIG FINAL. Every 15 minutes or so I add a phrase or two. But it's getting hard to read and I'm running out of space and getting the distinct impression that all I've succeeded in doing these past two hours was write a kidnap letter to myself…. And then I realize. There's only one thing I can do to prepare - and that is to be in the experience. Trust. Let go. Enjoy the play. And let the love I feel for Maharaji and the experience Knowledge brings express itself when the time comes.

The next morning I'm back in the hall. Maharaji has just made another surprise visit and is sitting in one of the front rows. I'm standing off to the side, watching him and feeling my oats when, suddenly, someone tells me I'm supposed to walk out on stage and speak for five minutes. "So the guys can do their sound check," he explains.

There's absolutely no time to get my act together. I walk up the stairs and adjust the mike. Maharaji is sitting there, his arms folded across his chest, and lie's looking at me. Twenty people or so are sitting around him. I mumble something about this being a "life check, not a sound check" and fall silent. I fiddle with the mike. He's just sitting there, looking at me…

How is it that I can barely remember entire years of my life, but have no trouble at all remembering a single moment with Maharaji? A word from him. A smile. A glance. What is it that happens around him that leaves me so amazed? What does he do that leaves me so undone?

…Its 5:00 now and I'm sitting backstage, waiting and watching. Maharaji seems to be everywhere, checking things out. It's comforting just to watch him move - serious he is, but not heavy; focused, but not rigid; playful, but not frivolous.

"It's always tougher for the second speaker," he tells me just before I go out on stage. "Joan just used all your good lines. But you know, You don't have to talk about what's going to happen. Just what's already happened."

Ain't that the truth. Something has happened to me since receiving Knowledge - something that has made me a very happy person. And all I have to do now is acknowledge it.

I acknowledge it…

And then, my 20 minutes up, I turn and exit. Maharaji is waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. He's smiling.

Did it end there? Was it over like some perfectly produced movie, me riding off into the sunset or some post-program victory dinner with friends? No. This story never ends. The next day I'm back in the lobby, dealing with details, but from a totally different perspective. Is there a Knowledge to practice? Yes. A path to walk? I'm not sure, anymore. Tell me, where was the path when I started laughing and crying at the exact same moment on Saturday night after the Oasis video? Not laughing so hard I cried, or crying so hard I laughed. No. Laughing and crying at the exact same moment. Who am I in this state? What is my future? My past? My accomplishments? My dreams? My plans for self-improvement? In this space, I am home. Free. Buoyant. Alive. Struck dumb by my own magnificence. It's everything I'd always prayed for - the moment Maharaji has been inviting me into for years. The moment of being so immersed in the beauty, joy and wonder of life that I have absolutely no idea what to say.

Only who to thank …

MITCH DITKOFF(c)