It was the day of the Night of Destiny (the mid-point in the month preceding Ramadan) in Amanecer, 1993, before the Congress, where I was staying as a volunteer. I had never really observed this day before in my life, but I had fasted several times. Someone told me what it was about, something to do with one's future, and one’s ancestors. Anyway, I felt quiet in side of me at some point in the day, and asked sincerely that, if it was right, I could be a vessel for helping my ancestors in some way.
Having put this to the side, I was later with friends at the local swimming pool. Two friends, including Mariamah, (who much later became my wife) were showing me what a "meathead" dive is. This is where you dive with your arms to sides (head exposed) not like a normal dive. Logically I should have known that the pool wasn't deep enough (I normally only did very shallow dives there) but for some reason I didn't question this at all at that point. So after being shown an example of one by Mariamah I tried one out, and - lo and behold - smacked my head hard on the bottom of the pool, almost knocking myself out. I came up slowly and was very whoozy, with a great pain in my head and shoulders. I was quite concussed. I had to lie down on the side of the pool, and then be accompanied back to the hostel in Amanecer. I don't know why I wasn't taken to hospital, perhaps people felt it wasn't necessary. There I lay in bed in great pain, my whole head, neck and back were reacting to the severe knock to my head. I can't quite remember the order of things now - whether I had the treatment from Istafiah Francis first, or if that came the day after. Anyway, that night as I lay in a state of pain I experienced a lot of powerful stuff coming out of me, involving loud voices shouting to be let out. I was quite frightened, but I knew it was the Night of Destiny and had a vague feeling that whatever was happening was OK. I felt that these were ancestors of mine asking to be released from something or somewhere. In the morning I felt clear and quiet, and I knew that I wanted to be circumcised, that it was necessary for me to do this for them.
The circumcision took place a few days later and I recovered in quiet peace in a room of my own in the hostel for a week. It was a strange time of introspection that felt very cleansing. I was 21. I remember painting a self-portrait, it was very revealing of someone that is stripped of anything to hide behind. I think I still have it.
I have one funny story of what happened after the circumcision. I had to go to the local police station to renew my visa (this was necessary every three months or so, and mine was almost overdue). I struggled to put on a pair loose Indian trousers over my heavily bandaged crotch, and the only way I could comfortably walk was swaggering along very slowly like a cowboy does who has spent too long in the saddle. So into the police station I swaggered, and was a bit worried about the looks on the policemen's faces in reaction to me. They seemed hostile and threatening, unsure what to make of me. Luckily one of my Subud brothers accompanying me explained to them that I had just been circumcised and they all broke out in laughter. It turned out they had seen the great bulge in my trousers at my groin and thought I was packing a pistol or something down there! Well. we all had a good laugh after that. I'm sure they thought we were all nuts out at Amanecer!
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My relationship with my mother had not been very loving or supportive, but it improved after I joined Subud, and especially after my daughters were born. I saw changes and an inner softening taking place in her. After my father died, she visited me in California and came to sit outside the latihan. As it turned out she didn’t ask to be opened at that time. About 20 years later, some months prior to her death, she was going in for emergency surgery 3,000 miles away, and there was the possibility that she wouldn’t make it. She agreed over the phone for ‘special prayers’ to be done for her at a specific time and I asked several Subud helpers to gather with me and do a latihan for her. We received to open her at a distance. Four months later I went to be with her as she was dying. I would sing to her as she slept and once sang Ibu Sumari’s prayer which always brings great peace. However, after my mother’s death I was once again feeling that she never loved me. I was doing latihan and testing with two Subud helpers and one of them was getting the sense that I was angry and asking, “Why didn’t you tell me you loved me all these years?” So I asked, “What can I do to heal this anger and emotional pain?” I received a powerful worship and an awareness of surrendering it all to God, albeit in a rather demanding way. It was as if I was saying to God, “That isn’t enough, I need to know if mother loved me.”
Then my latihan completely changed: it was as if the ceiling of the living room opened up and I saw my mother lounging on a cloud looking down at me. She looked about 23 years old, so happy and free without any cares or
worries. She smiled at me and said, “My sweet dear, I’m so sorry, I do love
you and I’m so proud of you and what you gave to me,” and she looked around at her heavenly surroundings. “I couldn’t have come here without your help, I was so stuck.” Then I saw myself as a newborn through her eyes, and then as a little girl “a child of grace so sweet.” And she said, “I was so caught up in my own difficulties - jealousy, frustrations and problems from my own childhood. I do love you so very much.” And I saw myself with my arms up to God as though my mother’s love was like an armload of ethereal air flowers raining down on me and this lasted several minutes. Then the ‘window’ closed up and became a ceiling again and I felt so deeply blessed, healed and at peace with my mother.
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During the Ramadhan fast leading up to the time of Bapak’s passing, I was so immersed in the forces of the world that I could not fast. I had fallen from grace into a pit, my life had come undone on every front, and I felt quite lost. At the time, I prayed for protection and the ability to surrender as my situation slid relentlessly into chaos and controversy. Before life slid into this mire, though, I’d received “You never know what will be asked of you in the name of surrender”.
Despite all this, I felt as though I was being given help from Bapak. At dawn each morning, Bapak seemed to be in my chest. He was putting pressure on me to come to Cilandak (the Subud compound in Jakarta), but I had little money, a part-time job and no outer security. A frightening time. This pressure in the chest was so strong that I purchased a stand-by ticket through my brother who worked for the airlines and that was the last of my money. I was then too proud to fly to Cilandak without money for accommodation and food. No surrender; only fear and pride. So there I was: a ticket and no action. Then Bapak died.
I thought that perhaps now I didn’t have to go. I didn’t really wish to. I was afraid and lost. However; I talked about all this to a wise and experienced Subud sister, who had been observing me and understood what was happening. She took me to the airport and stood with me in a queue. Having a stand-by ticket was no guarantee of a seat, which was scary. Then I opened up my passport, only to see that it had expired the day before! “Well that’s it, I can’t go” I said. “You always give up too easily,” she chided and through her connections organised an emergency passport which arrived within twenty-four hours.
Back in that queue again, I told the airline clerk that I just had to get to Jakarta urgently for a funeral. Normally this would not carry much weight on a standby ticket, but the angels were geared for action and things started to move into that slipstream of synchronicity that I had not experienced for over a year. She pointed and told me to go and sit over there and somebody would come to see me. Very unusual all this. Next, the Captain himself approached me (this is truly unheard of) and said, “Mrs F, as we are taking off, I want you to stand in the galley and I’ll come and indicate a seat. You’ll have my ‘jump seat.’”
Never in the history of aviation! Standing in the kitchen? This really happened. He must have spoken to the air hostesses because it was as though I was invisible. As if in a dream, I did as I was told, then the pilot came and indicated his special seat and so the angels took me to Cilandak. The feeling in and around me was of strong latihan: of being transported miraculously and all I had to do was flow with the experience - like travelling in Bapak’s rarified environment.
The funeral was over by the time I arrived and my state had changed as though I was my old self, only better. Things were flowing like the old days. Did Bapak rescue me? I think he did. Bapak would not have needed me there at his time of dying, but I certainly needed this experience. A nice room was waiting and because I’d been studying Jungian Astrology as part of a therapy diploma, word got around and several people brought me their horoscopes for me to interpret and paid me well. Others came for counselling so that by the time I returned home, I had enough money to return for the 40th day selamatan!
I even returned to a marriage proposal. A Subud brother had, he said, been sitting on the loo reading New Scientist, when he saw a pair of shoes in front of him. It was Bapak, who then told him to marry me. At the time it was a solution to the mess I’d gotten into, and I was grateful.
I had not been able to surrender, but through this amazing experience, I was given a taste of what it is like to do so and how compassionate and merciful Almighty God is.
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