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Nicola: Dear Sundari, first and foremost I would like to extend my sincere thanks and gratitude to you, Ram and all the teachers on the ShiningWorld site. The service and teaching you provide is incredible, and I am so grateful for all that you do. This letter is mostly just to connect and say thank you.
I am a married, 31-year-old, stay-at-home mum. I have always felt drawn to God and wanted an understanding of life. Around age six or seven (maybe earlier or later, I’m not sure exactly) I realised that I would die regardless of anything that happened in my life, no matter how “good” I was. I have a vague recollection of asking my parents what the meaning of life was then, but was not really given an answer. Around the same time, I found an old yoga book of my mother’s, so set up a shrine in my room, started meditating and trying to do yoga, all very strange for a young girl on a farm in Australia! My family were very tolerant, but I also became aware that people didn’t consider it “normal” and it wasn’t really the proper thing to do, so I stopped it all at around 11 years old. High school led to excessive drinking to “fit in,” which led to deep depression and becoming suicidal. I had my “dark night of the soul” at eighteen when I decided to kill myself, but at that moment a voice said this is not a logical or ethical solution to my troubles. I went through counselling, therapeutic drugs, etc. which really helped. I also started taking party drugs that made me and everything feel like love. This was great until I developed intense anxiety, so I started yoga again and realised I could get the same high from yoga. I threw myself into yoga, stopped drinking and drugging, became vegetarian, started meditating and eventually become a yoga teacher. This continued for seven years until when on a yoga course our philosophy teacher recommended James’ book and website. That was three years ago. I fell pregnant soon after, which has been a great blessing, as life became a lot simpler and I learnt that I have no control of the outcome of my actions (you cannot force a baby to go to sleep!), to surrender, pray, neutralise my likes and dislikes, and basically give everything to Isvara. This householder life has been a great practise ground for me to apply Vedanta. My husband of five years has no interest in yoga or Vedanta, but is completely supportive, and I share bits and pieces with him occasionally. In the last few years I have read How to Attain Enlightenment, The Essence of Enlightenment (multiple times, and I am continually rereading both these books), Tattva Bodh, The Yoga of the Three Energies, Tiprura Rahasya and many, many satsangs, watched many YouTube videos and am making my way through the Bhagavad Gita lectures.
I understand that the above is all just the story of the jiva Nicola. I am the unchanging, ever-present awareness, the same awareness that was aware at seven years old as now. This knowledge is not yet totally firm. I still identify with Nicola on and off, but is becoming easier to discriminate and knowledge is getting firmer as I keep studying, applying the teachings and putting it all in Isvara’s hands.
I also was wondering if you know of any qualified teachers in Australia. I know in your satsangs you say you do not need the physical presence of the teacher, but I am also aware that misunderstandings can happen when just reading the teachings (as James has mentioned). It is unlikely that I can travel to you anytime soon, so was wondering if there was anyone in this corner of the world to connect with.
On another note, I am really looking forward to your guna book. Since having low iron during pregnancy I started to eat some meat and did feel slightly confused ethically, but your article clarified this for me and put my doubts to rest. I would also like to thank you for the satsang article about children in which you gave a beautiful and eloquent description of God that I am planning on teaching my son when he is older.
I hope this letter finds you and Ram well. Please pass on my deepest gratitude to everyone at ShiningWorld.
~ Yours sincerely, Nicola