I know I grew up running around Yogaville as a child and resisting it as a teenager and then in my early adulthood right before I headed to college Swami Satchidananda passed away and I know he has always been with me but now at age 30 my body and soul feel his presence more than ever. Several days before heading back to Virginia for my holiday break, I called my father and asked him if I could go to Yogaville alone for a few days. He sounded amazed astonished and enthralled that I would finally want such a thing, and he helped me make it happen. My mother dropped me off and before she left, together we went to the Lotus Shrine for meditation. When she left I felt all alone and angry and suddenly didn't understand why I wanted to be there all by myself. I felt so lost and afraid. I thought, "Was I the one that decided to come here?? Because I do not remember picking this idea?" This was the first time since any of this had happened that I felt completely alone in a cottage in the woods. The next morning I awoke uplifted and refreshed and excited for the day. I walked to Shivananda Hall for a meal and sat at the table with two Swamis who looked very familiar. The woman Swami Vidyananda asked me my name and as soon as I said Gabrielle Olko she responded letting me know she knew my mother and father, Lisa and Paul Olko. I was amazed. I told her I was the oldest child in the family and asked her what her first memory of me was. She responded something along the lines of, "when you were in your mothers belly." I later asked my mom about her going there when she was pregnant with me and she told me she was at Yogaville for ten days without my dad but with me in her belly. I asked her if Swamaji saw her belly and she said yes he did and that he placed his hands on her belly and said a hello and a prayer. Amazing how things that happen while being a fetus can stick subconsciously throughout a lifetime.
After my birth I was brought there and given my sanskrit middle name by Swami Satchidananda. This picture was taken right after me being given the middle name of Sundhari (meaning: beautiful one). Now at age thirty I feel like I am going through a second rebirth. The three days at Yogaville were an amazing way to start my holiday. Today I started reading Enlightening Tales for the first time. I did have the book with me in the hospital the entire time by my side as if it was Swami sitting next to me and now I have started reading his words from the stories. In his introduction part one of the sentences reads, "Forget everything that you have learned. Become like a child again, and you will experience God right now." It has been thirty years of my life, but I believe Swami brought me to Yogaville now as an adult to discover a rebirth and rediscovery of myself and my life. Gratitude. Also no coincidence it happened to be the weekend of his 100th year! My father came the last night of my three days there and it was beautiful to bond with him and it felt like I was being welcomed into the world again by my father in a new light.
The rest of my trip was wonderful and passed by rapidly, I was able to reconnect with many of of my old friends which was amazing. I have had so many wonderful people come into my life throughout the past thirty years, who I am still connected to now. My grandmother came down from New Jersey and shared with me amazing family stories from a generation or more before I was born. Its amazing how her mother (my great grandmother) Angelina, came with only her first born daughter from Italy to the United States on a boat to meet my great grandfather. Its incredible how one woman who births five daughters can create so many people that are here alive today. It represents for me the massive connectedness of everyone on earth.
|Great grandma (Angelina), my mom, me & my grandma (Santina)|
I feel even closer with my mother and father than I can ever remember feeling before, in a whole new sense. While in Virginia, I am grateful that I got to spend time with the family that has been with us for as long as I can remember, The McConkeys (Micheal, Jeannie, Gabe, Ian and Juliette)!! Ian (the middle son) and Jeannie (the mama) sent me a beautiful care package (from their whole family) while I was in and out of the hospital. The card was a photo taken by Ian and his words written inside were part of what gave me hope and inspiration throughout my hospital stay.
I am thinking that perhaps there will be more to come about my beautiful visit to Virginia in the future of this blog, as every moment is connected to other moments and to other connections. Connected connected connected. And, again may this new year bring you all happiness, beauty and love so bright to fill your hearts and body with health, joy and a new light. I feel so much gratitude towards all of you for reading about my journey as well as continuously reaching out to me and sending me healing support and love especially over the past few months. Om Shanti.
|Photograph taken by Ian displayed on the cover of the card he sent me.|
|Ian's beautiful words that sent me hope and courage. I love you Ian!!|
|"even the tiniest little thing can teach you a big lesson" - Swami Satchidananda|