We are in this together. Who is in it? All of us. Who? All. In order for me to be special I have to be separate. In Truth, I have to be together. When we separate, we believe there are places we do not belong. When we unite, We belong everywhere.
“I am uncomfortable here because of them.” “I am uncomfortable there because of the environment.” In truth, it is because of me. That is the reality, and I have to work to be ME everywhere. Then everyone gets to be themselves. The risk of being excluded is always there, based on our karma. Not everyone in our midst wants us to be included. The more limited we are, the more narrow and superficial the criteria for membership.
When I went to Washington University in St. Louis, I was not sure how I was going to navigate the environment. In high school I had played a varsity sport every season. Now in university, that was not an option since Title IX was not in place. So I went out for cheerleading and pledged a sorority because those were two kinds of activities I had shunned in the past. I wanted to see if my dislike of them was because I was sour grapes or they really were not me. I became president of my pledge class and cheered as a varsity cheerleader and then as a professional cheerleader for the St. Louis Cardinals. Because I belonged to particular groups, other groups tried to exclude me. I would have none of that, and found myself going back and forth across borders. There was a sense that I was testing to see if I could do it all. I was unwilling to be forced into limitation.
Years later, I had lost this understanding and willingly limited myself. At the time I first was introduced to Baba and his teachings, I was not interested at all because the tradition Baba came from was Indian. The trappings turned me off. This was not where I came from; I came from a Chinese Taoist and Zen tradition and culture. I believed there was nothing in common between what I was studying and what Baba taught. Of course, I was completely ignorant. Surrender to the truth of my own stupidity came when I saw how I was approaching the teachings as if they were glued to culture and not to the essence.
Of course, there were others who divided rather than included. One woman in the ashram told me that Baba did not like women with suntans or with short hair. At the time I had both. Then there was, “Baba does not like Tai Chi Chuan”. When I finally allowed myself to do the form even if Baba did not like it, one of the trustees said that it was beautiful and there was no way Baba would be against it.
Baba taught me that the physical trappings were not what any true tradition is about. He made sure I was not attached to anything temporal. What Baba taught was universal and internal. We are truly One. What divides us can and must be let go of.
Coming back to America after Baba had left his body and my first son had been born tested me to see if I could really live being inclusive. After three years at Yale Divinity School we moved to Wilton, Connecticut, the town The Stepford Wives was written about. These people prided themselves on belonging and fitting in. No one who did not fit in could easily survive. My then husband was the curate of the Episcopal church. It was expected that I attend services weekly. I now had a second son whom I was nursing discreetly in the back of the church. After nine months in Wilton I was told I could not nurse my baby. A prominent woman in the parish said, “They may do that in India, but we don’t do it here. We have put up with you; now you have to toe the line.” Someone from the diocese came to help and told us about an Eccentricity Quotient. This meant that groups can handle just so much difference. To fit in, we could not have too many elements outside the norm. We would have to decide which things we could give up in order to belong. The irony was, I now had long hair. This was unacceptable. Rather than cut my hair, I began to wear it up. Friends sent fancy clothes that were not me, but I did not care. I stopped nursing in the church. Though I now fit in externally, I never fit in internally. Thank God.
Skin. Clothes. Hair. Language. Accent. Food. Style. Education. Money. Race. Profession. Nationality. Gender. Age. Sexual orientation. Body type. Sports affiliation. Ethnicity. Religion. Politics. Music. And any other element we can use to try to separate ourselves from each other. Even if we had all the same attributes, none of them would be what keeps us together or separates us. We all belong to each other. We all belong to God.
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