Manju Bazzell is co-founder of Now We're Talking, an organization committed to creating vibrant, intelligent, and wise democracy. She is also the former Executive Director of Gangaji's Foundation. Manju shares her story of meeting Gangaji, and how her life carries that profound impact forward to serve humanity.
Meeting Gangaji was the most profound moment of my lifetime.
I was a successful business owner, married and living in a beautiful home. Life looked amazing. We vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard and summered in Edgartown at my (ex)husband’s family home. My life looked perfect from the outside. And yet…
I was quite ill, had been on high doses of steroids for two years, and found myself praying, “Please God, it looks like I am going to die, and I haven’t learned the secret of life yet. Please send me a teacher.”
Within a week I heard Gangaji’s name three times and suspected she might be the answer to my prayer. I registered immediately for the March 1995 retreat at the Bosch Bahai center in the Santa Cruz mountains, having never seen a photo, watched a video, or listened to an audio. I treated this first meeting like a spring swim in the Atlantic - take the plunge instantly rather than risk the loss of courage by taking one tentative step at a time! Of course, I had no "thought" about this course of action. It simply happened that way. The revelation had already begun. My logical mind seemed not to be in charge of this meeting.
One moment with Gangaji and I fell totally and completely in love. That voice in my head that was constantly evaluating, judging, and categorizing was completely still. For long periods of time. Wow! What a world is discovered in the endless moment. What deep rest wrapped in joy is revealed. And the greatest miracle of discovery: this is who I am and this is always here. I have tears of gratitude as I write this. They’re floating in my eyes right now, but sometimes they spill down my cheeks like a soft, steady rain. Gangaji has teased me about being a crybaby. You betcha. Overflowing since the first moment I met her, met myself, met life, met you.
What is LIFE now? It’s everything. Absolutely everything. Met with an embrace rather than the previous desire to annihilate everything I didn’t like.
Life is discovered as the open heart. My 92-year-old Mom says Gangaji gave her daughter back to her. I don’t ask what she means by that. I know what she means. Our experience of each other is love. It is a wonder that we have both lived long enough to know each other in this way.
True love, including the people in our lives, is our birthright. Once we truly meet who we are, we have the capacity to meet everyone we know in the awareness that holds us. This shift enriches our journey and expands time - unlike the conventional tendency to focus on irritating habits or embarrassing eccentricities, whether our own and other people’s.
Life is revealed in the “not knowing,” in Papaji’s “wait and see,” in “we’ll know by waiting,” as my great-Grandma Annie used to say. Life is sometimes like the "surprise!" yelled heartily by a group of people who emerge from their dark hiding places at your birthday party.
Life is the 3 young wild turkeys who have just shown up on the outside of the glass door I am facing as I write, one beak almost touching the glass. All eyes on me. Pardon me while I spend a little time with them... Okay, I’m back. They hung out for two minutes, giving me a beautiful view of them from various angles. They are so funny looking, with such beautiful feathers, so curious. Kind of like us :-).
Here’s another surprise in my life. I am venturing professionally into the fields of activism and politics. What??? I didn’t expect this to appear on the path. Nothing about it makes sense from a conventional point of view.
And yet, can you imagine what is possible if society organizes itself from the recognition of who we are, rather than from the voice of blame, judgment, or a desire to annihilate the seeming other? What if, rather than seeing an "enemy," we see our own self? What if most of us, perhaps all of us, met hatred with a wide open heart? How would that change the quality of our decision-making? Would it bring the recognition that a world that works for all life is the outcome we really want?
Am I on a mission to make the world a better place for all? Well, yes. As awareness embraces my mission, surrender appears. Ah, blessed freedom from expectation. This is true freedom. This is all I need. And more than I could have imagined.
Life is juicy as I set up a nonprofit, put a second website together, spend time cooking and being with friends, tend my garden and my family, and get to know my new housemate.
Lots to discover, uncover, and be curious about on this sacred path. There is no end to this journey.
You are a blessing, dear one. Thank you for being here with me. Your support and true friendship is a huge gift in my life.
Om shanti shanti shanti
“This is your resting place, your watering hole. Find what supports you, what includes you, and drink it in. Be nourished. Be enlivened. And when you feel thirsty again, drink some more.” —Gangaji
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