“When I return to what I eternally am, was and always will be, I am what I wanted, I want what I am”. (Meister Eckhart)
I have many stories within "my story". Here are a few:
West meets East
My parents were sent to France to study. I was born and raised there until their studies finished and then we went to live in Persia/Iran when I was 9. I had to learn the spoken and written language of my new home land and adapted fairly quickly. By the age of 10, I had adopted a new identity. I no longer considered myself a French Catholic, but rather an ‘Iranian Muslim’.
Religion and Politics
Shortly after our relocation, Iran went through the Revolution which resulted in the King’s abdication and the Islamic government’s rise to power. During the revolution there was a sense of exciting chaos. Everything was in the air, which meant that anything could happen. Iran was open to all possibilities.
However, the Islamic government introduced new and radical laws. These included that I wore a head scarf to go to school. This took a little getting used to. A few years later, the Iran/Iraq war started which lasted for eight years. There was a heavy cloud in the air and despite the fact that life seemed to continue as normal, there was an underlying current of change. Everyone had a concerned look on their face. Food was rationed and I chose to spend my after school time having fun queuing with my friends for eggs, sugar, butter, cooking oil and all that sort of stuff.
I had a great time as a teenager and there was nothing stopping me from having or doing what any thirteen year old girl, anywhere around the globe would want to have or do. Indoor and outdoor life were very different. Outdoors, boys and girls weren’t allowed to talk, while indoors we enjoyed our private clubs!! The risks we took weren’t always without consequence. We had the “Islamic Police” crash one of our parties once, hitting, punching and kicking all the boys, while threatening us with lashes. We were lucky enough not to have been taken to the station. That was a difficult evening and despite all the fun of parties, I resigned to the fact that some risks are better not taken.
I, myself and Yoga
I was a very hyper child. I had loads of energy and my small body was often having accidents and I hurt myself badly in the process. My father who had studied Karate and Yoga, decided to use his skills to help me calm down and ground myself. Whenever he saw me getting high on adrenaline, he would relax me with Yoga Nidra techniques. It took me a while to understand what he meant by "relax" but I gradually got the hang of it and began enjoying the process immensely. Yoga came to his rescue once again, this time while parenting a disobedient teenager. After one of my rebellious episodes my father handed me a book: "Yoga in 28 days by Richard Hittleman". He said “you will study and practice that for three months”.
I fell in love ‘from head to toe’! I devoted an hour every day to Yoga for the next five years. Seeing how dedicated I was in my Practice, when I was nineteen he then introduced me to "Yoga of the mind" - Transcendental Meditation as taught by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I practiced regularly for three years.
I was drawn to Yoga and TM not only for their relaxing effect on my nervous system, but also because of their underlying principles. They were in line with the insights I had after an experience which lasted a year when I was 16.
At 16, I became obsessed with knowing God. The turmoil of being a teenager, trying to find out who I was and, all the talks of that period about religion and God were working through me profoundly. One spring afternoon, while standing by the balcony, I shared this deep longing with my best friend Monireh. I was looking out of the window and all of a sudden everything was clear.
I saw a cat walking. It was as if I was seeing for the first time. In the cat, I saw movement! There was LIFE, a force moving everything! I knew I was seeing God! I turned around and looked at Monireh, and said here IT is, look! Her eyes suddenly glittered in pure delight. I knew we were both experiencing the same current of clarity.
It was pure energy! We looked around and everything was alive, everything was imbibed by that energy, that inner movement; the sky, the clouds, trees, even the stones were alive, breathing as we breathed, observing as we watched! Even the table and chair in the living room were vibrating with that energy.
We were in the midst of love! We danced around with the joy of what we were witnessing. How could we have missed THIS?! We were seeing everything for the first time. The joy, the ecstasy, the bliss was incomparable to any experience we had ever had before. It lasted for months. Monireh and I spent all our time talking about this experience…. It was so hard to contain this joy that we could hardly concentrate at school! Monireh, who was naturally drawn to Persian literature since an early age, would recite poems from Rumi, Hafiz and Attar to express our state of being.
For months we remained drunk with life and nothing, but nothing was more important than the miracle that was passing in front of our eyes. Everyday there was a new insight, new excitement. We had come to realise that everything was ONE, this one Intelligence, Never Dying, Never Born; a Creating, Destructing Force.
Everything was born, manifested out of this ONE and Died into this ONE. This whole manifestation was pure Love. Death had no meaning. There was no death. Death was only part of the “everlasting one” which included “all”. The top of the roof was my place of prayer, where I would surrender to the beauty of the divine paintings. I would dance around or sit around in awe for hours immersed with the feelings of gratitude and humility.
I wanted everyone to experience this joy. I knew they could because I hadn’t done anything specific to achieve or deserve this myself. I tried to share my experience with my classmates. I thought that just by saying LOOK they should get it! LOOK at the sky, LOOK around you! But it didn’t seem to work. Sometimes this didn’t even work for me. And I would loose the ability to see, sometimes for days. I would look at the sky and see nothing, just like my classmates, I would just look at sky, but it wouldn’t mean anything and there would be no trance like joy. Monireh told me that this was the SEPARATION that Rumi writes about in many poems. She said the beloved (God) hides itself from our eyes, giving us this feeling of longing and deep sadness. I didn’t seem to have any power to switch this SEPARATION on or off.
Not for the faint hearted
We shared our experience with Our R.E. teacher – a very religious lady who had lost her husband in war. She warned us: “The road you have embarked on is a very dangerous one. Without a teacher and guidance you can get lost”. How could that be? I couldn’t see her point. After all, we were in pure bliss. How could danger have any place in this?
In the next few months that passed, I met other souls who had had similar experiences as I. They also were lovers of God but had lost their grip with the earth. They were in love, but also in tremendous pain. For them, life was a miracle, but their ‘own’ experience of it, here on earth seemed to be doomed. They were unable to cope with wars, dishonesty, crimes and suchlike and this unbearable pain seemed to be burning them from within, without mercy. Some would end up in Asylums and be dosed up with Prozac in order to cope. I began to see my own naivety. I was unable to include pain in the “Everlasting One which included ALL”. I couldn’t understand how God could be so merciless and let his lovers suffer this way? God, have you forsaken them?!! Unaware of many more, I thought that this must be the DANGER I was once warned of!
I was alarmed! This became a barrier between me and the beloved and the sense of ecstatic joy gradually gave way to a deep sadness and fear of loosing touch with life. I wanted my feet on the ground. I wanted to be able to live a normal life on earth like everyone else. Gradually without making a conscious decision, at around the age of 21, I stopped all of my spiritual practices; including Yoga, TM (Transcendental Meditation) and all forms of prayer and got “busy with normal life” for the next 15 years.
Come what may
When I was 21, I came to the UK. I married and gave birth to a beautiful daughter. I graduated from university and found the job of my dreams. Until one day, I realized that no matter how busy I was, no matter how much I achieved, there was still a yearning inside. Something was always missing! I never seemed to get the real satisfaction I had once known by just watching a cat walking! I vowed that I would find what I had lost to fear, years back. I wanted nothing more but to be in bliss through a deep connection with the divine “all the time”.
I started Yoga again and thankfully with the help of Matt (my Yoga teacher at the time - who assured me that I was grounded enough not to fear anything), I began experiencing the same feelings of ecstatic joy again through my practices of Yoga. These became more and more intense through my dancing meditation, and reading the words of spiritual Masters like Osho, Papaji, Nisargadatha, Byron Katie and Maharishi.
I had found my courage and this time, I was adamant to find what I had ‘lost’ and go to the ‘very end’, no matter how fearful the path got. I was prepared to risk everything, to have permanently what I had tasted a glimpse of. I was willing to face all dangers!
Let go and let God
Thanks to all my teachers and through Grace, I came to see that I had become hooked and addicted to my blissful self and had identified myself with ‘that’ state of mind. The feeling of void and separation was a result of “ME” standing in the way to the beloved. The sadness was there because “I Dorna” saw my self as an outsider to life, standing aside wanting more from life. Wanting more happiness, more bliss, more joy, more ecstasy, more connection with the divine. I was unable to see that I was happiness, joy and bliss all the time as long as whatever I believed Dorna to be disappeared!!!
Maharishi says, ask the question “who am I”?
This taught me to let go of all that I think I am; Persian, French, Muslim, Catholic, Woman, Kind, Happy, Sad, Spiritual, Yogini, Healthy, everything! I had to loose everything I had identified myself with to see that there is NO SEPARATION FROM THE DIVINE EVER!
This stillness within me which never changes
Is the same in you.
In that I see that you are my beloved,
My greatest teacher,
Taking away all that I wrongly identify with.
What I was so desperate to find for so many years, had been here all along.
It was the unchanging silence underneath all the emotional, mental, physical states that arose and changed on a daily, hourly, moment to moment basis.
That silence is peace.