(10 July 1951 – 6 February 2022)
by Steve aka Prem Sudesh
I was truly sad to learn that Anand Heeren (born 1951) had left his body in early February this year. He had health complications following Covid. Recent times had not been easy, his partner of almost four decades had died after an arduous illness.
‘Right friendship is not half, but the whole of the path’: so Buddha reportedly told his faithful scribe Ananda. As much as anyone I ever met, Heeren embodied those qualities of compassion, empathy and wisdom that make for a true friend on the journey of meditation and inquiry – indeed, a true friend, period.
He was still George Woodbridge when we first met one evening in early 1977, during a group at Kalptaru Meditation Centre in North London. Both on the cusp of writing off for initiation into sannyas, we were paired up for a ‘tell me who you are’ exercise. Sitting on the thick-carpeted floor, this obviously refined, reflective young man admitted to me in a rich baritone voice I can still hear, ‘I’ve come to realise I don’t know who I am.’ A smirk crossed my face at this. Such was my confusion back then, I didn’t have a clue how profound a realisation that admission showed.
Heeren was not only a polymath – a Rhodes scholar and gifted musician who learned more than 30 languages – but also one of life’s nurturers. People gravitated to his innate listening skills, patience and insight. He shared the job of opening up the centre (which was on the upper floor of a big industrial complex) early mornings for Dynamic meditations. In those days the active mediations were done blindfolded and naked (except of course when the Press visited). I can still see Heeren dancing in the latter phase of Kundalini – his face luminous, beatific, like one of those androgynous figures engraved by William Blake. Never did I witness someone so totally immersed in meditation. He once told me, ‘I could die tomorrow, and it would be OK.’ There were some moments we were sitting together where linear time and conceptual thought just fell away; through a deep heart connection we were in the eternal Now.
October 1977 saw us both in Poona where we did the Enlightenment Intensive together; but Heeren’s stay was relatively short. Just before leaving he told me of his final darshan with Osho, whom he’d asked about the meaning of his name. ‘You have no name’ was the response. Heeren then went to New York and began running a regular growth group in a meditation centre which he helped to establish. He wrote to me of a wish to move out of New York because ‘the atmosphere here is contrary to meditation. The West Coast is, I feel, where it’s at.’ Things apparently changed though, with the onset of love, marriage, professional and family commitments.
Heeren and I then lost touch for around 35 years: reconnecting thanks to Osho News, where he saw an extract of my memoir with an old photo published online. As with so many friendships, we picked up where we’d left off, communicating with the same open-heartedness as before. He sent extracts of his autobiographical second novel, which his former students have vowed to get published posthumously and which I found brilliantly imaginative. Heeren also planned to revisit the UK where his spiritual search had burned so bright all those years back. I looked forward to this, there being so much about Heeren’s inner challenges, which he began to share and which I’d not been aware of in younger days. Sadly that visit was not to be. He did write though, that he was visiting the ocean’s beach every day and finding great peace in meditating there.
Many circumstances change through life, but the real does not. I cannot convey in words, how I intuitively glimpsed that reality in being with Heeren: yet our connection never fades – it shines like a beacon, and I remain eternally grateful.
Obituary for George Charles “Heeren” Woodbridge Jr.
In the early morning of February 6, 2022, beloved educator, author, and composer, George Charles “Heeren” Woodbridge Jr of Milford Connecticut passed away peacefully at Bridgeport Hospital following complications from an illness. He is loved and remembered for being a devoted husband of over 40 years to his wife Nancy and as well as a brilliant renowned teacher for being a friend and life mentor to his many students. Mr. Woodbridge’s teaching career spanned for four decades in Brooklyn, New Haven and most recently Joseph A. Foran High School in Milford, Connecticut.
Born in New York 1951, he rapidly showed his talents in many fields. At age 16 he attended Princeton University where he graduated in only three years. He then went on to study Ancient Greek at the University of London and later Cambridge University. His advanced degrees served him well as a linguist and Latin teacher as he mastered over 33 languages.
After completing his studies George then traveled the world in search of spiritual enlightenment. First going to the Shetland Islands in the Subartic region he learned to live for several years without such things as running water. His travels eventually took him to India to study meditation where a spiritual mentor gave him an Indian name which he preferred to use, “Heeren” which means “blissful diamond.”
He then met the love of his life Nancy Garfield Woodbridge beginning a powerful and loving marriage of over 40 years. As highly effective educators they shared their mutual incredible love for literature and teaching and mentoring youths. Reading and writing they accumulated enough books to rival public libraries. He then released his first novel in 2014 “Daniel’s Return,” after an extensive study of Hopi Native American civilization.
Mr. Woodbridge was also a screenwriter, film maker, composer, and brilliant pianist for all genres. His feature film, A Moment in Time, was premiered in 2010 and selections from his opera, Ver Sacrum, have been recorded on CD. Mr. Woodbridge has also composed extensive music and poetry including an opera in Russian.
In later years even after retirement he continued to mentor his students through his local meditation group he founded and ran. He was known for being a spiritual mentor who not only taught students about their subjects but cared about each one of them learning about and succeeding in their lives.
He will be remembered for his great skill, his love and devotion to his family, students, and his robust sense of humor and keen intellect.
In his last years, Heeren had completed his life dream of writing a novel of fantasy and spirituality which he compiled over his lifetime. Since he passed on before getting his book published, his students will complete that task in his honor. The book is titled ‘Dawn of Water and Honey’ encompassing four volumes over 1,300 pages long.
Mr. Woodbridge is survived by his Stepsons Joshua, Maurice, and Maurice’s wife Katie as well as his brothers Curtis and Christopher.
The funeral service was held Friday February 11 at Miskan Israel Cemetery, 60 Jewell St, New Haven, Connecticut.
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