Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Life Well-Lived, Part 2

Kathy and I spent New Year's Day with a small and wonderful group of people, just eating, drinking, and sharing our lives with one another. Our hostess, easily the most worldly person I've ever met, shared with me some of her childhood memories of living in Los Angeles in the late 1930's when she met, and began weekly personal conversations with, Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of the Self Realization Fellowship.

She would attend his kirtan (ecstatic chanting) on Sunday afternoons, and then he would answer her questions about life. If Yogananda were teaching today, his kirtans would probably fill the Staples Center or Dodger Stadium. In those days, he was practically unknown outside of a few local devotees, and his kirtans would attract maybe a dozen people. Private lessons with him were easy to get.

Our friend was eight years old when she began these weekly sessions with the guru, and they continued until she was well into college. It's no wonder that she has attracted the kind of life that has been hers for some 77 years. Her compassion, openness of spirit, and generosity have brought her into proximity with Presidents, astronauts, statesmen of all stripes, and entertainment luminaries, most of whom have departed.

One of her oldest friends was there, yesterday. She was a favorite
comedienne and actress of mine when I was growing up; a legend in my family's home. Now 93 years old, she shared with me her philosophy of life: "What you are doing when you are eight is what you will be doing when you are eighty." Her childhood was spent alternatively dressing up in outrageous costumes, and doing art. Now that she is no longer performing, she has returned to painting, and several of her works were on display in our host's home.

Like the gathering's hostess, who, as a child asked probing questions of Paramahansa Yogananda, our new nonagenarian friend
was sewing seeds that would sprout over her entire lifetime. And she is still growing.

Success is not rightly measured by the worldly standards of wealth, prestige, and power. None of these bestow happiness unless they are rightly used. To use them rightly one must possess wisdom and love. ~ Paramahansa Yogananda

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