Click. Click. Click. Click.

[Listen to Asha read this story]

There were no pilot lights on the propane cook stove in Swamiji’s dome. At first we used matches to light the burners, then Swamiji bought a device like a pistol that shot a spark out the barrel. You pressed it against the gas ring, turned on the fuel, and pulled the trigger.

Swamiji performed this maneuver effortlessly, but I could never get the hang of it. It took him one click. It took me at least a dozen, and still, in the end, I often gave up and used a match. My ineptitude with that thing was a standing joke between us. We often laughed about it, but Swamiji never let me off the hook. He was determined that I learn. I couldn’t get away with using a match. His whole house then was just the dome, and wherever he was he could still hear me in the kitchen.

One day when he was in seclusion I came to cook him dinner. He was keeping silence, so he greeted me with folded hands, then went to the sleeping loft to rest until dinner. Everything was fine until I had to put a pot on the stove. With a sigh, I picked up the sparker. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. Click. It was worse than usual.

Somewhere in the middle of all those clicks, Swamiji came into the kitchen. He took the sparker from my hand and carefully showed me how to use it. As usual, with one click, he lit the burner. I put the pot on the stove and he went back to the loft.

My relief was short lived. A few minutes later, I needed a second burner. I considered changing the menu, looked longingly at the matches, then picked up the sparker.

“Swamiji does this easily,” I said to myself. “I’ll pretend that I am he.” I adjusted my posture to match his straight spine, heart-forward stance. Then, imitating his movements exactly, I lit the burner in one click.

He was in silence, so he couldn’t cheer, but from the loft came the sweet sound of Swamiji applauding.

This has been a vivid memory of mine for more than thirty years. I always thought it a charming example of what fun it is to be with Swamiji. But now as I write this, I see he had a serious purpose.

I couldn’t use the sparker because I couldn’t concentrate long enough to coordinate all the movements. I’d put the barrel to the ring then forget to turn on the gas, or I’d pull the trigger when it was too far away to light. Lack of concentration was a problem in areas of my life that were far more important than cooking. Meditation, for example.

Swamiji couldn’t order me to concentrate; it was something I had to learn for myself. He didn’t want to criticize me directly, he knew I was over-sensitive and easily discouraged. But I did respond well to humor. Because the sparker was a humorous game, I persevered, and eventually I learned to use it, sometimes even in one click. It was a small step, but over many years, small steps make a mighty journey.

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