Remembering Bill Swami

I’ve just received the news from India that Bill Swami has died, at the age of 91. Readers of Cloud Messenger will remember him as my mentor during those eventful years that I lived in India.  His daughter Susan told me that he died peacefully following a brief illness, in the room in Sivananda Ashram where he’d lived for so many years.  He was surrounded by friends and loved ones who cared deeply for him.    
 
In Cloud Messenger, he is a key character.  He and his daughter Susan met me in Sivananda Ashram during the early days of my married life.  Their support was a lifeline to me during that confusing time.  We’d take a walk every afternoon, usually along the forest road above the ashram, and then we’d share tea and conversation.  Bill became a beloved mentor, and his wise words still inform my life.  
 
He would talk about the dangers of creating specific expectations about people, about work, about dreams for the future.  He’d say - “Your task is to work hard in the direction of your dreams.  But then you must leave the outcome to God.” This advice draws from the wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita, a treasured scripture of the Hindu faith.  Even if you don’t relate to the concept of God, these words are meaningful.  When we develop specific expectations about others and about our work, we are likely to be disappointed.  We must stay open to the mystery of life, and then we may perceive unexpected gifts in the way our lives unfold.