lauren_cover_icon lauren_back_icon Fighting Spirit by Lauren Burns

Lauren Burns seems to be an admirable young woman. In her autobiography she mentions the events that occurred in her family's life after her father became involved in Divine Light Mission and Guru Maharaj Ji and here are the relevant passages. She evokes the family spirit that infused 1970's Divine Light Mission, in Australia at least. As the daughter of a minor Australian celebrity who was a good friend of Johnny Young who was able to provide financial support and positive publicity for "Maharaji" she was probably treated with significanly more attention and "love" than the daughter of a neurotic single mother.

Back Cover Blurb: WHEN LAUREN BURNS WON a gold medal in Taekwondo at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, she became an instant Australian hero and the proverbial 'overnight sensation'. But her journey was a difficult and demanding one, involving years of preparation. Here for the first time is the full story behind Lauren's outstanding achievement. With characteristic warmth and sincerity, she shares stories of her unconventional family life - including growing up as the daughter of famous pop singer Ronnie Burns - and how she began her love affair with taekwondo. In Fighting Spirit you will read the intimate details of Lauren's road to success - the sacrifices required, what it was like to be part of the Australian team at the Olympic village and, finally, the fight that resulted in the gold medal - and how she has dealt with her post-Games celebrity.

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A few months after Mike was born, we moved to live in the inner-city suburb of Kew. Mum and I were heartbroken at leaving our home in Olinda. When we hopped in our loaded car for the final trip to our new abode, we cried all the way down the mountain. It tore us apart saying farewell to our beautiful house and garden.

The main reason for our change to a city lifestyle was to follow Ronnie's career change from entertainment to interior decorating, building and architecture and also so he could follow his new-found spiritual master, Guru Maharaj Ji.

Four years earlier Ronnie had become a devotee of this Miami-based Indian guru. Mum had mocked him, resenting his commitment to a spiritual path, which would mean he had less time to spend at home with us. In her bitterness she wouldn't listen to what he had to say about his growing understanding of deeper aspects of his life. Over the fours years Ronnie had changed dramatically, an incredible peace and calm coming over him. Even at such a young age I noticed it. He had always been a fun-loving, caring and sensitive father and husband, but the change brought stillness, bliss and inner peace for him. Even his face changed: a new lightness and sparkle appeared in his eyes. Mum would

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scoff at him as he tried to put into words what he was feeling in his heart. 'I feel like a child, like a new-born baby,' he would say tenderly. 'I don't want a relationship with a baby, I want a relationship with a man!' Mum would retort hotly, walking out of the room. It didn't appear to upset him.

Because of the profound change in Ronnie, eventually Maggie couldn't help but be drawn to look deeper into what her husband was going through and what might be missing in her own life. She began to attend satsang, which in Hindi means 'sharing knowledge and the truth'. People who had what they called 'knowledge' - those who had been shown Maharaja's meditation techniques - and those who were waiting to receive this knowledge, would go to satsang and share their experiences. Children were welcome and I would happily play along with the other kids. The adults were peaceful and lovingly attentive to all the children, and I felt very safe and secure.

Ronnie had been attending satsang for almost three years when he received 'knowledge'. Mum, on the other hand, received 'knowledge' within two weeks of deciding she would like to know what all the fuss (or stillness) was about. After she began practising the meditation techniques, she also transformed. I saw the same bliss appear in her face and the same sparkle I had seen in Dad's eyes appear in hers. They both meditated for two hours every day. I would often sneak quietly into Ronnie's study where he sat with a blanket covering him while he meditated. It was a warm and cosy room, navy blue walls with rich wood panelling. I would gently lift the blanket and crawl into his lap; he would welcome me and I would curl up and sleep as he continued his meditation. At the end he would sing a song they played at satsang. This was my favourite part and as Ronnie sang I would dance around and sing along. It was a beautiful time in my life.

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With many gurus, or spiritual teachers, people get fanatical and look to the guru for 'the answer' instead of looking within themselves. The word 'guru' simply means 'revealer of light, expeller of darkness'. As it happened, many people who followed Maharaji became obsessed with their 'Master' and he had to put a stop to it. In the late 1980s he asked that people not 'worship and deitise' him, have photos of him on their walls or build shrines to honour him, and that they practise the techniques he taught and look within themselves to find peace and love rather than towards him. Maggie and Ronnie understood the importance of the relationship with 'Self' and believed that it was only by learning to go within and understanding yourself that you could channel your energy in the right direction.

During these few years I watched my parents discover their true selves, find a profound inner peace and embark on a journey that would shape them into the people they are today. The changes that occurred in them didn't affect their personalities but created a deep inner contentment that seemed to glow through their relaxed, happy faces. I thought the whole thing was wonderful and loved going to satsang or any other event. We even travelled to Rome to hear Maharaji speak. I had a ball in the two weeks we were there and picked up Italian quickly. I vowed to return to Italy when I was older.