M EHER S PIRITUAL C ENTER

November Newsletter 2019
Shaw photo collection
The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have or becomes what he was not. It consists in the dissipation of his ignorance concerning himself and life, and the gradual growth of that Understanding which begins with spiritual awakening. The finding of God is a coming to one’s own Self.

Meher Baba
Discourses (Revised Seventh Addition), p.127

Dear Meher Center Family and Friends,

Season’s greetings and a loving Jai Baba to our many companions and supporters around the world. As you may know, Christmas and New Years are the busiest times at the Center. Our usually quiet atmosphere is transformed into a lovely two-week informal sahavas, filled with lots of activity and energy, as we focus our lives and hearts on the One who has brought all of us together. Hopefully, we’ll see many of you here over the holidays.

For those who do visit, you will see an increase in security cameras and lighting around the Gateway area. These are some of the steps we are taking, with advice from a security consultant, to ensure that the Center remains a safe place for the pilgrims who visit His home. 

Once again, I’d like to mention how touched we are by the response from our recent financial outreach effort to grow our annual operational income. As of this newsletter, we have not yet hit our target of increasing operational income by $350,00 for 2019. If you are able, please consider Meher Center in your charitable giving and tax planning as the year draws to a close.

Finally, we had our second annual Young Adult Sahavas at the end of October. Over fifty young people gathered in His name to reflect on what it means to follow Meher Baba in our lives today. We look forward to the event next year!

In Meher Baba’s love and service,


Buz Connor
For Meher Center board and staff
The Acorn that Bore the Mighty Oak
by Jamie Keehan
In 1968, one of the last things that Meher Baba signed was a children’s book that He sent as a gift for a group of children known as “Happy Club.”

Happy Club began in 1966, when Elizabeth Patterson, one of the founders of the Center, and 13-year-old Wendy Haynes, drove to a local African-American neighborhood to pick up Elizabeth’s cook and housekeeper, Bessie. At Baba’s request, Bessie had cooked for Him on each of His three visits to Myrtle Beach, and she was much loved both by Baba and by the women mandali. 

It was a rainy day, and when they arrived at Bessie’s house, they saw her three grandchildren playing in the mud outside. Something struck Wendy. “Aunty Boo, why are they playing in the mud?” she asked Elizabeth. Elizabeth turned to her, “It’s because they have no place else.” In that moment, Wendy felt compelled to ask, “Aunty Boo, do you think they could come to the Center sometime to play?”

The next week, the three grandchildren spent the afternoon at Baba’s home. The week after, seven children came; after three months, there were 45. Soon, the number was well over 100. The children spent time playing in nature, learning games and songs, doing arts and crafts, and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. After a few months, Wendy asked the group what they wanted to be called. “Happy Club!” was the resounding answer.  

Reverend William Gause, an unflagging advocate and worker for the Racepath community over the years, was once in Happy Club, and he describes the experience: “You got to meet people who loved at you. You didn’t hear no bad language from them, they didn’t mistreat you, they just loved you and they cared for you. And that rubbed off on me. And that’s why, one part of it, of me working here in the community, in spite of all the bad names and everything that’s been going on, I’m still standing through it all.”

Elizabeth described the kids in Happy Club as having a “plus quality,” something indefinable and special. Wendy relates, “The children on some level knew—well not even on some level, they knew that this was a very special place. [In their letters to Baba on His birthday] they would always say … on their own … ‘I love Baba, I love God.’ They felt Him on some level.” Baba said that Happy Club made Him very happy. 

Elizabeth later referred to Happy Club as the “Acorn that bore the mighty oak.” Picking up children from Happy Club and getting to know their families, she and Jane began to recognize severe unattended needs—lack of sewage, running water, preschools for children, medical access. They began working tirelessly with the people there and with other Baba lovers. Eventually, multiple non-profits, a preschool, and a medical clinic were all established. The connection between the two communities continues today with a constant back-and-forth of love, from support with day-to-day needs to the delicious Thanksgiving Dinner shared on the Center, cooked with such care by our Racepath family each year.  

When Jane died, her funeral was held at an African-American church in the Booker T. Washington neighborhood. The church was packed with people from the nearby community, along with those from the Meher Baba community. Unbidden, one woman in her nineties stood up and began singing a stunning rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”—a gospel song that Baba Himself loved. After Jane died, a picture of her was placed, along with one of Elizabeth, in that church as well as in the Racepath Community Center.

Reverend Gause is still hard at work making his community a better place. He runs the non-profit Phoenix Renaissance that Jane founded, providing critical services like a food pantry, an emergency assistance program, and a safe and loving afterschool and summer program for kids. “My dream is to see Phoenix as Jane did,” he says, “to spread through Horry County to every low-income community and to assist those that are in need, those that are not able to climb the ladder by themselves. To be able to help them climb the ladder, and one day they can say ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop.’”

And each year, during the Phoenix Renaissance summer program, the kids come back to the Center, to look wide-eyed at the trees and the animals and the pictures of Baba. In those moments, as the kids roam around the wonderful playground of Baba’s home, their laughter hearkens back to the laughs of Happy Club—the kids who drank in the love and support, ate dozens of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and made beautiful cards and drawings for Baba’s birthday. It hearkens back to the kids whose picture Baba held in 1966, gliding His finger across the photo to bless each one. And it reminds us of our interconnectedness, of the opportunity we all provide for each other to give service and to give love. 

Upcoming Events
Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving at Meher Center is celebrated with a traditional dinner cooked by the Racepath community. This wonderful fellowship continues into the evening to be followed by a special talk by a guest speaker.

9am – 5pm
Day visiting hours

9am – 5pm
Compound of Meher Abode open

1 pm
Thanksgiving dinner & dessert served
in the Refectory kitchen
($10 donation requested)

3:30 – 4:30 pm
Tea in the Original Kitchen sitting area

8:15 pm
Guest speaker Tom Riley shares at the Meeting Place


Mehera's Birthday
December 22nd

Mehera Irani was Meher Baba’s closest female disciple. Starting in 1924, she spent 45 years with Baba in His physical form. Mehera’s deep love and devotion to Baba were matchless: Baba said that Mehera loved Him as He should be loved, and that “Mehera is the very breath without which I cannot live.” Even after Baba dropped His physical form, Mehera’s deep love and devotion served as guidance and inspiration to many of His lovers throughout the world. On Mehera’s birthday, we will join together as a community to honor Mehera’s life, and what she teaches us about
how to love God.



Christmas through
New Years
at Meher Center

Numerous programs and events will be taking place during the last week of December. Keep checking back at our website for updated information.



Christmas Dinner

Meher Baba says He is the same Ancient One known in the past as Zoroaster, Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed. Baba and His Mandali would often gather together on the 25th of December to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Please join us in continuing this tradition with a delicious meal, cooked lovingly by our friends at the Racepath community, followed by a program.

New Year's Eve

Each winter, hundreds of people come to the Center to start the new year in Baba’s atmosphere and presence of love. As always, New Year’s Eve will involve prayers, song, delicious food, movies of Baba, and (of course) square dancing! Whether or not you can make it to the Center this year, we hope you will join us in beginning 2020 with a resounding

“Avatar Meher Baba Ki Jai!”

Receiving His Gift
By Preeti Hay

I left the room weeping after talking to Malcolm Clay. Malcolm worked at the center for 45 years, his job evolving until he was, for the last 30 years, in charge of the Center's grounds. When I asked to talk to him about his life and work at the Center, I was not sure he would agree, as he appeared from a distance to be a very private person. But he met my wish with love and respect. When he opened his heart to me, I felt my own heart melting in Baba's love, which permeated between us.
 
Malcolm was convinced of Meher Baba's Godhood before he came to the Center for the first time in the fall of 1970. He came with his wife Barbara and friend Andy Lesnik, and Malcom's younger sister Mary. "The Center was closed for repairs when we first came. We decided not to leave until it opened, so Elizabeth Patterson put us to work before we ever stayed here," he said. Malcolm and Barbara went on to Chicago soon after, leaving Andy behind in Myrtle Beach filling a relatively new position of cleaning cabins and assisting Frank Eaton, the Center's long-time caretaker. When Andy left the Center at the end of April,1971 to create Sheriar Press with Sheila Krynski, Elizabeth asked Malcolm if he wanted the job. Barbara worked that job alongside Malcolm, for a short while on one paycheck, and they never left! Did they consciously decide to dedicate their lives to serving at the Center? "I had no purpose other than being in close connection with Baba," he said.
 
I was curious about the changes in his life as he worked the sacred grounds all these years. Malcolm does not waste time. He goes right to it. “The biggest change has been my growing recognition of Baba's ever present love and care in my life. My time at the Center has been incredibly blessed. To be at His home when He had so recently been among us in physical form and to be, for many years, in the company of His Mandali and close lovers who had lived and worked with Him—I was basking in Baba's love. I didn't come to the Center to serve or to give, I came to receive His love.”

Looking back, Malcolm sees Baba's hand in his life from the beginning. "I have learned that everything in my life has been handed to me by Baba, precisely as I have needed. Everything. From the wounds of a difficult childhood, to the trials and rewards of close relationships. My health challenges and my many accidents on the Center. It has all been and, of course, continues to be to this present moment, given by Baba’s gracious hand. All has been, as Arlene Stearns once described my bad fall from a tree on the Center, a ‘spiritual push.’"
 
In talking with Malcolm, gratitude comes up again and again. For the last 23 years, his has been a journey about exploring the experience of gratitude. “In 1996 I was having a very difficult trip to India. Try as I might, I was unable to loosen my anxious mind’s grip and experience love for Baba. One day I asked Bal Natu (one of Baba’s close Mandali) how he made intimate contact with Baba, and he said that he laid his whole being at Baba’s feet. The next day, he pulled me aside and told me that he had asked Baba my question, and Baba told him that for me the answer is gratitude."

A number of years later Malcolm was meditating in Baba’s cave in Assisi and heard very clearly, ‘Gratitude is the key.’ Along with the words came an image of a key in a centuries’ old padlock.
 
So how has gratitude been an evolving part of his inner life ever since? He needed time to look deep within for answers to that one, and several days later he brought back some thoughts: “My experience of gratitude has changed over the years. Decades ago I felt the experience in my chest cavity, in the heart. Thanking Baba was a powerful tool, and I used it to slice through my mind’s resistance, freeing me to experience love and longing for God. But it was always ‘my’ love, and ‘my’ longing, and I held on to that separation from Him.
 
“But with His ongoing guidance my experience evolved, including my growing awareness of Baba’s ever present love and care in my life and my recognition that the only thing ever available to me is the present moment, and for the last number of years it has been quite different. Feeling gratitude now means ‘Thank You, Baba, for giving me this present moment with You,’ and that experience takes place in the Del (a Persian word that means the ‘source of being,’ or ‘bottom of the heart,’ or ‘seat of the soul’, which I feel in the abdomen between the sternum and the navel). Baba has given me the freedom to trust that everything I am, everything I have ever been, is a gift from Him. Gratitude is the experience of receiving His gift, making available this present moment, infinite and pure, with Him.”

I remember when the staff at Meher Center had bid adieu to Malcolm at a gathering, he shared a quote from Baba that has stayed with me ever since. “I have come to help you to surrender yourself to the Cause of God and to accept His Grace of Love and Truth. I have come to help you to win the one victory of all victories—to win yourself.”