As I drove through the gates of PRANA with my 5-year-old son and the sum total of all my possessions, which fit in the back of a pick up, it became clear to me that by moving into PRANA I was making a commitment to be of service. That would be a new experience for me.
I had moved to Los Angeles because I wanted to be around J-R as much as I could. I met him in Berkeley where he came to give services and seminars. The second time I heard him speak at a seminar, my heart burst open to a depth of loving I had never experienced before. My love for J-R made moving into PRANA an easy decision.
I was one of the first PRANA residents. Our group transformed a doctor’s retirement home, and before that a turn of the century mansion, into an ashram and center for the teachings of MSIA. J-R wanted to call it Prana, which means the breath of life. There were about forty of us living there, all in our twenties and it was 1975. It wasn’t long before PRANA became an acronym for the Purple Rose Ashram of the New Age voted on and passed by the majority and approved by J-R.
In those early days of PRANA, J-R visited often. He would show up at the Thursday house meetings and our Saturday dharma days
Saturday was the day we did the heavy work of painting, fixing and cleaning the inside of our ashram and clearing and beautifying the grounds, which had been overgrown and neglected for years. We did things like tear out the bougainvillea that blanketed the terraced back yard. We worked hard. I worked physically harder than I ever had before, but it was fun because we did it together.
One Saturday I was working in the back area, which was extensive. There were four big terraces that ended in three smaller terraces planted with fruit trees. The back yard was set on a hill and we had a view of the neighborhood below and the city beyond.
I was working with other people digging up the dirt and whatever plants were there to re-plant and beautify the grounds. It was hot. I was sweaty and dirty. The bandana I wore to keep my hair from falling in my face would not stay in place. I had a long handled shovel to turn over the dirt. I was making a lot of headway with the hardened soil. I thought I was getting more done than other people in the group and was silently patting myself on the back.
At one point I looked up and J-R was standing in front of us watching. Although I loved him with all my heart, I was a stunned to see him. In those days, I had some trepidation when I ran into J-R. I was shy and didn’t know what to say to him. More than that, I never knew what he would say to me. Sometimes it could be painful. With a few words or a glance J-R could reflect to me a behavior in myself I didn’t accept and was avoiding seeing.
He pointed out to me what I needed to do to move myself into a greater depth of loving. J-R looked at me with a grin and said, “Look who’s working hard.” I bristled inside. I felt like he was ridiculing me. I wanted to be acknowledged for doing a good job. It took me a moment to digest his remark. I was humbled. He caught my ego in the act and brought me to my knees inside. It was uncanny how J-R could read my mind and shift my awareness in an instant. My ego was slighted but I experienced what it was like to be free of it, and I felt lighter.
Years later, J-R’s words echoed though my consciousness. His words had a way of staying with me and gathering more meaning over time.
I experienced most of the guidance I received from J-R on the inner. Besides showing me the folly of self-importance that day at PRANA, J-R had been giving me guidance like a father would. He was also telling me to work hard to accomplish what I wanted in my life. My pattern had been to take the easy way out and give up before reaching my goal, and somehow J-R, in his inimitable way, could see that.
To this day, 40 plus years later when I feel defeated or overwhelmed before or during a project or something I want to complete, I hear J-R’s voice in my head saying something like: if I work hard enough and apply myself I can do it.
In those beginning days of PRANA, J-R walked through the house and the grounds serving the highest part of us, and loving us with a depth I had never know before. He planted seeds of awareness in my consciousness that even today continue to bloom.