When I get these callings, like I did during my meditation at Ananda, I don't ignore them or even question them, because I know they're of prime importance for my spiritual growth. Ananda was planning a spiritual pilgrimage to India on October 26, 1987. I knew I had to be on it, and once again, tried not to think of the phobia. One of my problems at that moment was finances. My severance pay was almost depleted, and I was on unemployment that amounted to a mere $800 per month. But, I would worry about that when I returned to Woodside, which was another problem. I was going home one month sooner than expected, and remember, I had sub leased my cottage. I contacted Ananda's ashram in Los Altos that is near Woodside, to see if I could stay there for a few nights. Thank goodness, they had a room available, but only for a short time.
On the way to the ashram, I put notes on the bulletin boards in Woodside, and in the neighboring town of Portola Valley, stating that I would housesit at no charge for a place to stay. The very next day a woman called to tell me she and her husband were leaving in a week’s time to Europe for one month and needed someone to stay at there home and take care of their German Shepherd mix and three cats. I met with her and everything was all set, and to my relief and joy, I was able to have my dog, Josie with me as well.
Now it was time to think more about my financial situation. I knew I had to get back to work. I prepared resumes and was hoping to find a job in medical sales that would allow me to have the time to go to India in October. Weeks crept by, and no responses from my resumes. But I knew I was going to India and had faith I'd find a way. Then I remembered I had joined a stock option program with Baxter Travenol, the company I had previously been employed with. I immediately went to a stockbroker. At that moment the stock was at its highest, and wouldn't you know it, the amount it sold for was almost to the penny of what the trip cost. The Divine works in mysterious ways, which I was to find out over and over again on my journey.
A month passed, the couple returned from Europe, and my sub lease expired. It felt so good to turn up my driveway, open the chain linked fence, and smell the familiar scent of horses. Josie and I were finally home. I opened the yellow French door to my cottage and brought in my luggage and two bags of groceries. It felt so good to unpack and get reacquainted with my home.
I spent my days reading about India, riding horses, and taking long walks in the woods. A month before I was to go to India, I returned from one of my walks to a flurry of commotion coming from the barn area. Carol, a heavy-set woman with short black hair who lived in a nearby cottage on the property, yelled to me, "Josie is hurt!" I ran as fast as I could toward the barn. Josie was lying there next to a pick up truck loaded with farrier equipment.
The farrier said, "I didn't see her!" I picked up Josie and cradled her in my arms as she was dying. I wept and told her how much I loved her. I began praying to Yogananda to bless and guide her. I could only see the whites of her eyes, her tongue hanging loosely outside the corner of her foamed mouth. As I prayed, the Farrier with disgust said, "Oh, God!" and left.
I thought Josie had died, and then suddenly she went into convulsions. Even though I realize it is human to have contradictory and self centered thoughts, especially in times of great trauma, there is a part of me that I can never forgive for the thought that came into my mind at that moment. “If she lives I won't be able to go to India, because I'll have to take care of her.” When she died I was in one sense relieved. This feeling was almost as painful as her death and I don't go a day without telling her how much I love her. In my heart I know she sacrificed her life for me. She knew that my life had changed since I found God, and she was becoming a burden. In life and in death, she was the closest friend I will ever have, one that truly gave me unconditional love. I will always love you my dear, dear Josie--and thank you.
Carol helped me bury her on the property. I placed rawhide bones in her grave that she loved so much, along with Yogananda's picture. Carol and I cried as I placed a cross on her grave. Because Josie was so old, I wasn't able to take her to the many places that I used to. Even short walks down the road were too much for her now. That is why Carol, looking up from the grave said, "I think it's really remarkable that you were home when this happened." I knew it was not.
Later I called the farrier to let him know that I didn't blame him for Josie's death. I didn't blame him, but I totally disowned the part of me that was really angry with him for leaving like he did. I would find out in time, how I disowned many emotions that I felt were too negative and weren't "spiritual."
I called a dear friend of mine to let her know that I was home from Ananda, to tell her about Josie, and what my plans were for the future. Sylvia at the time was forty years old, two years older than I. She wore her naturally curly brown hair short to her scalp and has large black eyes. She was deeply saddened by Josie's death. When I told her about India, she said with the honesty that I so much adore about her, coupled with her dry sense of humor, "What! You're going to India. You hated India!"
In 1972 Sylvia and I were flight attendants, and we traveled quite a bit together. One year when we were planning a trip around the world together, I told her, "I have this intense longing to go to India, and I have no idea why." I was not in the least spiritual--not on a conscious level anyway but was always fascinated with primal cultures. In fact, Sylvia and I first met in Africa. I asked her, "Do you mind if we add India to our itinerary?"
She said, "No, not at all." So in August of 1972, we planted our feet on the hot earth of India. We landed at India Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. The airport was extremely hot and humid. There were crowds of people walking around in complete chaos. No one seemed to know what he or she was doing. When we finally got through customs, we went outside and hailed down a cab. Mobs of children surrounded us begging for money. They were extremely poor, absolutely filthy, and some were without limbs. We were overwhelmed, especially when we saw hundreds of people sleeping in the streets. We repeated over and over again, "What are we doing here?"
The first thing we did the next day was to go to a travel agent to make arrangements to leave this country of disarray. Because of all the chaos in regard to every aspect of Indian life, we couldn't get a flight out for another week. Now you know why Sylvia asked that question.
Fifteen years later I realized that when I first went to India, I was seeing it superficially and was judging the way of life in India from an American viewpoint, not trying to see their country through Indian eyes. I wanted to paint it with my American culture, bury the ugliness under a facade of cleanliness and modern exterior. I didn't have the maturation to part the veils and see behind the dark: the poverty, the dirt, and the chaos. I didn't have the eyes to see the deep spirituality that permeates their land that disgusted me fifteen years before.
October 26, 1987
The morning of my departure to India had arrived. I was so excited that I hardly slept the night before. My large brown tweed Samsonite suitcase was packed with lightweight long skirts and blouses that covered the shoulders. It is the custom for women in India to remain modest. I also packed loose fitting pants, so I could wear long winter underwear underneath them when we went to the Himalayas. I packed comfortable shoes without laces, so it would be easy to get in and out of them (it is the custom in India to always take your shoes off when entering a temple), lots of underwear, and boxes of Health Valley fruit juice sweetened cookies. Since I have a digestive problem, I decided I would just live on these healthy bland cookies instead of taking a chance eating spicy Indian food. Food has never been a big deal for me, so this was just fine. I wish it could have been that simple to handle the phobia of crowds.
I dressed comfortably in a black cotton pants outfit with a zipper up the front of the shirt. My taxi came at 9:30 a.m. sharp. I arrived at the Pan American terminal at 10:00 a.m., two hours before departure.
I found my fellow travelers sitting in a circle, singing chants. Asha and David, the ministers of our church and Vidura and Durga from Ananda Village in Nevada City, were our leaders. This was the first time that I traveled in a group and had someone else handle all the travel arrangements, and to be on someone else's time schedule. This was also the first time I had traveled abroad without the aid of tranquilizers and sleeping pills, since I developed agoraphobia. So it was a relief that I didn't have that additional stress to deal with, especially when I arrived in India.
I was introduced to my roommate to be, Sharon. She was an unusual looking woman, very tall with short dark hair and exotic looking eyes. I also met the other thirty-eight pilgrims. Before we knew it PA Flight #150 was being called for boarding. I was able to get a seat by the window that I requested, thinking it would be easier for me, if I could look out the window. Being in a plane for almost twenty hours was extremely painful for me. To escape from the waves of panic, I put a blanket over my head. I felt protected away from the crowd. Unbeknownst to me, Sharon took a picture of me underneath the blanket. She sent it to me months later, and all you can see is a dark blue blanket bunched up with two feet in red socks sticking out. I really did look a sight. But it got me to India in one piece. You have to understand that the calling, the yearning for God, was much bigger than the emotional and physical pain I was encountering.