In the summer of 1969, I lay in a field in Franconia, New Hampshire as I looked up at the soft clouds in the sky, with a deep awareness that I felt a separation between myself and the clouds. The feeling was very real and must have reflected my deep yearning for meaning. A wish rose in my heart and reached my lips, “I need someone to show me the way.”

“The way?” I knew almost nothing of Eastern thought, but I was aware that my ambitions were different than my friends. I was familiar with the I Ching, but my attempt to read the Bhagavad Gita ended in puzzlement.

That winter found me back in New York City as a substitute teacher. Though even Hatha Yoga wasn’t well known at the time, I decided to try a Yoga class. Sita, the instructor, mentioned that the center’s Guru, Swami Satchidananda, would be speaking at the Universalist Church on Central Park West on Friday. Curiosity overrode my fatigue from a day of teaching and I went to the Universalist Church.

I sat near the back of the packed church, and saw someone on stage whose image and voice seemed familiar. It was a cold winter and I had bought an inexpensive fur coat for warmth. (This was in the days before puff coats). That evening, Swami Satchidananda spoke about caring for the physical body. He also said, “Is it any wonder your children are dying in Vietnam, when you are clubbing baby seals for their fur?” Though I was enthralled by his wisdom, I decided to leave early and go home to take care of my tired body—and determined to sell the fur coat.

This was the start of my life long path and deep connection to Swami Satchidananda.

Soon I was at the New York Integral Yoga Institute as much as possible, taking Hatha Yoga classes, volunteering, and applying Integral Yoga practices in my life. By May, I asked to be initiated by Swami Satchidananda. On the initiation request form where there was a blank to fill in that asked, “Why do you want to receive initiation,” I wrote: “Because I no longer want to feel a separation between myself and the clouds “

On May 26, 1970, I received mantra diksha (mantra initiation) from Swami Satchidananda. The initiation took place in the walk-in closet of a neglected pre-war building on West End Avenue, which was set up to be a sacred space for this short, yet deeply inspiring ceremony. Thus began a journey that continues to this day, of a gradually closing gap between myself and the clouds—a gap that never actually existed . . .

About the Author:

The author in 1970, at the Integral Yoga Institute of New York.

Padma Renke Wick met Swami Satchidananda in 1970 and served as corresponding secretary at the New York Integral Yoga Institute during its early days. Over the years, she has taught Integral Yoga and contributed to Sri Swamiji’s interfaith service organizing several “Unity in Diversity” conferences. Padma has two grown sons, Ganesh and Muruga, and four grandchildren. She and her husband, Vishnu, live in Longmont, Colorado. Padma regularly practices Zen with the Eon Zen Center in Boulder and meditates with the household at the San Francisco Integral Yoga Institute several times a year.