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In June 2001 Connie Shaw, a long-time Sai devotee and the author of the book 'Wake Up Laughing - My miraculous life with Sai Baba', came to Vancouver from her home in Colorado to talk about some of her experiences. She talked at length about many topics but one, about the role of women in the New Age, caught our attention. We reproduce it here with her kind permission.

THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE NEW AGE

In order to attain inner peace that will be reflected in all aspects of society, all of us, boys and girls, men and women, are going to need to focus on three things. These three things are -:

1. New vision, a new vision for ourselves, for society and for the planet.
2. New values, new values that have to do with the eternal timeless values that sustain life on the Earth - Love, Peace, Truth, Right-conduct and Non-violence.
3. New strategies, new strategies to change societies all over the world.

What do we mean when we talk about a New Vision? New vision means that all people and all species must be respected, that in order to initiate and maintain peace in relationships, homes and places, communities and nations, we must end the exploitation of the elderly, the poor, the illiterate, the unemployed, the minorities and children and women. If we continue to foul the air, the water and the soil, we are rapidly committing planetary suicide. Time is running out.

What about New Values? New values must be used as the template for every new invention that we make, for every plan, for every implementation of every idea. We must ask, "Will this harm ourselves, will it harm our children, will it harm the Earth or any other species, will it harm our grandchildren?"

What about New Strategies? New strategies absolutely must involve grass roots, inter-faith, multi-cultural and interdisciplinary co-operation between all people in all sectors of society. There is a gigantic leadership vacuum in the world today at both local and national levels. If our leaders knew how to do things better they would be doing them better by now. If we knew how to live our lives better we would be doing that better by now. We need to get greater clarity, greater insight and greater guidance in our lives.

The restoration of sacred living is up to all of us, but Sai Baba tells us that women are now coming into leadership roles in this regard. So what is this spiritual agreement that can catapult women everywhere into action, to inspire men, boys, girls and women to lead noble lives? I would like to suggest some key principles if we are going to be successful in this regard.
 
l. We women must be ruthless with ourselves, as women, in seeing clearly our ego minds, the creations of our ego minds and our shadow selves and in transcending the ego.
2. While being rigorous with ourselves, we must be compassionate and high-minded and creative in leading our families, our neighbours and our colleagues. We must lead by example.
3. We must reintroduce and involve in both eastern and western society a deep and compelling knowledge of respect for and faith in the divine feminine aspect of God and in ourselves.

To restate the principles again then. Firstly, we women have to walk our talk. It just won't work, if we only talk about it. Secondly, we must lead freshly, skilfully and modestly. Thirdly, we must honour the feminine intuitive aspects of ourselves and we must encourage that in our boys and men and help them to know and to understand fully that there is power in intuition, that there is power in sensitivity, that there is power in kindness. We must teach them that they need not be afraid to take responsibility for their emotions, for their communications and for their relationships with us, that we all have to be equally responsible for our loving and our living, being neither afraid to live nor afraid to die, nor afraid to relate. We all have to grow up and that is okay. Whether this process is fun or not is up to us.

Now how do we walk our talk? Simply by not nagging, by not brow beating, by not controlling and by not manipulating. Let's face it ladies, we have tried all of these and they have not worked. Nobody likes the fact that men are not listening, that they are not paying attention; moreover it's not very fair to them. All right then, how are we going to do this? By being enthusiastic, subtle, supportive, mentors and managers of a household of gifted people. You happen to live in a household of gifted people and they need to be treated that way, they need to be acknowledged, they need to be encouraged, they need true leadership. Our job is to encourage the gifts and leadership of everyone around us. When they succeed, we succeed. This is our job, this is everybody on Earth's job, but we must behave like brilliant field marshals, very compassionately, very sharply. We should study more about communication, about time management, about leadership. There is a wonderful book by Lt. General Dr. M.L.Chibber entitled Sai Baba's Mahavakya on Leadership, which provides much good information on leadership. It is very, very good. In Toronto there are over twenty Sai Centres, with thousands of Sai devotees and many of them are reading that book. Young people, in particular, are studying it.

We all need to exhibit the qualities of serenity, capability, humour and wisdom. We can study the great lives of our heroes and saints. Let's face it, the lives of most celebrities and sports heroes and political leaders today are actually not very inspiring. In fact I find it rather disappointing to hear about their love lives of desolation, when we have thousands of saints and heroes whose lives are chronicled in the libraries of the world. If we read about them, we can find out about their moments of trial, their difficulties, their challenges, their moments of despondency, their very human stories. We can all relate to them because we have all suffered in similar fashion, we know what it feels like, we are intimately familiar with pain, but suffering is optional. We all know how to suffer, but do we recognise that we don't have to. The good news is that with Sathya Baba being on the Earth at this time, you do not have to suffer, you can give that all up if you would like to, but no one is going to force you to do this. You have to do it yourself.

Mothers, it is important that you teach your daughters to be partners, not dependent cling-ons. I heard some Indian women recently talking about the fact that as Sai women they have decided to re-examine the practice of giving dowries and its effect on society when compared to the values of love, non-violence and compassion. Here in the West we women can re-examine how we have become tools of advertising and are enslaved by products which we really don't need. We should consider whether or not we really want to break our addiction of constantly trying to get other people's attention, recognition, praise, love and approval through acting in certain ways, dressing in certain ways, behaving in certain ways, giving away all of our power in the hope, a demeaning hope, that somehow this will provide the right answer to what it is that we are seeking. Has it ever occurred to you that we are all looking for the things from other people that we can only get from God? If you want love, give it to yourself; it is there in plenty. If you want respect, give it to yourself. If you want time or attention, give it to yourself. Teach your sons to do their own laundry, to iron their own shirts, to cook their own simple meals, so that they can manage for themselves. You know, when your sons grow up, perhaps they won't marry, perhaps they will divorce, perish the thought, any number of things could happen to them, then, how will they cope? Don't make your husbands and children dependent upon you. This raises cripples. You are not doing them a favour and you have got a bigger job to do. Our lives are not being lived for the few; our lives are being lived for the many.

When you faithfully steward that which is given to you, then, your arena of service will expand. You don't even have to ask for it. It will expand and expand. I never in my life thought I would be travelling all around the world speaking to audiences like you on topics like this. I had no idea of how I would be used as an instrument, but I have learned not to say "No" to God. It is not my business to question what He has in mind for me. Similarly, it is not your business if He is going to turn you into a speaker or a teacher or a healer, or if He is going to use you in some other way. Just be willing to say "God, if you are looking at me and you think that I can do it, then, you are going to have to help me a lot, because I don't think I can do it." God will say "Well that is alright, because I am the doer, you are not the doer, so just pay attention to Me and follow My directions please."

When people enter into unsatisfactory relationships with other people, just for income security or meals or laundry service or because they are lonely, it can end up by being very costly. You really don't need to do that. So, mothers, you must teach your kids to take care of themselves and then they won't have to get into a relationship just to have some semblance of security that will turn out to involve pain and suffering. It is amazing that we human beings chose to do this. So, ladies, we all have to grow up, if we are going to inaugurate and sustain the Golden Age that is to come. This need not be painful. It can be an enormously liberating process full of fun and joy.

I would now like to talk to you very briefly about freedom from thought addictions. One thought addiction is complaining. One thing you can all do in your families right now and in your work places is to institute the five-minute complaint forum. This means that every person at home or at work gets five minutes every day to complain, and no more. If they have already complained for five minutes in the morning, then they have to wait twenty-four hours before they can complain again. If they choose to complain for a whole five minutes about the same thing every day, after a while it begins to sound ridiculous. They get absolutely sick of it, as does everybody else, and then they begin to realise what their friends and family have had to put up with all this time! My mother called me recently and said "Honey, I have just realised something about myself. I like to complain, I really like to complain." I replied "I know Mom, I realised that about myself too, but then I became so disgusted with myself that I decided to change. I realised that I simply had not been paying attention to what I had been saying." My poor friends and family had been putting up with all my complaining simply because I had not been noticing what was coming out of my mouth. So I had been inflicting my constant complaints on everyone around me. I was just unaware. There are no bad people, only confused people. We are trying to do the best we can, but we are confused.

All people who suffer are blessed with God's Grace. Why do they suffer? It is because it is only through suffering that they will be persuaded to turn inward and to make enquiry. Who is it that is suffering? It is only the ego. I can tell you that your happiness is not dependent upon your circumstances. Whether you are sick or well, whether you are single or married, whether you are employed or unemployed, whether you are rich or poor, it is possible, in fact, essential, to learn to be deeply peaceful and happy. I spent a large part of the last year in a wheelchair, when I broke my leg and ankle and had a metal plate and nine screws put in my leg to hold the foot onto the leg. During this experience I was deeply peaceful and remained so. During my life I have been rich and poor, employed and unemployed, single and married, and I have had to learn to be peaceful and happy and to relinquish and surrender all my circumstances, because they have nothing to do with what I am or who you are. We are perfect, unblemished and powerful beings of spirit who live forever, who are untouched by the circumstances around us. Don't be fooled by relating to the circumstances.

Sai Baba says,
 "Take one step towards me and I will take a hundred towards you. Shed just one tear and I will wipe a hundred from your eyes. For the protection of the virtuous, for the destruction of evil and for the establishment of righteousness on a firm footing, I incarnate from Age to Age."
He also says,
"Many people hesitate to believe that the things on this Earth are going to improve, that life will be happy and full of joy and that the Golden Age will, in fact, recur. Let me assure you that this divine body has not come in vain. It will succeed in averting the great crisis which has come upon Humanity."
 
Someone once asked Mahatma Gandhi "Sir, in three words, can you tell us the essence of your teachings." Without batting an eyelid Gandhi said "In three words?" The questioner said, "Yes." Gandhi responded "Renounce and rejoice." So what is it that you and I are renouncing? We are renouncing, through God's grace and with the help of the teachings of Sai Baba and using our tiny bit of willingness, selfishness. We are renouncing despair, isolation, self-pity and are rejoicing in useful acts of selfless service. We are letting go of addictions and we are celebrating sobriety. We are dropping gossip and are cherishing true friendship. We are offering ourselves as God's instruments and we are marvelling at His miracles. Finally, through courage and through wisdom, we are renouncing control and manipulation and we are rejoicing in peace.

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Wake Up Laughing - My Life With Sai Baba by Connie Shaw
Priced at US $19.95 the book is published by:
Om Productions
P.O. Box 548
Johnstown
Colorado 80534
USA
Her web site is - www.connieshaw.com

The book is an intimate spiritual autobiography beginning with her early 1980's adventurous travels throughout Asia and the wonderful and exciting experiences she had as she searched for and found God Incarnate. The book chronicles her experiences with Sai Baba over nearly twenty years and details the extraordinary transformation that he brought about in her.