Guarding the door was the beginning. It led me to guarding the Heart. Baba knew what I wanted, so he used my worldly skills. They turned out to be the perfect metaphor for the practice I was looking for. Throughout my life I had always felt directed to the next level. Dance led me in to Tai Chi Chuan, and from there Baba came to take the task of teaching me. As I moved forward, certain aspects of the previous practice were dropped, and something new in a deeper sense was added. In the end Baba had me let go of all the outer activities and rest in the Heart. Free fall became a constant rest.
Guarding the Heart means being with our experience at every moment, letting whatever comes up come up, and functioning appropriately on the physical plane.
When I first went to Baba I had been a successful Tai Chi Chuan teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The school I started had over a hundred students. Martial Arts shaped how I approached life. Earning a degree in acupuncture and working in a clinic, studying Mandarin Chinese, and practicing calligraphy were part of my immersion. My aesthetic naturally leaned toward a Zen spareness, and my clothes were informed by my practicing Tai Chi Chuan several hours a day.
During the winter of 1975, I was a guard on the rooftops or patrolling the streets around the Oakland ashram. At the DeVille in upstate New York, I volunteered to be at the gate through which Baba walked to and from the evening program. I willingly missed the program in order to have that one passing minute with Baba. While everyone was in the program, I worked to remain alert guarding the gate.
There was never a problem. Nor was there a possibility of a problem. This was a chance for me to practice. This was Baba beginning to teach me what I had come for. He was teaching me vigilance and one-pointedness without the Tai Chi form—acting in and adapting to any given situation. From there, he was going to move me inward.
This foundational discipline of one-pointed vigilance continued like a thread running through all my subsequent roles around Baba. Whether serving as head of security in Ganeshpuri, standing attentively as Baba’s gatekeeper in the courtyard or by his back stair, working as his appointments secretary during his world tour, or staying all day on Baba’s porch in Delhi rather than go sightseeing with other ashramites, I stayed awake and stood guard at all times, no matter what was happening. Usually it was nothing. But good warriors do not wish for battle. They remain still and always ready. Then they can adapt easily and quickly rather than stick rigidly to a plan.
Baba was my focus. Even when I worked in the ashram library in Ganeshpuri, Baba was my focus. I constantly practiced what he had taught me internally.
Everything external provides an opportunity for the practice, because as is the external, so is the internal. Starting with one-pointedness on the outside, the perceived shifts ever inward. The internal then informs the external. Ultimately, there is only the perceiver, and all else is the perceived. Baba was always moving me to guard deeper and deeper inward. So be with your experience at every moment, let whatever comes up come up, and function appropriately on the physical plane.
With sustained, one-pointed practice, the attention reaches the door to the Heart. At that point the vigilance is thoroughly instilled, having developed from the more superficial practice. The guarding of the Heart forces us to be appropriate always, no matter what the outside may say. Hence Christ’s saying that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart”, or St. Symeon affirming that we should “renounce all other spiritual work and concentrate wholly on this one doing, that is on guarding the heart”. Even Ho Yanxi, the Sung Dynasty commentator on Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, says, “So unless your heart is wide open and your mind is orderly, you cannot be expected to be able to adapt responsively without limit, dealing with events unerringly”.
We are all to guard the Heart and then rest in the Heart. Whether we play the role of householders, monks, or anyone else, we are all soldiers. We must be vigilant. Our relating to the world must be done from the source, which is the Heart and not the head.
Share this Post