This afternoon I went to my father’s final resting place, the Self Realization Garden (http://www.yogananda-srf.org/) in Pacific Palisades. There is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to in my entire life. The fact that I brought my dad’s ashes here was because I wanted him to forever be in a space devoid of any unrest or ugliness and only be surrounded by beauty and love. This place is the closest thing I know of to the idea of heaven.
I love coming here. I love being close to the last physical remnants of my father, of course. And whenever I go, I “speak” to him in a way and walk away feeling renewed and enlivened. My mind scans my life and picks out some happy and enriching memories of the two us and I feel the love we had for one another. I love and feel loved in this garden.
But, I love this place for many more reasons than its connection to my father.
This is the place that reminds me of human beings’ power and ability to create beauty, peace and acceptance. This place is the reminder that our friends can touch our hearts and reach our souls in ways we cannot even imagine. And it is in this space that I always feel myself moving inch by inch closer to my core and true self.
The sound the waterfall soothes me, allowing my mind to grow still and quiet long enough to focus inward. The pair of swans gently gliding on the peaceful lake unleash all manner of romanticized and idealistic notions I hold dear about life, loyalty, love and devotion. The bright koi swimming in the murky water bring tranquility to my entire being. The turtles doggedly paddling about, slowly and meticulously lifting themselves out of the water into the sun and never giving up, no matter how many times they slip back into the water, teach me to be steadfast and tenacious in pursuit of my life’s ultimate and most important goals.
But, there’s more to this place.
The beautiful roses, which are now in full and glorious bloom, remind me of the Persian gardens of my childhood. And they, just like the ones we had in Iran, are fragrant, brilliant and so filled with life in an orgnanic and natural way and not as genetically/chemically altered, supersized ambitious things controlled and managed by us humans. The twisting and intertwining wisteria plants take me back to my old neighborhood in Tehran. I remember them as always blooming on my birthday. That made them my favorite! My mom used to say they bloomed on my birthday because they were celebrating my birth. To this day, the sight and smell of wisteria evokes sweet, happy and safe memories of my childhood.
But there’s more to this place. This magical place and my very own secret garden.
The very existence of such a tranquil, soul soothing place in the middle my large, busy, noisy and at times absurd city is what I think of when I think of the word “miracle”. The fact that this space is dedicated to lofty and inspiring ideas like coexistence, non-judgment, inclusively, harmony and acceptance makes me want to search for and become a better and more enlightened version of myself. Walking around this other worldly place, I see Buddha, Christ, Shiva, the Star of David and the crescent moon- all equally valid and reverend. And even though my curious, fact-driven, scientifically-inclined, non-believer brain has no need or use for these relics, their mere presence and coexistence here reminds me of the better part of us humans and the journey we all take, in our own unique ways, to find our truths.
Finally, the name of this place-The Self Realization Fellowship- brings me light and speaks to the deepest and most active part of me. Self realization. What a great thing to devote one’s life to! What a wonderful goal to set for oneself!
Today, just sitting there thinking about the words “self” and “realization”, I suddenly understood why I chose this place to bring my father to several years ago. My dad often spoke to me about being true to oneself. This was his most important and most beloved gift to me-planting the seed of finding and being true to myself. It has taken me all my life and many struggles, letdowns, setbacks and frustrations to finally be on the path of learning and using this lesson. What he was speaking of was of course self realization in every sense of the word: realize, understand, accept and be who you truly are and nothing else.
It is fitting that after many years, thousands of miles and so many big and small experiences, my father has made this- the Self Realization Garden, the place that also holds some of Gandhi’s ashes-his final home. No other place would have been right. No other place would have been as perfect as this lovely little secret garden.
With love and in memory of my dad,