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Love and Light

Region 3 - Talk by Reverend Leonora van Gils

How to use Swami’s teachings in our daily lives for lasting peace and happiness. (Transcript of a talk delivered by Reverend Leonora van Gils, Inter Faith Minister and Spiritual Counsellor to the devotees of Mill Hill Sai Centre on Sunday 14th December 2014).

The Christmas lights most certaily sparkled when Reverend Sister Leonora, an ordained Inter-Faith Minister, Spiritual Counsellor, International Healer and Allergy specialist shared her wonderful stories with the devotees of Mill Hill Sai Centre during her visit on 14th December.

“We all have so many stories, don’t we?” she said, then started off by explaining how important it is not to trip up on sad stories that we experience or hear from others, but learn only to extract the goodness by carefully selecting the bits that will help each of us find lasting peace and happiness. She then proceeded to respond to a series of questions, providing beautifully illustrated answers bringing out the learning in each case:

How should we feel... now that Swami is no longer present in His physical form? Rev Leonora shared how her own relationship with Swami has significantly changed since Swami had left His physical body. Whilst Swami was in His physical form, she had constantly felt the urge to visit Prasanthi Nilayam for darshan and physical proximity whereas now, her relationship with HIM was stronger than ever, because she felt that Swami was forever residing in her heart. She explained very simply that “it doesn’t matter that Swami is no longer with us in His physical form, as He is with us in all we do, every step of the way and it was important that we follow His teachings, remember that all we do is only for Him, surrendering ourselves and leaving the rest to Him”.

Life is not smooth sailing for anyone...so how do we find peace and happiness? Despite her calm, peaceful demeanour, we learnt that Rev Leonora too has experienced sad times and learnt to deal with each experience in turn. She shared how, after 37 years, one day completely out of the blue, her daughter sent her a letter stating that she didn’t want anything more to do with her. All communication with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren was severed from that day. The devastation from this kind of news is colossal for any mother, and Rev Leonora couldn’t understand it, nor rectify it, so she asked Swami what she should do. She heard a strong voice telling her, “your daughter is not who you are. You are you, and you are here on your own journey, as she is on hers, if she needs this time alone give it to her with love”. Rev Leonora explained she had to find the strength to detach herself and she did this by continually praying, and by holding a loving space for that person to be able to grow on their journey. She explained “I sent my daughter love and light, praying for the mist to clear so they can see vividly and that I should not hold on to any grudges, nor any form of bitterness or resentment but to forgive them, as they did not know what they were doing...and were just hurting themselves and projecting their pain”. Rev Leonora asked devotees to detach, by remembering that we are not the body which is causing the thoughts in our minds, bringing us the ups and downs of life. To find lasting peace, she urged everyone to detach from the worries these situations cause, and just send love and explained that by practising the above, amazingly, her love for her daughter is now stronger than ever! “Attachment just leads to pain, sorrow and disappointment” Baba

Q: Can dreams be real? What messages can they deliver? In response to this question, Rev Leonora related a beautiful story, recalling when she was living in London some years back, treating Princess Diana. Shortly after Princess Diana passed away, Leonora took her daughter to swim with the wild dolphins in North West Florida. During their time there, Leonora one night had a dream that Princess Diana came to her and said, ‘Leonora, Leonora, I have a great request for you. Would you like to come and live here in Florida and take the sick children out to swim with the wild dolphins?’ With that, she woke up and her daughter who was asleep in the bed beside her suddenly said "Yes" in her sleep. The next morning Leonora asked her daughter if she had had a dream. ‘No’ her daughter initially replied, but then said, ‘Actually, yes. I dreamt of Princess Diana. There were all these dolphins around, and Princess Diana was calling my name.’ Prior to her trip to Florida, Rev Leonora had visited Prasanthi Nilayam and had had an interview with Swami and taken a picture of dolphins with her to show Him.

‘Aah, fish,’ He said. ‘No Swami, dolphins.’ ‘I know, I know,’ He said. ‘Dolphins are very special. They open the heart chakra’.
‘Swami, would you like me to move to Florida and take the sick children out to swim with the dolphins?’
‘Yes, yes, very happy. I’m always with you when you are working’ He said.

Hearing these divine words from the Lord Himself, was a unique and precious moment for Rev Leonora, validating her work. So she felt this dream of Princess Diana was a very strong message and she trusted that Swami was leading her in the right direction, and after making arrangements to close down her clinic in England, she left London for sunny Florida. Once she arrived in Florida, she didn’t know anybody and didn’t know what to do. Sister Leonora was inspired to write an article for a dolphin magazine to the dolphin guru called Dr Horace Dobbs, who had given a talk on dolphins at her daughter’s school. Soon after sending off the article, she found herself flooded with visitors, and thereafter her work with sick children and dolphins flourished. She remembered Swami’s words to her about her work and realised that having faith and courage in the steps you take is important, as Swami is with us in all the work that we do!

Q: With reference to the Sathya Sai seventh point code of conduct, where is the line drawn between arguing and raising your voice to make a point, especially when things don’t go our way? How do we control ourselves at such times? Rev Leonora responded by explaining that each time we shout, the recipient doesn’t hear the message we are trying to convey. All they hear is SHOUTING so the objective is not achieved. She reminded everyone of Swami’s advice to use soft, loving speech with everyone at all times, concluding that by speaking softly with love, not only will one be heard, but the situation will be calm with a much greater chance of success. “Speak softly and sweetly” Baba

Q: Reverend Leonora, how were you brought into Swami’s fold? Rev Leonora shared how her first trip to Swami was of course unforgettable. She explained how she was given a book on Swami titled, ‘Divine Memories’ by Diana Baskin, which she read without putting down...and then immediately decided to visit Prasanthi Nilayam, although her family were not keen on her visiting India on her own and knowing nobody there. Each time someone tried to persuade her not to go, she would heard a voice inside say "Trust me, I will look after you". She explained “from the very first moment, I experienced miracle upon miracle - how the trip came about, how I got there, where I stayed, where I sat...it was all Swami’s blessings. In fact I felt Swami completely transform me – with His pure divine magic! Even upon my return to London, people said how I had changed for the better both in the way I looked and behaved. It was then that I decided that I would dedicate my life to Swami”.

This led to the revered speaker taking groups on several trips to Prashanthi Nilayam, and several interviews were had. In one interview Swami patted her shoulder and said, “Good woman, but sometimes a little mad’. Swami then said, ‘I have something for you.’ He started materialising a beautiful ring, and asked for her to put her hand out. He pushed the ring onto her finger and it was a perfect fit. That was truly a moment one can never forget! As she went to bed that night, she took the ring off to look at and examine. ‘Swami, this ring is a bit rough, a bit scratchy!’ she thought. At that moment an inner voice said, ‘Yes, many rough edges I will smooth.’

Rev Leonora has since reflected much on Swami’s words...she felt that Swami was telling her that she had many rough edges, many things that she needed to work on myself, and He was going to help her smooth them out. There was a lesson here for each person as we could all relate to possessing “rough edges”! This experience showed how, through Swami’s teachings, these can be smoothed, through constant effort.

Q: Do you always have Swami in your mind? Rev Leonora responded “I have Swami in my mind 24 hours a day/7 days a week, but not just in my mind, also in my heart too. I try to repeat the name of the Lord whenever I can. It’s like Swami's name running like the blood that flows in my veins. I also have lots of pictures of Swami around me, so that I am surrounded by Him”. She also explained that another way of always remembering Swami constantly, was by asking the question, ‘How can I help someone’? as helping someone was serving Swami and she also reminded everyone of the feeling of the joy and happiness experienced from helping others. “Help ever, hurt never...love all, serve all” BABA

Q: You said that Swami told you, you were sometimes a little mad. I too have that! How do I deal with it? In response to this question, Rev Leonora reminded the audience that as long as we are in our bodies, we’re not perfect, so the edges need to be smoothed. It was important not to have “knee- jerk” reactions; take a deep breath before responding to anything upsetting, allowing time to reflect and ask ourselves, “Is there a message for me in this irritation? How can I put a stop to it? Is there something I can do that is good for me and good for the other person?”.

Q: What do you believe is the purpose of our lives? What are we trying to achieve and does it vary from one person to another? From her own experience, the learned speaker responded: “We’re all individuals, and I personally feel I am here to discover who I am. Swami has helped me discover who I am, and this is what has brought me lasting peace and happiness. He has taught me that I am none other than Swami. I have come to have an experience in this human body, I need to work on this, so that I can go home as perfect as possible, and be at peace. This is why we are here: to constantly realise who we are, why we are here, having experiences and it’s what we make of the experiences that makes us who we are". Sister Leonora has also come to realise that Swami is having His experience through each one of us. Shouldn’t we therefore make it a beautiful experience for Him in each and everything we do, by purifying our lives, but not forgetting to have fun at as well. Sister Leonora referred to how Swami embodied this in His own life...which was His message, reminding everyone present about Swami’s good humour in every situation. Refrain from getting sucked into negative energy. Do what you can and your best. Your responsibility is to shine out HIS love. “Life is a game, play it” BABA

Q: How do you deal with friends and family who have negative vibrations, and turn this into in a positive experience? In response to this question, Rev Leonora urged the audience to look within and ask ourselves why we are feeling hurt; why that person is behaving in such a manner...and if no immediate answer comes from within...to conclude that the other person must be in pain themselves, which is why they’re trying to hurt us. In this way, the problem becomes theirs, not ours.

Once again, the speaker stressed that self-analysis and questioning is the key to lasting happiness, as we are the only ones who knows the answers inside ourselves: “ Each of us is an individual and we all deal with things differently, so we must become our own healer. We can only do this by Self-enquiry. If a person is suffering, what can we do? We send them love and light which will go straight to their soul and will start the healing process”.

Q: It’s very difficult to deal with family members who are not Sai devotees. Should we try and make them believe, or just leave them to it? The learned speaker reminded us that it is not up to us as to what our friends and family members do and if we are disturbed by their actions, it takes energy away from us. Our job IS to hold a loving space for them and pray for them.

Thus Revered Leonora’s inspiring talk came to an end, uplifting the audience with her heartfelt, loving advice. The exceptional questions raised by the SSSE children and parents were answered with simplicity and completeness, all stemming from our Beloved Swami’s invaluable teachings. Thus devotees were lovingly reminded of the endless miracles, the lessons taught, the messages given, the answers to their prayers. It was no wonder that an overflow of love for Swami filled the hall, which was summarised perfectly in the vote of thanks by Sister Nita Wadhwani, as she urged everyone to put into practice some of what had been heard from Reverend Leonora, and practice feeling and giving this love to each and every one, there by achieving everlasting peace and happiness.


Nita Wadhwani
Sutopa Sen