March Newsletter 2019

"God is absolutely independent.
The only way to approach Him is through love,
through constant repetition of His name
and invocation of His mercy."   

Meher Baba 
East-West Gathering, 1962

Dear Meher Center Friends and Family,

A loving Jai Baba to you from Meher Center. March and April are the beginning of the ‘busy spring season’ at the Center, which stretches into May and June. This year, numerous events are being planned for Baba’s lovers and seekers of God who will be visiting the Center. We hope you will have time to travel to His home in the West and be a part of the programs and festivities. 

In Baba's Love and Service,

Buz Connor
Executive Director

Operational Projects Completed & Underway

Projects Completed

  • New Sheriar entrance gate installed. It will remain closed at all times, and the inner locked chain will remain in place. Both Sheriar and Dilruba entrance gates will now be locked at night.
  • Cove 2 bathroom painted. Exterior repairs and painting of Cove 1 and 2.
  • Fire mitigation and vegetation ecology consultants came for further work on their studies and met with staff and board members.
  • Plumbing repairs at Dilruba and the Bungalow buildings.
  • Laurel Oak 2 ceiling painted, and bed height lowered to accommodate special needs requirements.
  • Monthly intensive mold and mildew treatment established for Meeting Place.
  • Emergency communication system installed at the beach entrance.

Projects Underway

  • Rebuilding of entry ramp at the Lantern; repairs and painting inside and out. 
  • Post-hurricane repairs to the Original Kitchen exterior siding, and interior painting.
  • Continued road work due to recent heavy rains.
  • Forest debris clearing along perimeter firebreaks.
  • Annual intensive cleaning of all Center cabins and public buildings.
  • Completion of remaining vista work overlooking Long Lake.
Recent Events

Meher Baba's Birthday play

By Jamie Keehan

While living in California not long ago, I experienced a sudden, random, remarkably powerful urge to do community theatre. I had no theatre background, no time for extracurriculars, and no local acting opportunities, but the urge remained. It makes me smile that, a year later in Myrtle Beach, Joe DiSabatino asked me to act in Baba’s birthday play. Baba was just making sure I was ready for my acting debut for Him.

L’Amore Divino in Portofino is a play about the transformative power of God’s love, depicted through a fictional account of Meher Baba’s visit to Portofino, Italy, in the 1930’s. Joe asked me to look it over before signing on, and during that first read-through, I could almost smell the jasmine on the night air of Portofino. Soon after, I started rehearsals with a close-knit community of dedicated and often hilarious co-stars.

Being part of a community performing a complicated task together is rich, and beautiful, and almost never easy. As the rehearsal schedule intensified and the performance approached; as we finished memorizing our lines and started discussing our characters’ motivations and relationships; as we tried to remember which prop we were supposed to bring out when (the chocolate? the couch? the cat?), the inevitable sparks flew. But it seemed so clear, in the more lucid moments, what those sparks were about. That Baba was giving us, as He had given His Mandali so many years ago, the opportunity to put our hearts and our sweat and sometimes our sanity into producing something that would entertain Him.

And so, finally, it happened: the night was upon us, and after a hushed final meeting in which we all agreed to do our best for Baba, the play began. And the first read-through I had done spread before my eyes in living color. Michael spun the wheels of his bike and talked about the cosmic cogs—and Baba clicking them into gear. Lucia’s memories of Baba resurfaced, and she was able to share those moments, those silent moments, when she started to love Him in spite of herself. And that love impacted characters like me, Anna: I could feel my heart, which had been broken years before, start to mend, and become ready for love to pour through.

When I looked out at the audience, I thought how grateful I was to be able to share this experience with them—the moonlit nights with Baba, the sparks of love in unexpected places, the laughs. Then I looked up higher, above the heads of all those wonderful community members, to a painting of Baba’s face. I think I saw Him smiling. 
The Center has 200 volunteers who dedicatedly fill 264 volunteer roles. They are the invisible living breaths that make this place function and hold it together into the retreat that it truly is. With a staff of only 22, it is pretty self evident that we could not be who we are without the loving service of Baba’s lovers. We are grateful to our volunteers every single day as they fill round the clock roles. One of the many occasions we use to express this gratitude is the Evening and Overnight Volunteer Retreat.

This year, the retreat for the Evening and Overnight Gatekeepers and Caretakers was held on March 16 and 17. It involved two days of work meetings, sharing of personal stories, discussions and feedback along with an evening program of music and films put on by the volunteers. Some of the group chose to spend the night to really soak into the atmosphere at the Center during this time.

This was the 23rd year of this retreat, which has grown and evolved over the years to meet the needs of the group and the Center. This year we changed the format and broke the large group of 45 into small groups that were intermixed. This gave all of us the chance to hear from each other in more detail. The next day the group had a chance to meet as a large group which is something they always do and love.
What was different this year was an addition of a one-hour segment where people could choose from activities that were lighter or more inspirational. They could either listen to an audio talk by Elizabeth Patterson, the Founder of the Meher Center; share personal stories of inspiration as pilgrims and volunteers; go on a self exploration walk; or share humorous stories of memorable incidents at the Center.

I personally had a hard time choosing where to go. I wanted to do it all! Eventually, I decided to listen to Elizabeth’s talk, which she gave at the Saroja library in 1970. At the very same spot, we all gathered to witness the magic. As we looked over Long Lake and the ocean beyond, we heard Elizabeth share her journey of searching for the Center with Norina Matchabelli and knowing that this was the place they were looking for. Even though the story of the Center’s founding is commonly known, to hear it from her was just a glimpse into what a serendipitous occurrence it was. The founding of the Center was not easy, but clearly it was completely orchestrated by Baba. Listening to Elizabeth speak is no joke: she commands every bit of attention not because of her authority, but because she takes being a disciple very seriously. She personifies that serving God and our fellow beings is not something we do partially, but wholeheartedly. For me there could have been no better words than hers to bring together all those who continue to serve Him and more that will come in the future.

Upcoming Events

The Secretary:
A Comedy of Discipleship
A play by Philip Lutgendorf

Starring: Susan Smith

Friday, March 22 and Saturday March 23

The Secretary – A Comedy of Discipleship, a play by Philip Lutgendorf, is an allegorical comedy, set in a theatrical agency called “Parvardigar Productions.” The sole character is a female secretary devoted to her boss, Mr. Baba, the Producer.

This play has been produced six times over the past 45 years–twice by the Meher Players of Chicago in 1974 in Chicago and Myrtle Beach; once in Mandali Hall in 1995 starring Wendy Connor as the secretary, directed by her mother, Jane Haynes; twice in Chapel Hill in 2016 (after the “lost” play was found and resurrected by Darryl and Susan Smith), starring Susan as the secretary, with production support from Darryl; and most recently, again by the Smiths, in 2018 for the Avatar’s Abode 60th Anniversary Program in Australia. 

The play is about 35 minutes long, and the beautiful Baba back-story about the retired professional actress who first played the secretary role in 1974 (and other delightful details) is another 15 minutes.
Artist in Residence
Steve Klein

March 26-30, 2019
Meher Center welcomes
Steve Klein—Poet, Author, and Storyteller

Steve Klein first visited India in 1972 with his wife Daphne, and returned many times after that– even living in Meherabad between 1982 and 1986. Steve’s experiences in India and connections with the Mandali allowed him to publish four books of poetry and help edit many books about Meher Baba, including the last five volumes of Glimpses of the God-Man and Intimate Times With Meher Baba by Bal Natu, and three volumes of Eruch’s stories that were collected in That’s How It Was .

Each afternoon, Steve will host chats about Baba’s mandali and about life with Baba. These informal sessions of stories and poems will last about an hour and explore a variety of themes, including surrender, inner versus outer life, suffering, and Baba’s personal presence and humor. In addition, Steve will share two evening programs of “Poems, Stories, and Songs” along with guest musicians, exploring the journey of being with Baba through joy, humor, song, and story.
Please check the Center’s website
for program times.

Ross & Jenny Keating
Jenny Keating (nee Le Page) met Meher Baba as a child in Australia when He visited there in the 1950s, and at the East-West Gathering in India. She grew up at Meher House, Sydney, the Center built for Meher Baba by Francis Brabazon where Baba stayed and worked during His first visit to Australia in 1956. Francis was like an uncle, living with the family off and on until his departure for India in 1959. From there he sent a lot of his early songs to Jenny’s mum Joan and, along with Jenny’s sister Maree, they were the first to learn them. A tape recording of Jenny singing along with Maree was heard by Baba in 1967 and again in 1968. She lives now with her husband Ross next door and helps with the care-taking of Meher House and the organization of events that take place there. She also oversees the preservation and documentation of her father Bill Le Page’s archives.

Ross Keating first heard of Meher Baba in 1969 and travelled to India starting in the 70’s, meeting the Mandali and hearing firsthand of their life with Baba. He was also one of a small group who spent weekends with Francis Brabazon at Avatar’s Abode during the 70’s. He completed a doctorate on Francis’s life and poetry which was later published,  Francis Brabazon Poet of the Silent Word: a Modern Hafiz  (2002). He has also published a book of poems,  A First Act  (2015) and a fictional work  Reading Stay With God  (2017). In 1978 he married Jenny Le Page and they have two daughters, Roshan and Nadya. Both Ross and Jenny are singer songwriters and are planning to release a CD of their original songs.

Ross and Jenny will be staying at the Center from March 27 th to May 6 th . Please check the Center’s website ( https://www.mehercenter.org) for program times.
Ellen, a pilgrim, says she didn’t know if God existed until a year ago. True, there had always been part of her that was searching for God; as a child, she created God-themed art, and as an adult she was drawn to mysticism. Still, she didn’t really know why she was searching, or what she was searching for.

Ellen first heard about Baba, and the Center, from her friend Linda. At first, Linda just shared little tidbits, but, as Ellen asked more questions, those tidbits grew larger and larger. At last, Ellen found herself talking about Baba in Linda’s kitchen from noon to 6 p.m. The next morning, without even telling Linda, Ellen called the Center to make a reservation for the following weekend.

Despite her interest in Baba, Ellen remembers driving to the Center with a lot of skepticism, including a loud voice inside her head proclaiming, “I’m not following an Indian guru!”. Nevertheless, she arrived and got situated in her cabin, which she was sharing with another first-time guest who quickly became a friend. That evening, they decided to walk to Baba’s house together.

Baba’s house was closed for the evening when they arrived, but Ellen approached the fence in the twilight. Suddenly, she felt the urge to put her hands on the fence, and then an intense feeling in her heart. “I don’t know how to explain this,” she says, “I’ve described it as a ‘whoosh,’ I’ve described it as an explosion in my heart, but it was big, and it was powerful, and it was a real opening, a heart opening for me.” Looking back, Ellen calls that moment an experience of Baba’s love. And ever since that day, Ellen has felt God’s presence in her life.

Now, a year later, Ellen is back on the Center to celebrate her first anniversary with Baba. Since that moment at His house, there have been inevitable ups and downs, but also intense personal growth, and, always, the recognition of love humming in the background of her life. She is deeply grateful that her lifelong search has brought her here. In fact, she says, “until I found Baba, I didn’t know what I was looking for.”