Bianca Alexander answers the question:

What is the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for you?


Wow. Well, the nicest thing a non-family member has ever done for me, was a friend of mine who I worked with back when I was working as an attorney here in Hollywood at Paramount, and she was at Fox. She and I used to party together, drink, and smoke, and straight West coast total partying — non-spiritual, non-yoga, any of that. One day, she said, "Well, why don't we, on a Sunday morning, meet me for church?" I was like, "Okay. What kind of church?" She's like, "Well, it's kind of a different church. It's meditation, and there's a reading, and just come. Just come. You'll see, you'll like it." And it ended up being the Hollywood Temple of Self-Realization Fellowship.

It's interesting, because it was such a beautiful experience, although very different. I was raised very traditional Christian, and so I was like, Okay. Where's Jesus? Okay, Jesus is up there [on the altar], but who are the rest? Krishna, I think I've seen that guy. Who are the rest of these guys? But I just remember feeling just a sense of tremendous peace, and the reading was just very inspirational. I can't remember what it was about.

Then, many years later, I met my husband, the person I was going to marry, and we knew that we wanted to have a spiritual marriage. We knew that we wanted to have a spiritual wedding, but had no idea where. We were looking and looking and looking for places, and this is where the gift kept on giving. We landed upon the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, which is this beautiful temple and grounds with a man-made lake, and swans swimming in the lake, and very high vibrations, very storybook romantic. We decided to get married there.

Again, we were not on the path of self-realization, had no idea... And, in fact, I had no idea that the two temples were even related. When it was time to sign up and book the venue, one of the attendants told us, "Listen, you get a 20 percent discount on the fee" — which was considerable — "If you just sign up for the [Home Study] Lessons, and become an SRF Lessons student."

So, of course, I'm not going to turn down a 20 percent discount on a wedding, you know? Are you kidding? And so we signed up for the Lessons, had no idea, again, what the path of Self-Realization Fellowship was, even though our vows were specifically written by the monastics for the purpose of self-realization — and, again, I didn't know what they were, I kind of battled with the attendant a little bit about wanting to write my own vows, very poetic, and was so glad that I chose not to, because they ended up being very beautiful.

Bianca and her husband Michael Alexander

So for two years I got the Lessons... again, not knowing who Yogananda was other than, "Oh, that's the place we got married." And it was just this gift, just kept percolating, at a challenging point in my life, two years into marriage, right? For everybody, once the honeymoon phase is over, challenges start creeping in. So, I opened up the Lessons. I knew not to throw them away, or recycle them. I opened up the Lessons, and it was there that the gift really began to reveal itself to me. Every question I ever had about life, about who I was, about the purpose of existence, where I came from, God, healing, having better, more positive, more powerful relationships, business, career, every question I ever had wanted answered, and many questions that I never had even knew to ask, were answered in those Lessons.

I continued to dive in, and got my Kriya initiation, and a few years later got certified as a yoga teacher, and it turns out that yoga is the very center of my entire life now. My work, our TV show, Conscious Living, which is about really giving people inspiration in our own journey towards bringing and incorporating more of the eightfold path of yoga into our everyday lives. Every part of my life — my marriage, my business, my career, really began in that first visit to the Hollywood Temple of Self-Realization Fellowship, and I can say now that my friend Gina, who first brought me to the temple, she's now passed away. God rest her soul, I feel her presence…

And I'm just so grateful for that gift... in the least likely of places, in the middle of Hollywood, the land of sharks, working in a big movie studio, she's working at a big movie studio, and the greatest gift that she gave me was turning me on to the path of self-realization, which, I think, made me more open to taking that step of getting married there, and then, now, the path that I'm on. It's the center of my entire life. It's why I get up in the morning. It's a key aspect of my practice, meditating morning and night, and long meditations, and retreats, and I serve in the kirtan, and many other organizational activities from Mother Center... Convocation. There's just so many parts of my life that are filled with this path of self-realization. It's a gift that's just kept on giving, and I'm so grateful for it, and just grateful for the possibility of... You can never judge a book by its cover, and some of the most amazing gifts can come in packages that don't necessarily reflect their content.

Bianca in Washington D.C.'s
historic U Street Corridor

I'm grateful for that gift. And, really, it's the gift of my own discipline, my own practice, and really having the tools and the keys to find peace and happiness and liberation within, and every other gift comes from that. They say, "Teach a man to fish, he catches a couple fish, he..." or you show a man to fish... There's some quote about teaching a man to fish, or bringing a horse to water. I really feel that I've been given a gift of learning how to fish for my own jewels of spiritual enlightenment and freedom, and it's something that I will forever cherish.

That's the best gift I've ever been given by a non-family member. It's not material, it's not even an experience, it's really just the path of self-realization. So, thank you, Gina. Thank you, Guru. Thank you Self-Realization, for the gift.

Bianca Alexander (shown here during a spiritual sabbatical in Indonesia) is the Creative Director and EMMY©-winning host of Conscious Living. She is a certified yoga instructor and energy healer (2nd-degree Reiki master). As a raw/vegan eco-fashionista and world traveler, she’s committed to being on the lifelong journey towards Conscious Living, one day at a time. Click here to visit the Conscious Living website.

Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.

This article appears in: 2019 Catalyst, Issue 11: Yoga of Healing and Awakening Summit