Growing up in a small town, where inclusivity was not the status quo, from a very young age I realized I wasn’t welcome in this world. I remember the moment I fell into that pain. On the playground in 4th grade, a kid asked me if I thought this other boy was cute, and I said “yes,” because I did. This started a whole domino effect well into my middle school years of people making fun of me for being gay. The word “gay” imprinted on me, and I began hating myself very much. I fell into deep depression and anxiety that lasted into my first year of high school, where I still denied being gay to anyone who asked.
I remember the day in sophomore year when a girl got in my way as I was walking to get lunch and asked me again. I was so tired, I didn’t care about dying anymore, I didn’t care that I could get beat up or made fun of. I was tired of lying. I said yes. What freedom was in that yes.
I was being true to myself for the first time in my life. This led to a realization that I actually wanted to be happy. I didn’t want to be beaten down. I remember after I came out, being told a thousand times by people around me that I was going to hell for being who I was. My own dad said that to me.
And that’s where it all began: my spiritual journey you could say. I decided if everyone was going to tell me God hated me, I should find out for myself if that was true. You could have called it an unhealthy obsession. I was praying to God every night on my floor, sometimes in desperation, to just show himself, to tell me if he hated me and if he did to fix me, make me better.
Somehow, I could never say how, I remember one day I woke up and felt this Presence in my heart. It was blissful. I was so happy I couldn’t even comprehend it. My body was filled with what could only be described as a golden light, both visible and felt. I had no one to go to for this. I didn’t know what it was. I just knew it felt right, like home. I remember my mind was quiet, and I just knew: God is here and God loves unconditionally. It was like a radiating star in my heart. What followed was so many experiences and synchronicities and moments of undeniable confirmation, and then a couple of years of my mind trying to grok what had happened. And in that attempt, I lost it.
I believe I would have lost it no matter what. Experiences come and go, and thank goodness because the loss of this blissful knowing of God led me to pray again. This time, for help. Just help. I was still suffering, and somehow it felt even worse now that I had tasted heaven. I just wanted God more than anything. Somehow even though that experience had pierced the veil, I still didn’t feel the total fulfillment I was longing for, so so deeply. I had glimpsed the possibility, and that was a hope I hadn’t felt in all my years of living before that moment.
So after praying for help, I remember going out and buying books about enlightenment. I studied Wiccan, Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, and there was so much I gained from many teachers. It felt like the greatest adventure of all time, both in its great urgency and in this felt sense that I was so close to something I truly had always wanted.
I remember googling enlightenment, which is quite funny in retrospect. I began watching videos on enlightenment on YouTube, and with that my ‘recommended’ feed changed and eventually…a video of Gangaji popped up. I believe it was an audio put over some nature scenes and it was her asking “Who are you?” After that video, I felt a sense of presence even deeper. It was like an ocean, deep and silent and still. I remember going to find an actual video, and finding “Open, Unprotected, and Free.” The moment I saw her face I knew she was my Beloved. I immediately found the link to her website, and they blessed me with a scholarship for many years to her monthly meetings. I am so so so grateful for that. It changed my life.
Seeing many of you here on the forum, and looking at the photos of the 30th celebration, I see so many familiar faces that helped me simply by showing up to Satsang and letting themselves be recorded. I’m so grateful for all of you. Your awakening was my own as well.
I can’t describe the feeling the first time I saw Gangaji, and every time I saw her to this day. I saw no separation. I saw immovable light and presence. I saw love with no bounds, and I saw that she was showing me, this is my own Self. All I had to do was surrender.
As a gay man, it was quite surprising to find the love of my life in a woman , of course not in any romantic or sexual sense, but in the sense that I had found God, here. I had never felt so lucky in my life. I still feel that way.
After watching every single video on the Oasis as the Media library was called back then, I couldn’t stop talking about Gangaji. My mom, being the kind and beautiful soul she is, took note of this. For my birthday in 2016, she gifted me an open meeting and a weekend retreat with Gangaji in Seattle, WA. I’ve never been so excited in my life.
On the forum I wrote to Gangaji and told her, “I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know if I can raise my hand or should.” So much doubt. But I told her I was going to see her.
When the day came in March of 2017, my sister was late picking me up for the meeting and I was so anxious. On the way there I experienced a panic attack like never before. I felt like I was dying. My heart wouldn’t stop racing, my palms were sweaty, everything tingled, my hands and face felt numb, and I was going into shock. Meanwhile, oblivious to my state, my sister and a friend we brought along just kept driving. Once we arrived, a sense of elation took over me, but also a quiet settled in me, a sense that a pivotal moment of my life was about to occur.
We went in and I got to meet people I had seen in videos before, which in and of itself was already mind-blowing. I got to hang out in the hall and take in the surroundings, and then it was time to go in.
People had already taken their seats and so we sat in the very back. I remember when Gangaji walked into the hall I felt a reverence and respect so deep that I was almost scared of making any wrong move, as funny as that sounds. As we sat in silence my mind was racing, my heart wouldn’t stop beating out of my chest, and then I felt a wave roll through the room, a transmission of peace and spaciousness I could palpably feel.
The meeting began and person after person went up, and in every moment I was intensely engaged, fully listening. I was hanging on to every word she said. My heart would yell a “YES” every time she spoke. Nearing the end, I began fearing I wouldn’t be able to speak with her. I could not bring myself to raise my hand. I really couldn’t. And that’s when she paused and looked out in the crowd and asked “Is Trent here?” I stood up and raised my hand in the back. She looked at me and somehow even from that distance I felt she was looking directly into my heart of hearts. Then she said, “Meet with me after the meeting,” and I patted my heart to show my love and gratitude, and she did the same.
I was buzzing, I was dizzy, I was shocked, and I was so so happy. The meeting ended and she began walking towards an exit door. I stood in the back just watching. I inched closer and closer, she was speaking with another person, and I think someone was asking for a photo or something. All I remember is waiting for a moment to step in, and then the moment came, and I can’t remember who but someone waved at me to come closer.
I walked up to her, and I remember feeling immediately indescribable love and peace. But not just that - she was seeing me, and I remember I looked around her and there was this golden light, like specks of dancing golden dots, and somehow I knew that was Life, and that was Us. I realized I was holding her hands moments after it had already happened. I looked into her eyes and it felt like looking into the eyes of a void, and yet this intense awareness. The whole cosmos was there, and yet, it was myself. Just that. My Self. I remember gasping, or something like that, and a great relief swept through me: I had finally found Home. My Beloved looked me in the eyes and said, “You have done it. You are so pure. You are so true. You have done it. You have done it. You have done it.”
I remember my mind being totally empty, it was like a dissociation, but I was entirely present. I was emptied out entirely. A container with nothing but emptiness. As she spoke those words, she was speaking directly to me, but a me that was underneath all the rest, at the core of my being itself. I felt totally seen, totally held, totally known, totally loved. All I knew was love. All that there was, was love. An exploding star of happiness and joy was all that was left of me.
As we neared the end of our mostly silent moment together, I felt her look into me for any lingering doubt, any lingering anything. Whether or not she actually did that I do not know, but in my experience, she was having ME look and see, and that moment shifted everything irrevocably. In that moment of her looking at me, there was nothing at all to be found. Like having my mom look under the bed for a monster with me and finding nothing there. That’s something I’ve heard Gangaji say, and that is a very apt way of saying it.
Then it was done. I instinctually felt it, there were no words needed. I said “Thank you” almost as a whisper, and of no volition of my own, the words quite literally spilled from me straight from my heart.
And as I walked away, I began crying, tears of happiness. I remember as I walked out of the doors and into the open, I saw the stars twinkling so brightly, and the flowers glowed with a luminescence of life, and I knew that life was beautiful.
Life is precious. Life is the good news. I am that Life.
It is not lost on me that in the beginning I felt unwelcomed by the world, and in the end, I feel a total and absolute welcome Home into my own Self, our one Self. What grace…
Thank you to Hillary for taking this picture unbeknownst to me and without my asking. I treasure it still. Thank you for allowing me to share my story of Meeting Gangaji.