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Chloe Goodchild

I have a feeling that

my boat has struck

down there, in the depths,

against a great thing.

One morning in the winter of 1987, I was sitting in my bedroom, enjoying the play of the lemon sunlight upon the trees outside, when ‘She’ arrived. I was not expecting her, not consciously that is. Roger put his head around the door saying, ‘Here’s something for you,’ He slipped a package into my hands, smiled at me, and left for work. Who was sending me a package from Germany? The book had been sent to me by a publisher friend who lived in Berlin.

‘She’ was a photographic essay of the life of Anandamayi Ma, one of this century’s greatest Indian woman saints. I opened the book at random. Within seconds I was weeping like a helpless child, years of tears. Anandamayi’s breath­taking beauty shone out at me from every page. It was not simply her physical image that spoke to me, but something far deeper. I felt seen and received in a way that I had never known. Who was this intimate stranger. looking at me from these old photographs, images fixed onto paper years before, tracing her life from youth to old age? I did not know in that moment. All I knew was that these photographs arrested my heart, and stilled my restless senses. This woman’s seeing made me feel instantly whole. She returned me to the source of myself. As my body softened, my tears subsided. I simply sat there with her for the rest of the day.

The presence of this extraordinary Being before me was the summation of everything that I had ever glimpsed or sensed of the Divine. Until that moment something had always been missing. I had never known such a direct and luminous encounter with the real in the form of a person. Was this what the Mother Abbess and others experienced when they spoke to me of encountering the ‘Christ within’? Each photograph was accompanied by some words spoken by Anandamayi Ma. The first words that I read were:

How much more time will you spend at a wayside inn?

Don’t you want to go home? How exquisite it all is …….

One is, in his own Self, the wanderer, the exile, the homecoming and the home..,

oneself is all that there is…

I turned over the page, and saw myself in its reflection:

Do you want deliverance from the bonds of the world? Then weeping profusely,

you will have to cry out from the bottom of your heart:

Deliver me, Great Mother of the World, deliver me!,.. When by the

flood of your tears the inner and outer have fused into one, you will

find her, whom you sought with such anguish, nearer than the nearest,

the very breath of life, the very core of every heart…

I am conditioned as well as unconditioned. I am neither infinite nor

confined within limits. I am both at the same time … I am whatever

you conceive, think or say… why don’t you take it that this body is

the material embodiment of all your thoughts and ideas. You wanted

it and you have it now.

It was then that I remembered my dream from the previous summer, the dream of the Great Mother. This was She/This was She/Of this there was no doubt. The face of my guardian angel was finally revealed. Anandamayi Ma, or ‘Ma’ as she was called, had left her body five years before, the year my daughter was born. However, the knowledge of her physical death seemed of little importance. Her invisible presence was undeniable. The book was called, Matri Darshan, which means, ‘The Grace of The Mother’. Grace it was.

From that morning on, Ma became my indispensable traveling companion. I

took her everywhere with me, allowing the photographs and the text to work on me:

The destiny of every human being is to destroy the veil that hides

his own Self. To realise this Self means to realise God,

and to realise God is to realise one’s own Self.

Before long I found myself talking to these images as if to a living person. Then I had more dreams about her. She became an integral and living presence in my life. What was, and is, this connection with someone whom I had never met in the body? My dialogues with her began to filter into my voice and sound work, and I found myself introducing her teachings into my workshops and meditation retreats.

The previous emphasis of my work on self-actualization through a therapeutic

approach to singing changed to a more direct exploration of the creative and spiritual dimension of the voice, both within performance and other artistic endeavours, such as song-writing and recording. What was she calling me to now? It was at this time that the meaning of the first dream that I had had of Ma, in which Neem Karoli Baba was questioning me about my voice-teaching, began to strike a chord within me. Was my teaching yet another veil, in which I was successfully hiding my own singing development behind the wish to ‘help’ others? This question hovered about in my mind, while Ma continued to speak to me, patiently and simply.

Essentially there is only one inner Call, but the different religions have devised different methods to make man aware of it. Once a man awakens to it there is no more need to cry out again and again. Truly speaking it is not you who call Him but He who calls you … when through intense and undivided devotion to Him the hunger of the sense is stilled, His call will find response from your inmost depths and reverberate through your whole being.

Her Being began to influence and inspire the lives of others who came to my workshops, and the demands for the photographic essay on Anandamayi Ma -Matri Darshan – increased.

It is by seeking to know oneself that the Great Mother of all can be found.

(Matri Darshan—Anandamayi Ma)

Finally I was compelled to travel to India to meet the people and places that had been transformed by her presence. It was with this visit to India that the previously irreconcilable problem of the duality of my existence came to an end.

In January 1990, I arrived in Benares, city of light, the Hindu god Shiva’s homeland, and the sacred crematorium ground of India. A seething chaos of humanity squeezed into stalls, rickshaws, ragged old tents, holes in the ground, the old, the young, the rich, the poor, spiritual devotees, officials, wheeler-dealers, the diseased and wanton, all in one place. Life,’ death and immortality was sandwiched together between the traffic and temples. A cacophony of sounds filled the air bicycle bells, scooter hooters, screaming and laughing children, sellers and buyers bartering and haggling over prices, Smells of every kind – petrol fumes, spices, incense, urine – intermingled………

The next day. I was walking along the Ganges looking for Ma’s ashram. I had been told that I would have no trouble finding it. Finally I stopped and asked a local, ‘Can you tell me where Anandamayi Ma’s Ashram is, please?’ To my surprise and delight, he looked behind himself and pointed to a large whitewashed temple building, right there in front of me. I climbed the many steps up to it, and walked into a beautifully kept courtyard overlooking the river. Serenity presided. The confusion and craziness of the outside world fell away. I discovered that this ashram also included a girls’ residential school, managed by one of Ma’s devotees, Kanti Gurtu, a woman in her sixties. She appeared somewhat austere at first but when she realized the influence which her beloved Guru had had upon me, she started to relax and became more forthcoming. We talked awhile, and finally she mentioned that they had kept Ma’s bedroom just as it was when she was alive. I asked if I might visit. Kanti Gurtu nodded with a smile.

As I entered the tiny room, there before me was a simple four-poster bed, upon which was a huge photograph of Ma, propped up against the wall, resting upon the bed. In front of the bed was a footstool covered in yellow silk. Ma’s small white sandals were placed upon it. This was incredible. I was overcome by the simplicity and exquisite beauty of this little room. Nothing else was there, except an old wardrobe and two sheaves of corn pressed against purple velvet, held within a picture frame. I looked down once again, and saw the pair of small white sandals placed upon the stool by the bed. I could not believe that her feet were once protected by these shoes. Could such a giant of a presence have worn such tiny shoes? I slowly bowed my forehead upon her sandals – this was the closest physical engagement that I had had with Ma. Tears welled up. An incomprehensible deluge of emotion filled me up from head to toe. A chorus of a thousand different birds flooded my bloodstream with their singing. Pins and needles tickled the surface of my skin and raised the hairs at the back of my neck. I knelt and allowed a state of prayerfulness to transmute my tears into equilibrium and inner quiet. I could have stayed there a very long time. I felt the filling of an absence, the response to my longing, a mysterious ‘yes’ from out of nowhere. As I bowed my head again, I became aware of the residual resistances of my self-conscious willing self, my ‘Britishness’ dissolving the instant my forehead touched the

brief moment, I felt light shining through my body.

When I returned to the city, the crazy bustle of it all felt like a playful dance. I was able to let the people and the noise in without my previous fear of being overwhelmed by it all.

Extract from “The Naked Voice”