When I was five years of age, I had an experience. I can still see myself standing by the back stairs as it happened. My child’s mind was being told (and it was accompanied by a gentle pulling, a calling) that this important 'something' that I was feeling in my chest, was "Over there"…"It's over there". I lived by the sea and that special something was seemingly over the sea. It left a feeling in me that never departed. It must have been what I now call a mystical experience, because straight away I set off on a search for God. He was hard to find.
In my little white hat, (this was 1948) my Sunday mornings were spent at the Methodist Sunday School - boring. I tried staying on for the grown-up church service and had uncomfortable experiences smelling people's emotions while they sang hymns. After lunch I went to the Catholic Church with its lovely rituals, incense, holy water & statues: satisfying and enjoyable, but not my quest. I even tried inventing holy water in my secret laboratory. This weekly activity filled a few years with no result. I gave it away. My Sufi granddad didn't have the English to explain anything to me, but he enveloped me with his feeling and I felt satisfied. My father shared his faith with me; for him there was only God. No religion. "Trust in God" was all he would say. After escaping from a Khyber Pass madrassa in his teens, and following his dad to Australia, he never looked back at Islam. (I think of him as the only agnostic Pashtun in the world.) My mother was ex-communicated as a Catholic for marrying him, so no religion there, either. Only God. They clung to that. We six children all found our own paths and an assortment of faiths and assumptions were accommodated by my parents over the years.
Grown up and away from home in Sydney, some channelled Buddhist texts answered my left brain questions. For some reason I'd always known about reincarnation and astrology, though nobody taught me, and I wanted to become a Rosicrucian to solve life's mysteries, but couldn't afford to do so. I longed to know why am I here? (On this planet).
Then, in 1966, I heard about Subud in the strangest way. After attending latihan, three Subud members, one man and two women, arrived at a party I was at. Everybody smoked pot instead of drinking in those days, and they joined us. The women were criticizing the Subud group but praising the latihan. They made it all sound so difficult. I listened with interest. The man was a musician from California who was in Sydney to accompany Odetta the folk singer, and he said he'd only been opened a few weeks. He then proceeded to give a physical demonstration of mind over matter and talked about Zen. All of it off the beam, of course, but zap… his voice went straight to the feelings! Something in my chest flipped over and said "BEYOND THE MIND". Well! There it was once again, my childhood experience pulling and stirring-- the flavour unmistakable. I'd found it! He said to go to the Ironworker Building on Thursday night and not to be put off if they made me wait for months. So I went there. My partner, S, joined me as far as the street doors, but turned back, telling me to go on.
Smoking pot had had a negative effect on an introvert like me. It had strengthened my weaknesses and weakened my strengths. As a result, I lacked confidence and was sociophobic. Consequently, when I went to the seventh floor, stepped out of the lift, and several people stared at me in an unwelcoming way, I lacked the courage to walk forward and went down in the lift again. (I could not know that the Bushwalkers from the floor below sometimes went to the wrong floor and blundered into the latihan, hence the looks directed at a stranger.)
That night, perhaps an hour later, as I sat quietly on the sofa, something radiant and serene descended on me. I was enveloped in a cone of peace and bliss in which I felt like a queen. It lasted perhaps 20 seconds and I later found myself transformed. It changed my life from that moment. No drugs or associates who used them were ever part of my life again, dreams became prophetic, confidence returned, the next morning the phone rang and I was offered a good job. Life opened out, joy came back. I continued to grow and be healed while just living my daily life. I often thought about Subud and the Ironworker Building, and it was there that I was opened by P. four years later.
It was now 1970 and S, who was a musician, had accepted a contract to accompany an entertainment troupe to war-torn Vietnam, on the condition that I could go with him. We were in the process of selling up everything we owned and were not planning to return. People came and went, buying furniture, piano etc. One of the musicians S. had been working with in Sydney came to buy sheet music and stayed for dinner. I had noticed this quiet man who stood out in the band, because there was something unusual about him. He didn't have a car so we met him in town and gave him a lift to our place. He was carrying a book and, curious to know what this unusual fellow would read, I asked him what it was. He fobbed me off. Now I had to know! I asked again and he silently handed it over. The word SUBUD on the cover jumped out at me … here it was again! He later said that I went into overdrive and gave him a headache explaining how I had waited all this time. It was a Thursday, he happened to be on his way to latihan, and he escorted us there. Now was the right time.
We signed applicants forms that night, and the understanding was that we would be opened in Saigon. The next few latihan nights we turned up like eager beavers and I must say the days between seemed very long. I just needed to be near the latihan and the members too. It was like meeting my soul group. Bapak was coming, and he sent word to open all probationers regardless of how long they'd been waiting. In our case it was a few weeks. As I recall, I knew nothing about Subud by that time except that I was grateful just to be there. As soon as we became probationers, everything changed in our outer lives. The contract fell through, but we knew to just let it go. The car seemed to develop gremlins and ate up money to keep it on the road.
As a result, broke and unemployed, we limped into a small furnished flat with 44 lbs of luggage to our name. We finished up married and opened in the same week, (never do it!) S. went into crisis and could only do jigsaw puzzles and cry. I was then invited to work in Bapak's accommodation, where I was extremely gauche - couldn't leave Bapak and party's food alone and so developed perfumed diahorrea! After Bapak departed, neither of us could bear the smell of meat, and though I'd developed insomnia, somehow I managed to work to support us. Purification had begun in earnest.
In those days it was as though we rode a wave of synchronicity, and miracles were just around the corner. Lovely mad times, which I recall with wonder and nostalgia. I remember a few Subud brothers who'd had decent careers, putting their careers on hold to work at the Botanic Gardens as labourers. (One man used to crawl under a bush and go to sleep.) S. worked as a storeman packer for years and made strange furniture out of packing cases. Another well educated man, son of a Bishop, said that he shovelled sludge into wheelbarrows in a sewer and it seemed to be meaningful to him. It was all a bit strange and one’s purification was really on display. Now, forty two years on, and, perhaps because the pioneers of Subud have already ridden the Monty Python roller coaster laying some kind of groundwork, the process of purification at a personal level seems more smooth and internalised or, perhaps I should say, less intense and certainly less noticeable.
I've never again felt that wonderful bliss that descended on me at my unofficial opening in 1966, at least not yet. Perhaps it's my vehicle for existing after I die.
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I had a lovely experience while trying to get to Ramdhan’s 1,000 day celebration at Subud Hall. I’d been on duty as a volunteer in the Coastal Patrol and as the day drew to a close, it was already dark, windy and cold as we headed for our mooring in a small creek. I’d been very fond of Ramdhan, but around the time of his death I wasn’t happy with him at all and was grumbling. He died suddenly and I was so sad about it. Attending the 1,000 days celebration and prayers meant a lot to me because of this.
We headed up the creek and had put two crew ashore before mooring the vessel, when a mayday came through. The Water Police were due to take over in fifteen minutes, but our radio room on shore had not switched over to them yet. It was our call. A speedboat out of petrol, about to be dashed on the rocks in the dark and the weather suddenly turning foul as it was inclined to do on Botany Bay.
We always did a lot of rescue work by day, but none of us aboard the vessel including the skipper had night experience. We turned and headed back under the bridge and out into the bay. The skipper took over the wheel and we raced out into the night across the bay. There were just three of us and none of us knew where the lights were! In that powerful vessel, with its two huge Chrysler engines, we raced at top speed in pitch
blackness, not even moonlight to guide us, although we knew the huge
bay like the back of our hands.
We reached them just in time. I was the only female crew in those days, an Able Seaman and a First Aider. The two men were in the cabin to manage the boat which was pitching about as close as we dared go to the rocks and I was in the stern. I called to the little boat and managed to get a line to them after several tries. It was getting late and with disappointment I knew that the selamatan was about to begin, and that I would miss saying farewell to Ramdhan. I was made to look up then and realise just where we were: right at the foot of the cliff on which Ramdhan was buried! His grave was right up there above me! I’d been at the funeral and thought at the time, how appropriate for he who had been one of Commander Lionel (Buster) Crabbe’s men doing underwater sabotage during the war, and a man who lived for the sea, to be fortunate enough to have that grave overlooking Botany Bay.
I saluted him and we were off. My job was to keep an eye on the rescued boat and the rope. It was a long journey across the bay in the cold but I felt so good about the synchronicity of being right there below Ramdhan’s grave on the 1,000th day. Then the skipper sent his offsider to tell me to shout to them that we would be dropping them away from the pier, that they could manage from there and that we could not go into the shallow waters. He had to keep up speed to maintain a taut rope and he couldn’t see. We were really out of our comfort zone for sure! I was alone in the stern.
No megaphone, I couldn’t shout into the wind and, at high speed and in turbulent waters, it would usually take two or three people pulling them in towards our boat so that they could hear me. I took the rope in my gloved hands, took a deep breath and prayed, “Please help me!” That boat came towards me effortlessly! Easily! It hardly pulled my arms. A miracle! I shouted, they responded and I let the rope go. I was grinning from ear to ear. Cold, wet, tired, tearful with gratitude and love for God who has always taken such good care of me, I have never known a fuller moment.
I‘m sure Ramdhan had a hand in it too.
Later, the men realised the foolishness of such an order as I would not have been strong enough to do it alone, but in the emergency, we were all stretched to the limit. (Nobody asked and I didn’t tell.)
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Bapak's birthday was coming. My local Subud group has become so small that we weren't having a celebration this year. Somehow, I really felt like it this time and I remembered the times in the past when I had felt the latihan so strongly while we sat quietly at the beginning of the selamatan, like a blessing, or a present from Bapak to us. I decided to team up with a Subud sister from my nearest other Subud group - about one hour’s drive from where I live - to have a selamatan in their Subud hall. We sent out emails to the whole region, inviting everyone over for Bapak's birthday selamatan, and pretty soon everything was organised.
On the evening of the selamatan I got myself ready to go. My wife, unfortunately, had to teach that night so she couldn't come. She had baked two lovely cakes, though, which were in the back of the car. Our two children - 17 and 11- didn't feel like coming, because there weren't going to be any other young people there. They were happy to stay at home. So, I dropped off my wife at the village centre where she teaches and went on my way to the, very much, anticipated selamatan - or so I thought.
Just before I was about to go on the motorway I began to get clear indications to turn around and go back home. One of the ways in which I receive indications is by experiencing a particular feeling in my right thigh. After a while the receiving in my thigh was accompanied by two receivings in the feeling: the first was a feeling of emptiness about the selamatan, like it really wasn't worth the long drive; the second, which came a bit later, was a feeling of warmth and cosiness and being together with, and close to, my children.
So I turned around and started to drive back home. Initially, I felt disappointed that I couldn't go to the selamatan that I had been looking forward to so much, but pretty soon this disappointment was replaced by a feeling of deep love for my children and a longing to be with them. I then realised that I hadn't been very close to my children lately, being too busy with all sort of things and it felt very appropriate to spend some time with them.
Back home we shared one of the lovely cakes that my wife had made, played some games together and we all felt warm and close to each other. Later, when I picked up my wife, she said, 'What's happened to you? You look radiant and you feel so nice.'
When I woke up the next day I felt that something had changed in me. After a while I realised what it was: Bapak was back. For years I had felt that I couldn't feel close to Bapak, without any apparent reason, although I've always deeply respected him. This had made me unhappy because in the past I had been used to feeling a closeness to Bapak, like being close to a spiritual father.
Suddenly it was back. I could feel that I was connected to Bapak again and it made me really happy. It felt like this was a present that I had been given, and I was very grateful for this. Later that day, I rang the Subud sister who had organised the selamatan with me and I'd asked her how it had been. She told me that it had been a bit of a disappointment, only a handful of people had turned up and the atmosphere had been rather flat.
I think it's a pity that nowadays so many Subud members seem to neglect Bapak. Many of us have experienced that there is a blessing in feeling close to Bapak.
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The first time I met Bapak was in June 1981 after one of his talks in Hoboken, New Jersey. I was only 19 and recently opened in Subud Standing there behind my father, Francois-Michel, waiting for my turn to shake hands with Bapak on the occasion of his birthday, I felt very shy and unworthy of meeting such a man as the founder of Subud; I felt I was not good enough.
Francois went ahead and when he had finished shaking hands with Bapak, just as I was about to step forward, someone shot in front of me, but by then I felt so calm and relaxed, it didn't bother me at all. Then my turn came and Bapak's entourage beckoned to me very warmly. I stepped forward, felt my hand touch Bapak's very slightly and then I felt transported somewhere very high up in a state of bliss and peacefulness. I saw a "place" with the thinnest layer of white cloud; I think I was literally in Heaven. I then felt Bapak's hand withdraw incredibly gently, and there I was, back on planet earth!
As I went back to join the others, I started getting upset and thinking to myself what a fool I was to have kept my mouth shut and not said a word to Bapak, not even wish him a Happy Birthday! As it turned out, I was the one to have received a gift for his birthday - utterly unexpectedly - and it has stayed with me ever since.
In the summer of 2000, while at a congress here in Ecuador, I felt compelled to see Ibu Rahayu after latihan. As I was about to go to greet Ibu, once again someone shot in front of me, and once again it did not bother me in the slightest, I had such a peaceful feeling after a very special latihan. Just like in Hoboken, Ibu beckoned to me very warmly and I had the feeling that she recognized me, maybe because of the set of events repeating themselves, because she said to me in English "How nice to see you again!" while hugging me.
I feel very strongly that these experiences have served to greatly strengthen my faith in God and to help me keep on with the latihan and not give up even when things get very difficult.
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Many years ago Jesus apeared to me in the latihan. There was this wonderful feeling of being loved, so he has always been very special to me. I remember the first time I sang 'I am' in the latihan, and how lovely that was.
My other important Subud moment was in one of Bapak’s talks. I think Sharif was translating, and suddenly I was aware of Bapak looking straight at me. His face was shining, and I heard a voice saying, “You are loved and you can look as long as you like because my love will never go away. It will always be with you.” At the same time, my neighbour said, “There is the most beautiful scent in the air.”
Recently I keep receiving that the world is crying out for the Holy Spirit, and I believe it is through the latihan that it will manifest itself, because at this time people are so disillusioned with religions because of the conflict and violence they have created.
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