Tuesday, 5 May 2015

It is darkest before dawn: Sonja Venturi finds light and purpose in life_Part 1

"The night is darkest before dawn." This is a cliche agreed. But there is a reason why it has become a cliche!
26-year old Sonja lay in her bed, writhing in deep pain. She was feeling sick, tired and very weak. She also did not seem to have enough energy to digest the food she was eating. A lot of things can go wrong in the human body. But as Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba says, the stomach is the petrol tank of the car called the body. When that goes wrong, everything else also goes wrong. Deprived of the only source of energy for man - food, Sonja knew that she had to see a doctor.

She indeed saw, not one, but several doctors. She was a visitor at several hospitals. Multiple medical checks later, the diagnosis was incomplete and unconfirmed.
“Everything seems to be normal... nothing out of the ordinary...”
“Then why am I losing weight? Why am I unable to eat and digest anything? Why is my heart in trouble as well?”
“Errr... we could possibly do a few more tests...”

The tests themselves seemed to sap the life-energy out of her. She was now growing sick of these tests as well.

Sonja (pronounced as Sonia) Venturi, as the name suggests, was Italian by birth. Since childhood she always nurtured a passion in her heart which drove her to excellence in whatever she undertook. However, she always worked with a childlike innocence and genuine love which had not yet been extinguished by the ravages of adulthood. And that had led her to her present day condition.

Sonja’s condition was the case of an unsound body due to an unsound mind! The unsound mind was the result of her shattered faith in the world of humans and her tormented emotions from the lies and falseness of people around. Her profession seemed to teach her that a lawyer cannot succeed without becoming a liar and a woman cannot without becoming a ‘woo’man! The outright hypocrisy and subtle superficiality made her feel deeply sad. Values were apparently not valued while deceit seemed like the way of life. She had been unable to digest why the world was so fake and that manifested as severe indigestion. Her suffering body was a manifestation of a deep-seated heartache.

In other words, Sonja was a physical wreck because she was a mental and psychological wreck. And she had no clue as to where relief would come from.

The voice within

Sonja sat on the hospital bed hearing the same old diagnosis,
“There is nothing life-threatening that you are suffering from... But you will have to take medicines for a long time...”
Sonja turned away. She looked out of the window at the little garden that was beside her room.  All of a sudden, a little sound came from her heart. It was like a tiny bell ringing and Sonja heard a diagnosis that took her by surprise.
“You are your own problem”, the voice said, “It is not an illness. You are your own problem.”

Sonja realized that the voice was emanating from within her. She just knew that her problem was neither physical nor psychological. So, there was no way that any doctor’s diagnosis was going to cure her. The realization was instantaneous and the words spontaneously dropped forth from her mouth,
“Doctor, I want to go home.”

Sonja then tried to explain the reason for her decision. The elderly doctor seemed very interested in listening to her. But he appeared as if he was not understanding. He came closer and before Sonja could realize, he tried to kiss her. Sonja was now mortified. She firmly rejected him.
“No! I want to go home NOW.”
“That is highly unadvisable. There are risks...”
Sonja felt all of her strength returning for a moment that needed her to be strong. She did not want to believe anything this man said or did. She said very firmly that she was getting herself discharged. Her vehemence in itself seemed to push the cheapskate doctor away.

Sonja was out of hospital that same day. Though it was exactly her 26th birthday, Sonja did not know that it would mark the first day of a new birth for her even as she decided to meet the ‘strange woman’ that everyone used to warn her against.

The ‘strange woman’ had a name - Bianca. Bianca had a ‘Guru’ somewhere in India. She was a healer and seemed to live in the realms of mysterious mysticism. What man does not understand, he fears. Those who did not know her, feared Bianca. But that was till they met her. Within a few minutes of being with her, one realized that she was a most loving, sincere, simple and loving human being. Bianca's house was full of life and people coming to search help, she never had a moment for herself and was always there for everybody in need. Sonja had known her since being a child but did not have any personal contact with her since many years, but she knew that Bianca’s guru was an Afro-haired, orange-robed man from India.

Getting out of the hospital, Sonja’s inner voice guided her to Bianca and her Indian guru. Bianca was a Pranotherapist - a therapist working with the Prana (life force). Pranotherapy or polarity therapy  is a gentle, holistic method of treatment, applicable to many health problems and also useful in maintaining health. Central to Polarity Therapy is the concept of a life energy, which is in constant pulsation from positive to negative poles via a neutral position, creating fields and energetic lines of force. This creates an energetic "template" for the physical body, termed "The Wireless Anatomy of Man" by Dr. Randolph Stone, the founder of this therapy.

Pranotherapy is all about setting in harmony life's energies and it borrows heavily from Ayurveda. 
According to Pranotherapists, disease is a process which occurs when the life energy is blocked or out of balance. To overcome these problems Polarity therapy uses a system of gentle bodywork supported by a specific set of exercises (Polarity Yoga), advice on diet and nutrition, and counseling. Pranotherapy derives its inspiration extensively from the Indian system of medicine - Ayurveda.

Dream experience

There was a sort of instant connect that Sonja felt with Bianca and, more importantly, with Bianca’s guru, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It was an inexplicable bonding, something that happened from within. Meanwhile Bianca told Sonja that she would assist in the healing process as well.
“You are not ill”, she said, “this disease is a manifestation of an internal disease. Your soul is searching for something more... something to help it find its way back to its Source!”
After that, Bianca revealed so many facets of Sonja’s personal life that she could not possibly  have known. Then, she gave her the first treatment of healing energy.
Sonja returned home overjoyed, from that moment she was sure there was more than this material world. A couple of days later, she had a very special dream.

There was this person radiant with His halo of black hair and and a yellow dress (the Pitambara).  His whole body was blue however.

That was it. She just witnessed this ‘strange’ being. Sonja woke up. It was early in the morning and she was experiencing great peace and joy within. Sonja told Bianca about the dream and Bianca told her about Krishna, the characteristics of whom Swami had decided to take upon.

That was only the beginning of the dreams. They began to occur more frequently and more intensely and it was evident to Sonja that Swami had decided to take over. She felt very comforted and that began to show in her gradual health improvement as well. Slowly and surely, Swami became the single most important thing in her life. He seemed to be always present by her side ensuring that she was never lonely. Months passed without her visiting a hospital. The only ‘official healing’ that Sonja received was from Bianca.
Within a year, she was medically fit to even travel long distances. Was it any surprise that she chose to travel to India, to the holy hamlet of Puttaparthi?

Sonja enters Prasanthi and Prasanthi enters Sonja

Sonja’s first trip to Prasanthi seemed to be a natural extension to her healing process which had begun in Italy. While it was all about getting out of a morass in Italy, Prasanthi was about scaling the peaks of her own inner peace and splendour. The first sight of Baba took her breath away. She could literally feel the majesty, the sweetness, the divinity and, most importantly, the love He exuded. He spoke nothing to her and yet she felt so connected to Him. There were no interviews or interactions, just smiles and glances, and those made her feel so close to Him. Each darshan session, Sonja felt her peace grow and joy radiate from her being. She could not believe that just an year ago, she was lying on a hospital bed!

It was during the final few darshan sessions that Sonja heard her inner voice once again. It told her the purpose of her life. Suddenly, everything became clear for Sonja. She knew what she had to do in her life. She wanted to capture that inspiration. Since Swami had not yet arrived for darshan, she took out a notepad and wrote down,
“I wish to serve You and be of some use in Your mission.”

Moments later, Swami arrived for darshan. He came straight to her and looked her in the eye. He smiled and said,
He walked on. Nobody knew what Swami meant by that single word but for Sonja, that word meant the whole world! She was overjoyed. She would never forget that smile in her entire life. She realized that the Lord’s smile is the most potent, inexhaustible source of energy and enthusiasm in the whole universe. Thus, even as she left Prasanthi, she carried the Prasanthi it embodies along with her. She was also busy planning her next visit to the abode of Supreme Peace.

The smiles say it all - professional success also came along in Sonja's life

as she celebrates the successful completion of another case in the
Italian Supreme Court.
Back home, Sonja’s professional path transformed into a magically successful one. Have you noticed that once you turn your back to the world to turn towards God, the world automatically seems to follow you? When you chase your shadow and move away from the light, the shadow runs away from you as fast as you go towards it. But just turn around and move towards the light, the shadow meekly follows you with the same speed with which you move towards the light.

Sonja saw that ever since her focus became Swami, her professional life automatically prospered. She started to get very good assignments as a lawyer. She tried her best never to swerve from the path of righteousness, however hard it was and noticed that Swami ultimately gave her victory. She only had to persevere with faith in Him. Interestingly, Sonja also began to get offers to ‘manage’ celebrities. That was how a woman in her twenties became manager to pop stars and sportspeople.

Again, there was a divine plan in that also, because Sonja would open up her heart and share the wonders her heart had experienced with these celebrities too. Many of them were touched with Swami’s universal message of love. In fact, the two time Olympic champion in track cycling, Antonella Bellutti decided to carry the message “Love all Serve all” on her jersey too! The Italian Sports Gazette has a report about the same in its archives. (Just go to the page and search for the words ‘love all serve all’. Then, use Google translate!) The words Sonja had written down in her notepad seemed to be finding fruition. She had become Swami’s messenger of love.

Sonja visited Puttaparthi several times over the next couple of years. Each visit strengthened her faith in God and goodness. Unknown to her, they were also preparing her for a role that she had not dreamed in the least. During her visit in 1998, she got her first ever interview with God!

The familiarity of lifetimes

It was actually a group interview and the whole Italian group had been called in by Swami. Sonja saw Swami from close quarters and she felt joy well up within her. When Swami spoke to her, He did so with the familiarity of someone who had known her for several years. After all, isn’t the Lord our life a companion across several births? Then, why won’t He have the familiarity? But then, Sonja too seemed to have rekindled the connection of lifetimes because she also felt an overwhelming familiarity with Swami. It was possibly due to His constant appearance in her dreams and visions also. Swami told her that she should continue with her activities but,
“Everything is changing...”

That was the absolute Truth. She had already felt so many changes and was glad to hear that the changes were still works-in-progress. Then, whilst she was kneeling in front of Him and holding His hand, He told her,
“Happy, happy, happy!”

That felt like a blessing and statement of fact rolled into one for Sonja. She felt endless love and joy fill her whole being. Space and time vanished - there was only peace and real love.

The interview that followed was a cathartic one for Sonja. She poured out her heart to Swami and Swami lovingly cleared all her confusions, doubts and questions. Sonja laughed and cried, got excited and felt serene, questioned and spoke out - all in a span of an hour. So many personal things were discussed.  In that first interview, Sonja understood the true meaning of the Italian word Amore or Love!

One thing that stood out for her were Swami’s words,
“Everything is changing...”

What did Swami mean by that statement? Sonja would get a hint of an answer during one of her next trips in 1999.

A photograph from a later interview in February 2008. However, Sonja's feelings remain the same as it was during the first interview - happiest at His Lotus Feet!

A changed life

The trip in 1999 saw Sonja arriving to Prasanthi as a very sick and tired lady. Though a doctor had told her she was getting ill again, she did not want to believe it. A few days later, she had a dream where Swami told her, “Come to me... come to me...”
And she had rushed towards Him in the dream.
She had packed her bags and arrived at Prasanthi. With high fever, there were days when she did not even go for darshan as she lay in bed, waiting for the fever to abate.  She had no idea that Swami had planned to play out the entire story of her life in this trip and lead her along a changed path in her life.

Each day she recovered a bit and each day she got a better place to sit for darshan in the Sai Kulwant hall. One night, she woke up to the soulful strains of a Latin song. It was mesmerising and Sonja wondered who was singing the song. It was around 4 am and the whole of Puttaparthi was asleep. From the little Latin that she understood, Sonja was thrilled to listen to the angelic choir sing the song,
“You will be one with the Love of God.”

The experience did not end that night. The next night, she heard the same divine angelic choir sing, “Hallelujah Hallelujah”. She realized that the music was coming from 'another world'. She laughed out and said aloud to the ‘angelic choir’,
“You guys now please don’t go  into the habit of waking me early in the morning with your beautiful voices!”

Sonja had just received a hint about what the ‘change’ would be in her life. This was to be just the beginning of many joyously sleepless nights when divine inspiration would let out the music that Swami had planted in her.

Who would have thought that Sonja would become a singer. But when God directs one’s life, what can not be possible? (Hear a sample of what the Divine Inspired in her via this YouTube video below.)

(to be concluded in Part 2 which is posted at the link below) 

It is darkest before dawn: Sonja Venturi finds light and purpose in life_Part 2

For all readers:

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  1. Thanks a lot for this article. It inspired me to follow at least one of the teachings of Bhagwan.

  2. Awesome very nice one Aravind B ... 'Yes' Life is changing.. reminds me what Swami said in Significance Darshan Swami said 'You are transformed day by day'... really it works. Inner voice... Love of Swami... all these in the article are very touching. Thank you so much for this article. Jai Sai Ram.

  3. Beautiful, amazing, thanks brother for depicting so precisely taking readers as if it is happening to them.

  4. Sai Ram and thank you. I eagerly await the continuing story of another soul whose life has changed when it was moved toward the Light of our Swami. I, too, move now with gentle encouragement and love, Every new story eases me, cheers for me, as I learn to more wisely choose a path where I have been guided.

  5. very inspiring, high light our bhagawan all pervasive and all calling gods devotee.s to him. thanks very much saivenkat

  6. What a great story. You must watch the videos below a friend sent this to me.
    It is a video of one Mr Kannan in super hospital at Puttaparthi. Amazing experiences with with Sai Baba.

    Part I : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uduFKnlJmeQ
    Part II: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2cG1k55yvM

    what does "Pranasakha" mean. google says "Soulmate" is that what it is?

    1. "Pranasakha" also means "a friend who is dearer than life" apart from "soulmate".


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