Hanuman - a symbol of unconditional love
At this point, you are likely familiar with Hanuman, the guiding force behind Awakening 101, the one who provided me with an unfathomable roadmap in life and one of the most beloved Hindu Gods in modern times. To me, Hanuman is a symbol of unconditional love and steadfast support. He personifies every single admirable aspect of any being.
How did I meet Hanuman?
In March 2007, I attended a Ram Dass retreat in Maui. Alongside Ram Dass, the retreat was hosted by teachers such as Deepak Chopra, Shyamdas, and Mark Whitwell. I’m still not sure how only 30 of us were so unbelievably lucky to end up on a retreat with these legendary teachers. Because of his stroke, Ram Dass spoke very slowly, but with so much intensity that the hair on your arms stood straight up. His message was simple yet profound: love, serve, stillness.
One morning, I arrived early at the meeting room where the puja was set up. I had come in early to meditate a bit before morning yoga. I looked up at the back of the puja, where there was a large picture of Ram Dass’s guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Behind that, there was a huge wall canvas with a picture of Hanuman. As I sat there, tears began flowing heavily. I sat there, looking at Hanuman, weeping with joy and overcome with a feeling of indescribable, overflowing, unconditional love.
Hanuman gave me a blessing
Of course, I really didn’t understand what was happening then, but it didn’t matter. I learned years later that I had been given a blessing from Hanuman – Hanuman darshan. Because of Ram Dass relationship with Hanuman and Maharaji, Ram Dass was transmitting intense Hanuman energy (shakti), and this energy permeated throughout the entire retreat.
People speak of shaktipat, which comes in many forms and many strengths. Personally, I have been given many, in different forms and of various strengths throughout my life. Still, my meeting with Hanuman was an infusion of energy that left me forever changed.
Looking back, it’s crazy to think that before that day, I had never really known who Hanuman was.
Every day Hanuman is with me
Every day since then, Hanuman has been with me. Some days, I feel his presence more intensely, while on others, it may be less pronounced. Even as I write this, I have a lump in my throat from the immense feelings of gratitude, love, and devotion I experience through my connection to him.
Visiting the Hanuman ashram in Taos, NM
Later that same year, I was on retreat with my teacher, Sally Kempton, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A group of the participants and I drove up to Taos to visit the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram. At the ashram, there is a huge Hanuman sculpture brought all the way from India. When we arrived at the ashram, the attendants sang the Hanuman Chalisa. The Hanuman Chalisa is a devotional hymn addressed to Hanuman. They sang it with such striking devotion, and their love for Hanuman flowed passionately. Each day at the ashram, they cared for Hanuman with such dedication. Driving back through the moonlike landscape from Taos to Santa Fe, we were soaking in sweet, magical Hanuman energy.
Arati at the Hanuman Temple at Mount Madonna
In 2012, with another stroke of luck, Sally started hosting retreats at the Mount Madonna Retreat Center south of San Francisco. It was Sunday evening, the first time I had arrived, and large crowds of Indians were also arriving. Intrigued, I followed the crowds and discovered a large Hanuman temple. Everyone was arriving for Sunday arati (prayer services) at the temple. So every morning and every night during that week of the retreat, I went to the Hanuman temple for arati, and have continued to do so at many retreats ever since.
How is this connection possible?
At some point, one of the priests asked who I was.
Who was this blonde, blue-eyed Scandinavian woman coming for prayer services every morning and night? How is it that a person born in Sweden with no religious background and no connection to India can feel so strongly about a God from the Indian pantheon?
Indeed, strange and random, but my relationship with Hanuman is very real. I don’t really think about it from my human intellectual brain because then it just seems crazy and unfathomable. When I think about our connection from the perspective of my higher Self, from the perspective of our soul connection, his presence in my life feels so right and so real.
Hanuman - is he a form or an energy?
My relationship with Hanuman vacillates, just like all relationships do, and sometimes our connection is stronger than other times. It’s hard to describe in words because, for me, he is more often an energy rather than a form. Nevertheless, at times I can see his image in day-to-day life. Especially while meditating, chanting his mantra, or while I am out in nature, his face will appear in front of me, or I simply can feel his energetic presence. At other times, I see him as a large, faint form. One image I see is a faint image of a very large Hanuman form, and I see little me sitting on his thigh like a sparrow sitting on a branch of a tree. I’m tiny in comparison to him.
When my father was dying, I was sitting in his hospital room in a high rise in Stockholm and the sun was setting. I could see Hanuman as a large form in the sky, embracing and protecting us and the city below.
The connection with Hanuman becomes tangible around others
My connection to Hanuman is especially strong when I visit Mount Madonna. Since so many come to worship him at the Hanuman temple, his energy there is alive and kicking. The same alive energy I experience when seeing Krishna Das live. And as I mentioned earlier, because of his guru, Krishna Das is transmitting intense Hanuman energy, especially while singing. Maharaji told Krishna Das, “Wear red, even your underwear. It’s Hanuman’s color.” And as you may know, Krishna Das always wears red.
Meeting Krishna Das
When I begin to describe my relationship with Hanuman to others, I usually burst into tears while sharing. The tears are of infinite and unconditional love I feel from him and for him, and the immense gratitude to have been blessed with his grace in this lifetime. He is love, all-encompassing love.
One such time was at a weekend workshop with Krishna Das at Kripalu in the winter of 2019. That weekend my connection with Hanuman was stronger than it had been in a long time. His energetic image and presence were immense. This weekend I felt the urge to share with Krishna Das my connection with Hanuman. I don’t know him personally, but it is not often I meet other die-hard fans of Hanuman! So I stood in line like many other Krishna Das fans just to say hello. And once it was my turn to say hello, I don’t know exactly what I said, but something about being from Sweden, being obsessed with Hanuman, and how his presence was even more intense in KD’s presence. While I was telling him this, I started sobbing. All I remember was Krishna Das’s surprised look and him saying, “WOW!!!” My 12-year-old daughter would say, “Oh mom, you are so embarrassing!” Here’s a pic of the poor guy having to take a selfie with me!
Hanuman helped me during Covid.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, my daily sadhana changed since I wasn’t able to sit for meditation like I was used to. Instead, I did a more active practice outside like Japa and pranayama. By connecting deeply with the breath and with fresh air while chanting his mantra, my connection with Hanuman intensified more than ever. I had no clue that such a simple thing, that’s always available to us, would make his presence more tangible. When I learned that Hanuman is “Pranadeva, or the God of Breath or Life” it all made sense. Air and prana are two of the gateways to Hanuman.
Through my outside practice, there were times I felt merged with Hanuman, and his energy somehow became mine. I felt his vitality, courage, strength, love, and devotion. I noticed the attributes that described Hanuman in the texts were also the same attributes that I experienced through my sadhana.
Our relationship is stronger.
Ever since we first met, Hanuman has always been by my side and part of my daily life. But during that first year of Covid, he was more consistently there than ever before. And just like with all spiritual practices, the more you call upon him, the more vibrant he becomes in your life. His courage and our connection kept me going. It’s as if he was my guide, and when I didn’t have strength, he provided it for me, and when I didn’t feel like getting up and doing dishes and make three meals each day, I was reminded of his selfless devotion, and I kept on going from a place of infinite love just as Hanuman would.
During that time, Hanuman also helped me feel a sense of egoless-ness, as for so many, those first days of Covid stripped away so many of our wants and needs. So many of the things that seemed important no longer mattered. Then more than ever, my story and details of my life didn’t seem to matter. My life was no longer a list of things on a resume. I am, and that’s all.
Throughout my life, Hanuman has helped me find strength, humility, courage, vitality, and most of all, gratitude. With humility, I can say for a fact that without Hanuman, this website or any of the blogs would have never come to fruition. Every word is a symbol of devotion, and each idea represents the love and gratitude of all the blessings and grace that he has bestowed upon me.