(Photo: Radhika Miller with Swami Satchidananda, Yogaville East, 1976).

It’s been a whirlwind of losses in the past year: from the several million deaths due to the pandemic and to the many luminaries who have left the earth, including most recently sports legends Hank Aaron and Kobe Bryant; actors Chadwick Boseman, Cloris Leachman; and fashion designer Pierre Cardin, among many others. In this article, Integral Yoga teacher and the wonderful flautist Radhika Miller recently shared this remembrance soon after the passing of Pierre Cardin.

I met Pierre Cardin in an elevator at the San Francisco Merchandise Mart in 1976. I was the elevator operator, a job for the college break of January. I took the liberty of decorating my elevator, turning my workspace into a beautiful sanctuary. I created an altar on the wall of the elevator with a photo of the All Faiths Yantra and Swami Satchidananda (Gurudev).

I was 19 years-old and living at the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco while getting my music degree at San Francisco State University. I took Yoga teacher training and then began teaching Yoga at SF State and the IYI. I did several temp jobs during college. The elevator job was my one and only elevator job and I rode the J Church streetcar to and from the IYI to the Merchandise Mart.

The late Rev. Subhadra Jyothi taught me that it was always a blessing to have an altar at your work station. She and I had worked together at the Friendly Falafel Stand in Isla Vista while being ashramites at Yogaville West in California in the mid-1970s. We shared a love of angels and choral music. Both were part of my elevator experience.

(Photo: Pierre Cardin, left, with Andy Warhol)

With Faure’s “Requiem” playing on a cassette player in the background, Pierre Cardin entered the elevator. Upon entering, he noticed my little altar and he began to tell me of his devotion to Gurudev. It was lovely to share that glow of acknowledgement from one devotee to another.

After I was hired by the Mart, I told Gurudev that I was working as an elevator operator. He told me my job was to “elevate” people. And, I took that to heart! Everyone wanted to ride in my elevator. But, that was to prove more temporary than planned due to the following incident. Smoking had just become illegal on elevators. One morning a man tried to force himself into the crowded space with his cigarette. I refused to close the doors until he got off. The remaining occupants cheered me but also informed me that that man I just kicked off my elevator was the owner of the Merchandise Mart! Yes, I was fired that afternoon.

I moved to Yogaville East in Pomfret, Connecticut soon after. Reverend Gesshin (the late Prabhasa Dharma Roshi) and I worked together at the candle shop and Gurudev finally gave me my name, Radhika, while galloping up and away on his horse, Flash. These days, I like to remember all these memories and so many New Year’s eves spent at Gurudev’s side at Casa de Maria during our annual Integral Yoga Retreats there. He would always have me play a lullaby at the end of the evening. Reading Pierre Cardin’s obituary reminded me of our brief but deep encounter. That day, he rode the elevator beyond his floor just so he could experience the vibe a bit longer…

About the Author:

Radhika Miller is an Integral Yoga teacher, renowned musician and educator. In 1983, at the suggestion of her spiritual teacher, Swami Satchidananda, she made a recording of her flute music for people to become peaceful and relaxed. The album sold far beyond the Integral Yoga community launching her into the recording business with her own label, Radhika Miller Music (RMM). Her twelve titles include her latest “Sanctuary,” her best selling Sunlit Reverie (over 150,000 sold), among others. In addition to her recording achievements, she is an accredited music educator, and is considered a master teacher in her field. She has created music and dance curriculums for the California public school system and has offered several teacher training in-services. She has taught “Musicality for Dancers” as part of Marin Ballet’s Guest Master Series and was founder and artistic director of YOUNG IMAGINATIONS, a non-profit multi-cultural arts education company dedicated to providing inspired music, dance and drama education to thousands of school children. Learn more here.