Books were a major element in the story of my childhood/young adulthood. And many of those books crossed my path because of my mother.
One of these, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda, became profoundly significant to me. Beyond the look into a world that is so incredibly foreign, it was a book of possible magic. It was also a glimpse of a non-western religion, which fascinated me, and I was equally fascinated by the realization that there were people in my every day life that defined themselves as Buddhist rather than Christian, Jewish, or pagan.
My mother was one of those people.
She had a statue of Babaji, the deathless avatar, in her home, and I think that out of all of her belongings, it is this humble figure that I associate the most with her. It’s not that we discussed Babaji, or Yogananda, or even the book very much, if at all. Our spiritual discussions were much more about Ramtha and Shirley MacLaine. Still, she gave me a copy of Autobiography, and it’s one of my ‘comfort-food’ books, always possessing a spot on my bookshelves even when most of my library lives in boxes.
Recently, I discovered there was a documentary about Yogananada on Netflix. The name of the film is Awake, and the trailer is at the top of this post. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the list of people I know that have watched Awake, and know about Yogananda. When my mother brought up the film in a conversation, though, it was not the conversation I expected to have with her.
“Have you read the book?” she asked.
I was floored.
“…Yes. You bought me a copy,” I reminded her.
She had no recollection of that memory.
I accepted, a long time ago, that there’s a long list of experiences my mother has forgotten over the years. She’s told me repeatedly that I have an amazing memory – and I do; I still remember living in Florida when I was 3 or 4 – and that she doesn’t remember varied parts of our history.
But to not remember this was a shock.
Perhaps it is as simple as we all hold varied things to varying levels of importance. It’s certainly true that I’ve had people tell me, “You said something kind to me once and it meant the world to me,” and I don’t remember that exchange.
Once Upon a Time, having our histories not mesh would have thrown me into a tailspin of confusion and unsureness about what to believe, who to believe, what stories to trust, because for a good chunk of my formative years, my mother was my fellow traveler along the path to enlightenment. She was my touchstone to sanity. Which is not to say I put her on a pedestal; I simply depended on her emotionally in a way that I’ve not seen mirrored in other mother/daughter relationships.
But. Things change.
A few years ago, I found myself in Yuma. “JZ Knight lives over there,” my friend Sherry informed me with a nod of her head. It felt odd, to be in that place and not be there with the person that bought me the white book. I wonder now if, had I called my mother, if she would have remembered that shared history, or would it be another question of oh, have you read that book?
I can’t capture in words how weird this all feels, how odd to realize that my spiritual path has been solitary for longer than I realized, how startling it is to discover that the relationship I thought I had wasn’t as profound as I thought.
So. This is the state of me, on shifting sand.
I am sadder than I want to admit.
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi