Be Here Now: American Sadhana and the Search for the Real

by Mark Chmiel

If you’ve ever …

put your faith in a guru
traveled to India and were blown away and never took a single drug

recited a mantra throughout the day
met your future wife at  a retreat in north India

had a mid-Seventies practice of TM
acknowledged 1970 seed planted from radio frequent playing of My Sweet Lord

engaged in a conversations where such words as Atman, samadhi, and sattva were common
quoted often one of your Gujarati-American students who told her classmates, “I look at you and see God”

went “off-script” after having read Be Here Now
smiled with a Namaste and palms together several hundred times

underwent 190+ hours for Yoga Teacher Training
learned how to play the sitar

intuited that the Katha Upanishad had a special message for you
wished you spoke Gujarati, Hindi or Bengali like your parents

challenged yourself by attempting ekāgratā while driving the car
heard one of your pre-med students say that her life dream was really a career singing and dancing in classical Indian style

gave friends Library of America edition of Walt Whitman’s Poetry and Prose
felt goosebumps even at the 57th listening to Krishna Das’s Ma Durga

heard at least fifteen times, various social situations: “I’m spiritual, not religious”
asked a seventy-year-old Catholic nun to tell your circle about the several weeks she spent in training with ninety-something Mr. Iyengar in India

cited skillfully Maharajji, Yogananda, or Ramakrishna
enjoyed Isherwood’s candor in his book, My Guru and His Disciple

chanted with cheerfulness Hare Kṛishna while walking down Michigan Avenue, a stunningly sunny Saturday morn
facilitated a nine-month reading group of the Bhagavad Gita, with Eknath Easwaran’s three-volume commentary optional

spent long retreats at California ashram
meditated while seated before classic b/w photo of Sri Anandamayi Ma

wondered if N. Finkelstein’s immersion in half of the Collected Works of M. K. Gandhi affected the scholar in ways he himself wasn’t even aware of
filled a notebook with the Holy Name

learned to appreciate Jesus through Prabhavananda
fused three of your students into the fictional character Tanya Chatterjee

understood the links of Thoreau to Gandhi, and Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.
saw activism at its collective best as karma yoga

noticed how one of your friends resembles the young Vivekananda
responded to the question at La Dolce Via, “What do you want your life to be about?” with Satyam Shivam Sundaram

Please consider the following…

__________________________

And there was some point as a professor at Stanford and Harvard when I experienced being in some kind of meaningless game in which the students were exquisite at playing the role of students and the faulty were exquisite at playing the role of faculty. I would get up and say what I had read in books and they’d all write it down and give it back as answers on exams but nothing was happening. I felt as if I were in a sound-proof room. Not enough was happening that mattered—that was real.
—Ram Dass (Richard Alpert)

In this winter course, we will explore the history of Indian spirituality’s influence in the West, investigate one person’s spiritual journey, and experiment with various practices to be more fully alive in the present moment. We’ll consider karma yoga, meditation, teachers, the Bhagavad Gita, mantras, and community. Throughout we will be encouraged to practice quintessential American pragmatism by taking what’s useful and letting go of the rest.

To participate, you need these books—
Ram Dass, Be Here Now
Philip Goldberg, American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Mediation— How Indian Spirituality Changed the West

Plus, a small notebook will be indispensable for reflections on the readings and experiments.

We will meet eight times, on Mondays, beginning on January 29, and continuing on February 4, 11, 18, 25, and March 4, 18, and 25. We will have class from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

We’ll start out meeting at Cafe Ventana on West Pine and may move on to participants’ homes (if people are up for that).

Optional: Participants are welcome to join me on Thursday mornings for 7:00 a.m. meditation at my home on Chouteau Avenue in Forest Park Southeast.

Tuition: $175. An online class is available for people outside of St. Louis; tuition is $125.

Please email if you are interested—markjchmiel@gmail.com

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