Above the Clouds

from Diksha

The weather report late Thursday afternoon said that the biggest storm in fifty years was going to hit Northern California right where we lived. We had to be in Los Angeles by early afternoon the next day for a big retreat my husband and I were leading. The closest airport was two hours from our mountain home, and we had booked a flight for 9:30 a.m. on Friday.

If the weatherman was right, flights would be canceled. We could leave that night, drive the ten hours, and arrive exhausted, but in time. We didn’t know what to do, so we followed a tried-and-true principle: When in doubt, meditate.

At the best of times I can be anxious about flying, so the prospect of going through a storm had my emotions all stirred up. I wanted to drive to our destination and was certain God and Guru would agree with me. I put the question to Master at the start of my meditation, “Do we drive or fly?” I then did my best to put it out of my mind so that I could concentrate on my practices.

About forty minutes later—calmer now, but still inclined to drive—I revisited the question. “FLY!” was the unmistakable answer. I checked again. “FLY!”

My husband was also inclined to drive, and was surprised when I told him the unequivocal answer I had received.

“What time should we fly?” he asked.

“The guidance wasn’t that specific,” I replied. The weather report said that the storm would get stronger as the day went on, so we decided to try for an earlier flight. Usually it costs a lot to change.

“If this is God’s will,” I thought, hoping to confirm that we were making the right decision, “we’ll be able to switch without extra charges.”

I picked the earliest possible departure time, 6:00 a.m., and explained to the lady on the phone why we needed to switch. She decided to waive the usual fee.

We had to leave home at 2:30 a.m. to get to the airport in time. By then the storm had hit, and we drove in heavy rain and high winds. The flight was still on, although when we boarded the plane it was swaying in the wind.

“It will be very bumpy all the way to Los Angeles,” the attendant told us. The flight wasn’t full, so she added, “Take the seats closest to the wings. That’s the safest place on the plane.”

My heart speeded up and I started shaking uncontrollably. I concentrated on breathing as deeply and as slowly as I could, praying to God and Guru, “You told us to fly. Now You have to take care of us.” I couldn’t even speak to my husband, but sat silently, focused on titiksha: calm detachment.

“Even at our cruising altitude of thirty thousand feet,” the pilot announced over the loudspeaker, “it will be a bumpy ride through strong winds. Stay in your seats with your seatbelts fastened. This includes flight attendants. There will be no drinks or snacks served.”

We took off through rain, wind, and hail, the plane swerving left and right as we sped down the runway.

I reminded Master again that we were on this plane because of his instructions. As we got airborne, I suddenly heard in my mind lines from the Festival of Light, the ritual we do every week at the Ananda Sunday service. A little bird, representing the devotee on his spiritual quest, is buffeted by the winds of trials and difficulties.

“Give yourself into my hands!” cried the wind. “To your strength I can then add my own.”

Then came more remembered words of reassurance, this time from Master’s early writings:

Know that you are safe behind the battlements of God’s eternal safety, even though death knocks at your door or you are rocked on the seas of suffering.

Ten minutes later, the weather changed completely. No more wind, rain, or turmoil. The flight was smooth as silk. God’s peace filled me as tears of relief and gratitude ran down my cheeks. Then came more lines from the Festival:

At last, the little bird heeded [the wind’s] counsel. Suddenly it found itself soaring joyously, high above the clouds!

All later flights from Sacramento were canceled. The highway was closed due to flooding. If we had tried to drive, we wouldn’t have gotten through.

In Los Angeles it was warm and sunny. The retreat went great. The topic: How to Know and Trust Your Inner Guidance.