07.04.05 Another paraplegic yoga practitioner: Matt Sanford Paraplegic Yoga Teacher
God's Grace and ProtectionEven though there have been no grand, divine visions in my life, no moments in which a resounding inner voice told me, "Go, do this Peter," there have been many, many ways in which God and Guru have let me feel their presence and protection.
by Peter van Kan
A serious car accident in 1979 landed me in a wheelchair as a paraplegic. On first impression, this may not seem to be a wonderful example of divine protection, yet, it has given me so much on many levels that I now consider that experience to have been one of the greatest blessings of my life. The challenge forced me to develop important inner qualities, including endurance, creativity, and surrender to God's will. Most importantly, it led me to a certain hatha yoga instructor who felt to lend me her copy of Autobiography of a Yogi. Having the blessing of feeling Yogananda's energy through his book, it was only a matter of time before I felt inspired to completely surrender to his love and become a disciple.
Even after eleven years of discipleship, meditation typically doesn't come all that easily to me. Still, I never skip a morning or evening of practice. My part is to never give up, because I know that nothing in this world comes within a million miles of the joy and truth experienced in meditation.
God's blessings have manifested outwardly in my life as well. Once, driving my car on a deserted beach north of Dublin, I became stranded when my car sank into the sand as the tide was coming in! I was a mile from the main road and it was getting dark, so I divided my time between praying for help and mentally preparing for a cold, winter swim.
Just as the sea water started to touch the front wheels of my car, I saw two lights turn off the main road and head towards me. As the lights came closer, I saw that it was a man on a bulldozer! He shouted to me, "You're in trouble, man!" Producing a rope, he pulled my car out and then drove off saying, "You sure are lucky -- I never take this coastal road." Once safely ashore, I broke out in laughter, sharing my joy with Master (Yogananda).
In another adventure, it was close to midnight that I was driving through the hills after a wonderful meditation. I knew there wasn't enough petrol in the tank to get me back that night, but I thought I might as well go in that direction and just sleep in the car. But then I drove past a deserted old bar where there was this rusted relic of a petrol pump.
Without any real hope, I stopped and, surprisingly, out of the dark appeared a man, who, when I dared to mention the word, petrol, said, "Of course," as if serving petrol at midnight happened every day! As I rode on with plenty of petrol, hardly believing this had really happened, I could almost hear Master say to me, "I didn't want to spoil our evening together."
Finally, it is often in the small things in which I feel Master's presence most of all: the enjoyment of being with a group of devotees, for instance. As Swami Kriyananda recently said, "Master took delight in being a human being." The greatest gift I have received from him is this: Being generally melancholic by nature, by his grace I have come to really love life.
Peter van Kan is a yoga teacher, musician, and writer. He also leads the residential Ananda Retreat Center in the village of Onna, Holland
What is Ananda? A worldwide movement based on the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and founded by Swami Kriyananda, a direct disciple of Yogananda. Learn about Yogananda, Ananda worldwide, schools, communities, and more at the Ananda Web Site.
Another paraplegic yoga practitioner: Matt Sanford Paraplegic Yoga Teacher