Every time I tried to wear earrings, heavy or light, it pained. It felt like someone was piercing many tiny needles into my earlobes. This was a new pain for me. And I didn’t understand the reason behind it.

            Being an actress on stage and on television, wearing heavy jewelry to look good was a part of my job. My skin was allergic to fake metal ever since I was a kid but those allergies only limited themselves to hands and neck, where I developed severe rashes after wearing fake jewelry. But never had I faced any problem with earrings! Until a few months ago.

After a soul-shattering break up in the beginning of the year 2022, I took refuge in our ishtdev – Mahadev. It wasn’t a long relationship, but like most of us do, I’d thought that this one would eventually last. After all, I was 35 now. But it didn’t. It came to a surprisingly quick end. And I couldn’t bear it. With a lot of pain in my heart, I took to doing mrityunjay japa along with reciting Shiv Tandav Stotram to ease the pain and become stronger. This was the pre-Om Swami era of my life. The heartbreak was intense, the pain almost physical. But gradually, with Mahadev’s grace, it subsided a little. I felt mentally healthier, and happier.. and suddenly, found myself wanting to learn more about Mahadev.

            So, I went browsing through the religion section of a bookstore to look for a good book on Mahadev, when I came across one that suited my needs. With the intention to buy it, I picked it up, but suddenly my eyes shifted to the book next to the one I had chosen, and something immediately clicked. Probably the orange cover, or the interesting picture of Mahadev on it attracted me. Or was it the title of the book that piqued my interest? I don’t know. The book was ‘Kundalini’. And it was written by someone I had never, ever heard of – Om Swami.

            As if some strange force was guiding me, the book I had previously chosen was returned back to the shelf, and the book that had chosen me came home with me.  Within a month, I had read nearly 5 other books of Om Swami in rapid succession, and by the end of the second month, I was already a devotee. It was through him I first came to know about Lalita Sahasranama, and its utmost significance in taming your own mind through bhakti. It was through him that I reconnected with an old friend of mine, Parakh, who turned out to be a devotee himself. And as if Swamiji had chosen Parakh to satiate my curiosity about him, Parakh sent me one Om Swami book after another, and gradually, together, we both fell in love with Om Swami, and despite never having met him, anointed him as our Guru.

I started following Om Swami’s rituals of mantra bhakti, referring to his books, keeping his picture in my mind, being his Eklavya. My sadhana, in the form of nitya pooja, became more intense. I unexpectedly started enjoying it, and I realized that earlier, when doing a jap mala for 11-15 minutes was also a task, now I could manage to do a 45-minute mrityunjay japa more easily. Of course, my mind had the hardest time, getting groomed, and not getting to roam around freely, but as Om Swami has taught us, what needs to be done, should be done well!

            In midst of all this, my earlobes were growing more and more painful. They had swollen. Even real gold earrings irritated them now. So much so that I had to stop wearing earrings altogether. I couldn’t make a head or tail out of this. There was no medical issue. And I didn’t think it had anything to do with the fact that I was now spending more time doing sadhana than before.

            The real reason that I had started bhakti after the break up was because I had heard that pooja and meditation made you stronger. I wanted to become more thick-skinned, so that people don’t hurt me easily. Remember how we sometimes think of the greatest comebacks to a previous argument in a shower, disappointed that we couldn’t think of that before? I was sure that doing meditation, sadhana etc. would make my tongue sharper, so that I can shut people up with my smart comebacks immediately. My thick skin would then shield me from all the hurt, and people would actually think twice before hurting me. I would be invincible!  

            However, the ways of God are mysterious. One day, as the swelling and the pain in my earlobes had reached the point of becoming unbearable and I wondered what had I done to deserve this, a sudden realization struck me. Here I was, wanting to become invincible, but instead of being more thick-skinned, I was, somehow, becoming more sensitive, which showed not only in my physical body, but also in my psyche. Far from developing a razor-sharp tongue to cut people’s egos and emerging victorious, I realized that I had become calmer, more polite, now always thinking twice before saying anything, lest the other person gets hurt. My smile had developed a natural sweetness that I never knew I had. People felt naturally drawn to me. Instead of showing people their places as I intended to, I ended up making more friends than I preferred. I had suddenly become more honest with people around me, in stark contrast to my previous self who would say one thing on their faces, and another behind their backs out of cowardice. Instead of judging another for his/her fallibilities, I found myself being empathetic to their pains and problems. If someone hurt me, I felt intense pain for a few minutes, so much so that tears would flow immediately. But after those few minutes, the pain would disappear as if it never existed, and whoever had hurt me, would be instantly forgiven, not a single grudge remained for him/her in my heart. I realized that even as I was getting more sensitive, my hurt-to-heal ratio had drastically reduced. I was able to heal within minutes, instead of crying over it for months, as I did before. My patience had widened, and love and gratitude overflowed constantly in my heart. I attributed this new me to Om Swami, and my gurumitra Parakh who had constantly kept him up and alive in our conversations all these months.

            While growing up, everyone had told me that a religious person is one who is peaceful. Some religious people are also a little arrogant and rude, because they think of themselves as knowledgeable. Many religious people are not meant to be touched, because they are so pure and pious, lest we put our dirty hands on them. But no one had told me that a religious person, though calm and composed, is extremely sensitive as well. Especially to the pains of others.

The realization was strong, sure, but what happened after was even more mind-boggling for a two-eyed, limited human like me. As soon as I realized and accepted my increased sensitivity to my pain and that of others, the swelling in my earlobes reduced drastically, and the next day onwards, the pain was almost non-existent. Just like that. It was as if the pain existed only so that our Guru can impart a small lesson to us on sensitivity.

And it was during that time only that I came across Swamiji’s blog post titled  ‘The Lioness’s Milk’ and he cleared whatever tiny doubts had remained in my mind. He wrote: ‘The tenderness of your heart, the care in your actions, the sweetness in your speech are signs of how close you are to the truth. Either you practice the virtues and you will unearth your truth, or you find the truth and the virtues will come flocking to you. Either way, you progress.’

Jai Shri Hari.