The Hand of Guidance: A Story of Promise
The Hand of Guidance: A Story of Promise
by Sharda Brody
An experience I had in 1970 has carried me through all the changes in my life. I had just spent two weeks at a meditation class with a Sufi spiritual teacher in the French Alps. I'm sitting in my teacher's family home. It's sticky hot. Fat black flies blow lazily through the room, their drone harmonizing with our teacher's gentle chant as he leads our group through one of my favorite meditations. But I'm dripping with sweat, and the top foot of my half lotus position has gone to sleep, while the lower anklebone of my other foot is screaming in agony. My back hurts between my shoulder blades and a fly has just landed on my face. I am not having a good day! I wriggle a little in an attempt to shift my weight off my lower foot. I partly open one eye, focusing far down my cheek and follow the black fuzzy blob of the fly as it meanders across, sipping salt. My hand of its own volition brushes up and the black blob dips away, humming in tune with our teacher's drone. I resolutely close my eyes again and take a breath, trying to visualize a light in my solar plexus. I breathe in a little more.
My attention turns back to my teacher, and I gaze up at his cool and concentrated demeanor. His face is lifted, as though gazing at something radiant and beautiful through closed eyes. The heat and flies don't seem to bother him at all, and his breath moves through his body in total concert to the instructions he intones. I take one last look around the room of thirty to forty students, all breathing together, before I resolutely close my eyes again. I take a breath, trying to visualize a light in my solar plexus. I breathe in a little more, urging the light to move up into my heart chakra. Suddenly it's not me breathing, but the whole room breathing as one being.
At that instant I sense a brown hand reaching down and pulling me straight up out of my body! Frightened, I kick and squirm, trying to jerk free. I find myself being held close by this brown-robed being—who I sense to be a monk—encircling my body securely with his arm. I cannot see his face, for a cowl completely covers his head. His free hand lifts up and out, gesturing palm up, as if to say, "See!"
My eyes follow the hand to gaze into an exploding symphony of golden dancing radiance. Rapture vibrates through me and I'm washed, inundated with vibrant joyous light emanating from a central point ahead. What I see is a joyous all-encompassing light. I am no longer part of the Earth, but am being given a glimpse—even a promise—of what lies ahead. I struggle to break free and dive toward the center of the light, but the being pulls me back. He pushes me down just as strongly as I was pulled up, and I hear his voice: "You've been brought here to see and understand where you are going. Now you must go back and work for it."
I descend kicking, begging, like one drowning. I'm back in the room listening to the breath of the class. Immediately I am aware how my lungs are bursting as I try pulling in even more air.
I return to the Earth having seen a glimpse of another existence. "The Promise"—which I call this vision—promised me that I have a purpose here, no matter how seemingly small.
What makes this experience even more extraordinary is that one of my childhood memories is of a large, strong hand extending from a voluminous brown sleeve holding mine. My right hand stretches up high to reach his left hand, and I have to skip every few steps to keep up. We move down a long endless hall lined with doors—some open, some closed. Within each room is a woman being prepared for motherhood, and I'm looking for mine. I'm going to be born soon!
As a child this memory comforted me. I knew I was deeply loved and cared for by this brown-robed being. I would talk about it from time to time, but as I grew older, my mother would warn me, "Don't talk like that, people will think you're crazy."
I have slowly come to recognize, however, that my childhood memory, and the experience in 1970 of the gesturing monk, reveals there is real purpose to life, real inner goals, besides the usual mundane choices we usually seek. This realization has brought tremendous relief, reawakening the deep sense of trust and comfort I had felt as a child. I now use these experiences as the "thermometer" for judging who I am, and what I'm doing. Am I learning, is this toward the light I was allowed to glimpse?
As I look back over life's turns, twists, and seeming dead ends, I can trace a slow sure course toward a deep enduring inner joy, echoing the radiance of my guiding vision.
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