Suzanne Kuehne is Swiss.
She lives in a small town 45 minutes from Zürich. She sat beside me on my flight from Frankfurt to Chennai, India. I dozed during the first hour and woke up for the meal noticing she had been served special vegetarian fare. I wondered if she had gotten mine by mistake. But blonde, blue eyed Suzanne is a strict vegetarian and, I soon found out, India- bound to attend Oneness University run by her guru Kalki Swami, 3 hours from our destination and my hometown Chennai. Over the next 7 hours Suzanne and I shared our thoughts on our respective life journeys over the past thirty years. Trials and triumphs, loss and learnings, relationships and realizations. I was amazed at how our paths which had originated at such divergent places, mine in India and hers in Switzerland, were now converging at a place of no space and time. To add to this mystique was the date and time of our travel, the 21st of Dec 2012, prophesied by some to be doomsday. During our conversation we were literally and figuratively in a state of “kaivalya” (suspension)! As we talked, we acknowledged the limitation of language in keeping us in that present state of suspension, given our habit of always speaking in past or future tenses; of explaining the present in terms of our past, or the future in terms of effort – of “becoming”, “trying”, “changing”, when we know fully well that the future does not exist except as a projection of our minds. By wanting to become something we fall short of accepting who we are now and postpone realization of our present reality. We spoke in shorthand and continued in an animated state of excitement from understanding each other so completely.
Growing up Suzanne was taught to experience life through her mind and through rational thought and logic. She was well attuned to cause and effect, opposites and action and reaction. What she had not done was experience life with her whole being. She had always censured “irrational” impulses, thoughts, words and action as she had been taught to do. She was strongly discouraged from making decisions or engaging in actions that were not born of thought and hence the concepts of grace and faith, were totally foreign to her. I, on the other hand, had grown up listening to myth and fable, cultivated the concepts of grace and faith and these had often collided with rational explanations of phenomena. I grew up confused, tentative and uncertain.
While I knew life was not just experienced through the mind I lacked the courage of conviction to explore how or why. When I made my journey to the West, I grew more rational and less accepting of anything that was not explained in logical terms. It has taken several years of undoing to get back to my roots of being spontaneous, curious, open to all possibilities. For Suzanne and me the last few years have been of “unlearning” of “abandoning deep-rooted conditioning” of just being rather than wanting to become. We acknowledged that we were still triggered to react and retreat to safe places with predictable paths on charted roads. Only now, we bring our awareness to every such occurrence thus peeling off one more layer of learnt behaviour. We both engage in habitual rituals, me yoga and meditation and she spiritual retreats and intense contemplation of the self, but this time in awareness that all this is only a means to an end.
As we neared our destination, we wondered aloud about the spiritual evolution that was occurring all around us that we could legitimately have these conversations without shame, self-consciousness or preconceived notions about each other. The seven hours flew by. We hugged, shared contact information and vowed to follow each other on our respective journeys through life!