We arrived under a full moon at the yoga ashram in northern Pennsylvania on 11-11-11. A buddy and I decided on a night walk soon after checking in. We caught the last moments of the kunda or sacred-fire, left to smolder from an earlier ceremony. It was the eve of the anniversary of Swami Rama’s maha-samandi, or the great exit, when he left his body.

There, in an outdoor temple adjacent to the forest, we felt the presence of the sages. The warmth of stirring ashes rose up to greet us as we settled into a brief #meditation. In silence, we acknowledged the grace and mystery of this auspicious time. The area seemed thick with spiritual energy; layers of heartfelt prayers charged through the atmosphere like a living blanket.

We pulled our jackets tight against the chill when moving towards the “Sound of Music” hill, locally known for the feeling portrayed by the movie. People often break into song or twirl about once reaching the crest of these mountains. Suddenly a buck approached and walked within a few feet of us. We heard its breath- a quick snort that sent a wave of awe through us.

This huge presence felt like Swami Rama incarnate! That’s just what he would do, we agreed, arrive like a trickster. We watched the buck fearlessly strut toward the apartment area where Swami Rama lived much of his life. Pandit Rajmani who is Swami Rama’s successor, and several others busily arranged furniture in the lower room. The wind stirred as we looked on. I squinted my eyes in the frosty night air.

They moved about like little bees inside… shuffling potted plants, chairs and pillows around the space. The deer walked right up to the picture window, stretched out his two front legs and arched like a downward dog. Then he folded over, tucking his hooves under his belly and bowed his antlered head slowly several times. He faced the crowd inside as he did this.

We starred at each other in disbelief and laughed. The deer got up gracefully and walked around the building, out of sight. Later we learned that the former apartment recently transformed into a shrine. It would be consecrated that weekend for the first time. Could Swami Rama be playing with us again? The moon smiled on.