It is hard for me to find the words to describe what it feels like to sing for my Guru’s birthday. Words don’t seem big enough to describe the feeling. I do know that it was a pivotal moment in my life. I think about all the many singing opportunities I have had and not one can compare. It wasn’t the huge crowd that made the experience so special. I suppose it was using my Divine gift in honor of the Divine. Wow! It felt like my life had come full circle. I had never dreamed big enough to think that I would be on a 225 foot stage singing with 30 Indian children for my beloved Amma’s birthday. I mean, who does that?
The story of how all this came to fruition is an interesting one. Since I had sang at Ashram celebrations in the past, many people had said to me, “It would be so cool if you sang at Amma’s Birthday.” But how would one go about setting this up? I didn’t yet know that it is uncommon and almost impossible for a westerner to get to perform at the event. I later learned all the acts were from Amma’s universities around the India and they had spent months preparing for the event.
I decided that the best way to secure an opportunity like this was to go straight to the top. In my prayers, I had asked Amma to make this possible for me. Next, I set out to find the main Swami of the Ashram, Swamiji. I had always felt a special connection to him. And in terms of who holds the power to make things happen (aside from Amma) it is definitely him.
The problem was Swamiji is hard to find. He is a very important and holy man. I am friends with an incredible tabla player, Hari, who is always on stage with Amma and Swamiji so I enlisted his help. I wrote a note that was very funny to the Swami asking him if I could sing. The next time I saw Hari he told me that Swamiji had said yes and that I need to track down someone named Minoj who handled the scheduling of the event.
Finding Minoj was a nightmare. He is an incredibly busy man. When I finally got the chance to sit down and meet with him it seemed like he wanted nothing to do with me. First, he said having a westerner perform at Amma’s birthday just wasn’t done. Actually, he said it had never been done before. I didn’t believe him. He also said that the two songs I requested to sing was too much and that I could only sing one. At first I relented and said it was fine but something didn’t feel right about that.
The two songs I wanted to sing were very different from each other. The first was a song from the movie Frozen that I rewrote the lyrics to so it would be a devotional song about Amma. The second was a duet of “You Raise Me Up” by Josh Groban. When Minoj said I could only choose one, I immediately picked the duet. At first, he approved. Later, he said I needed to switch the song and should teach the Ashram children it so they could sing with me. That seemed like a lot of work in a little time but I agreed. The event was only a week away so I asked to meet with the children as soon as possible. He said I could meet them that night. Of course, that didn’t happen and he said we would reschedule.
Every single day I looked for Minoj and sent him constant emails. He never responded to one. I was so frustrated. I didn’t know when I was singing, who I was singing with, and was beginning to think that singing for Amma’s birthday was going to be impossible. Many people would have given up in this situation, but I was determined to make my dream a reality.
Just two days before the event, I saw my friend Hari in the Ashram. I told him how Minoj was treating me by not responding to any of my emails and Hari became upset. He said he would handle it.
The next day I checked my email account and saw an email from Minoj. Yes! It appeared Hari had some harsh words with him because Minoj offered many apologies and said we could meet that night at 8:30pm. I was feeling pretty smug and arrived early at our agreed upon meeting place.
He did not show up! I was furious. It has been a long time since I have felt that much anger. I am normally a kitten but I turned into a lioness. I stormed through the ashram looking for a friend who had a phone with cell service so I could call Minoj. As I passed by friends in my pursuit of a phone looks of shock appeared on their faces. They had never seen this side of me. It doesn’t come out often but it is ferocious when it does.
I saw many Indian men with phones. I didn’t know them and they didn’t speak much English, but I motioned to them to call a number for me. They all were very nice and agreed to my request. I called Minoj’s number repeatedly and he didn’t pick up. Finally I found my friend Kevin who has lived at the ashram for years. I thought Minoj might recognize his number so I enlisted his help. When Kevin called, Minoj picked up.
I yelled at him and said “where are you?” He acted like it was no big deal and said to meet him at the spot he suggested before. When he finally showed up, I let him have it. I said I will be singing two songs and demanded he give me the time I would be performing and set up a rehearsal with the children. Maybe I frightened him with the fierce tone of my voice because he agreed to all of my requests.
I met with the children the next day. There were 30 of them ranging from age 4 to 12! What had I gotten myself into? They were so loud and I was screaming at them to listen. All my screaming had little affect so I started singing in my “BIG” voice. The voice that turns heads and make people listen. It worked.
I did my best to teach them the song. We only had time for two rehearsals. The kids were adorable and really excited. They learned the chorus of the song surprisingly quick. I slowly started to believe this would all work out.
When it was time to perform for the birthday, I was eerily calm. I had never sang for a crowd that big or on such a huge stage. You would think I would have had some nervousness but I didn’t. Perhaps my soul knew this was exactly what I was meant to be doing in the perfect moment. It felt like I was made for that moment.
As I sang, I felt this incredible surge of energy flow through my body. It felt like my voice was the instrument and the Divine was doing all the work. In fact, that is exactly what was happening. I let go of my ego and let something more magical happen. I surrendered.
I am so ridiculously grateful for the experience. I can assure you it wasn’t my talent that made performance a success. It was all Amma’s Grace. One thing I will give myself credit for was my determination and effort to make the performance happen. So many times I felt like giving up, but something inside of me demanded I do everything in my power to sing that day. The moral of this story is to never give up when you want something badly and your intentions are pure. And, when you get the opportunity of a lifetime, let your ego go and enjoy the ride.