Time Out

[Listen to Asha read this story]

“I felt I was in a certain box at Ananda and I’d never be able to break out of it unless I left, at least for a time,” Marcus* said, years later. “Maybe it wasn’t true, but that’s how it looked to me at the time.”

A friend had some land and a few cabins on the coast and Marcus decided to move in with him. He proposed to Swamiji that they could start an Ananda community there.

“Did you send Marcus to start a new community?” I asked Swamiji. It hardly seemed like the right time; we could barely keep up with what we were already doing. But I didn’t think Marcus would leave without Swamiji’s approval.

“Spiritually, it would be better for Marcus to stay here,” Swamiji said frankly. “But he feels oppressed at Ananda right now and wants the freedom to do things in his own way. If I oppose him, we could lose him completely and that would be tragic for him.

“He has decided to move to the coast, so let us consider him sent. Better for now just to be his friend and support whatever he feels to do.”

Several times a year after that Marcus would meet with Swamiji to talk about the community he was trying to start. Swamiji was full of ideas for how to make it a success. He even gave a weekend retreat there.

But each time, before the discussion started, Swamiji would test the water to see if Marcus would be receptive to a frank suggestion that he drop everything and come back to Ananda. Swamiji was subtle about it, though, and I don’t think Marcus ever knew.

Each time, when it was clear Marcus was determined to continue in the direction he was going, there would be a small, almost inaudible sigh from Swamiji as he mentally shifted gears before throwing himself into a creative discussion of how to make the community a success.

It went on like this for ten years.

Marcus did good work and many people were helped. But in the end, the coastal community never did take hold. Confident now that he could define his life any way he chose and Swamiji would still support him, Marcus’ rebellious mood waned. He began to long for the happiness he had known at Ananda.

Finally, one day Marcus said to Swamiji, “I want to come back.”

“That would be wonderful,” Swamiji replied.

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