I began my search very early in life. As a child I would sit alone for hours. I would cross my legs on the bunk bed, or out in the fields around my house, and simply close my eyes. I didn´t know what to do; I didn´t know what I was doing. All I knew is when I would just sit in that stillness something lovely would embrace me, something beautiful would come to light. Years later a yoga teacher informed me that I was meditating, but that really didn´t mean much to me then. I was just after that wonderful feeling.
Then, when I was eight years old during a routine tonsillectomy my heart and breathing stopped. I flat lined. I reacted to the anesthesia and left my body. It felt as if I had slipped through a tunnel or gate, and when I came out I was immersed in an ocean of love. I remember being startled to see my body on the operating table with all kinds of frantic activity going on. "How could that be me down there when I am up here?" was my thought. I sensed that I was not alone, but did not recall seeing anyone up there at ceiling height with me. What I remembered then was some vague notion of myself and the incredible love that so permeated my being. I didn´t want to come back. It was so beautiful, so free, so real. It was more real than I remembered my Earthly existence to be. It was sort of like what I felt when I sat meditating, but much stronger. It was bliss. Then, at some point, I thought of my mother. I sensed she was worried sick. I felt her love, and with the thought of it I came back into my body. I fell asleep again.
After the operation I tried to explain what I had experienced, but the nurses and doctors explained that I was under the influence of the drugs and had been hallucinating. This was back in the late 1960´s and "out-of-body" or "near death" experiences were not really known by people or discussed openly. Besides, I was just a kid not to be taken seriously by the adults. For years I wanted to go back to this place outside of myself. I would sit to try to replicate the experience, sometimes I would get close and other times not. I began to lose interest in everything else. I didn´t get involved with many school activities; I was not very social. I did not have many friends. I went off to be alone and sit. People have always felt sorry for me being so alone, but I had no way of conveying the bliss that I felt. The few times that I would share my experiences or insights nobody could relate to them. Matter of fact, it annoyed people and scared my parents so I kept quiet about it.
Neither of my parents were religious. I was not raised to go to church, but I would ride my bike around town and go to services out of curiosity. My paternal grandparents were Baptists, and the few times that I saw them my grandmother would read to me from the Bible, we would attend church services, and we would pray together. I liked it. My grandmother was very sweet and loved the Lord, her love was infectious but the church services seemed pretty boring. I remember asking my Grandma Ruth who God was, why I was born, what the purpose of life is and so forth, but she was not equipped to answer those questions and after reading some verses from the Bible she suggested that I pray for the answers. So I prayed. And I prayed quite a bit, and after praying I would sit in the stillness again and the love would come, the bliss.
As a pre-teen I started reading lots of books. I would ask the ministers these poignant questions. I would ask my teachers. I would ask other adults. Nobody seemed to know. I remember thinking, "How could nobody know who they were or why they were born?" The world seemed pretty dumb, and everyone was more concerned with other things. I was the odd one. So I continued to sit, for in those moments of quiet things would become clearer in my mind.
I have always felt closest to God, and more in touch with my self, when I was alone in nature. Whether it be the mountains, desert or by the sea, just connecting with the outdoors was inspiring and helped me to plug into life again; feeling a part of something, the Earth, myself, God through nature. So when I turned sixteen and bought my first car, a ´64 VW Beetle, I would take off into the wilderness to commune with my Creator. It was on one of these retreats to the Sierra Nevada Mountains that God spoke to me. I had climbed up into the John Muir Wilderness out of Bishop, California, into an area known as the Palisades Glacier. I was backpacking alone, and one morning very early I climbed up to the top of the peak to watch the sun rise and pray. I prayed and prayed. I prayed for God to reveal himself. I prayed to know who I was. I prayed to know what my purpose of life was. And I prayed to go back to that place I was when I had nearly died.
As the sun came up and my tears were drying a stillness and peace came upon me. My concern was released, my heart opened, and an unspoken clarity came to mind. A profound insight and inspiration came that radically shifted my life. An answer to my prayers; a calling. It came to me that if I were to investigate virtually every spiritual path and tradition in existence, if I were to meet all the great spiritual masters and holy people, all the paths and spiritual traditions, if I were to dedicate my life to the pursuit of this vision, then the Truth would be revealed to me; and I was called upon to share what I discovered with those who are seeking. God had spoken to me in His own way. I came down that mountain feeling like Moses with the commandments, and the next twenty years of my life were dedicated to fulfilling this covenant.
Although I did end up going to college and completing graduate studies in economics, working respectable jobs and dated, my life was dedicated to my calling and everything has revolved around that. Over the next twenty years of my life I systematically went though every religion, every sect, every arcane teaching or new philosophy in search of God and ended up writing two books on the subject, The Spiritual Seeker´s Guide (Allwon 1991) and Looking for God (Perigee 2001). For years I was immersed in the Torah and the Bible, reading it cover to cover several times, attending services of each sect and asking countless questions to rabbis and clergy. I went back to first century manuscripts and got into everything I could get my hands on. Then Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, on and on through over two hundred and fifty groups. The Hindu corpus of literature alone is several encyclopedias worth of text, the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Sutras, Puranas the Epochs, etc. Every evening and weekends for most of my adult life this was my date, my party, my life.
However the real learning came from the experiences with the teachers, not from the books. There were years that I was into Taoism, then Zen, followed by Tibetan Buddhism. I studied with Native American shamans of various sorts and sects, and learned the secrets of the sacred peyote and mushrooms. I joined a Druid Order while doing graduate studies in the United Kingdom and even joined a witch coven in my native California. I traveled to the back woods of Borneo, the Philippines and Australia to learn the ancient wisdom of the elders. I was deeply involved with what used to be called the New Age movement studying the Course of Miracles, Religious Science, Eckankar, and most of the self help and new thought courses you might have heard of. I have channeled, I am very psychic, and grew up seeing lights around people and seeing things other people don´t normally see. Wherever I went teachers would come to me intuitively, to impart something. I was being guided wherever I went. Uncanny timing of events, coincidences and synchronicities became, and are, a way of life. God was guiding me. However, I quickly discovered that what I was seeking was beyond the mind. I was not getting it from all the information that I was absorbing, in fact, what I thought I knew was getting in the way! Although each teaching served to help me on my path, to inspire me to keep looking, it wasn´t until I learned to look within and trust my spirit that I began to really see.
Throughout all these years of reading and exploring I had kept up my yoga and meditation. By college I was teaching yoga and would meditate for hours at a time. I went from guru to guru, taking their initiations and practicing, then another, year after year. At sixteen there was Transcendental Meditation, then Sai Baba, Baba Muktananda, followed by Yogi Bhajan and a host of others (see Looking for God for a more complete list). Each had their gift, each their own style and perspective, but my spirit was still restless.
For quite a while I had given up on gurus. I instinctively knew that the answers lied within me, and I had never been one to follow another anywhere, so I turned my attention inward and witnessed that part of me that wanted to know. My spirit became my guru and best friend. I learned a lot about myself. I understood so much, I thought. But I still didn´t have what I was looking for, I still didn´t feel the bliss, I still had not realized God. So I prayed again. Not to a man behind the clouds somewhere, but to the living presence within. I surrendered my mind, I submitted to my spirit, I let go of my resistance and I opened my heart to receive the grace, and in a moment of total and complete surrender I received a vision. This vision was of what appeared to be another spiritual master from India. This one I did not recognize, but he looked so compassionate and wise I knew I had to meet him, but where? How?
The very next day I drove up to Los Angeles from Newport Beach to do some book browsing at the Bodhi Tree bookstore on Melrose. In the used bookstore was pinned a flyer of Vethathiri Maharishi from Madras, India, who was going to give a talk on Kundalini Meditation the next evening. This was the same face that appeared in my vision! So, although I thought I already knew about kundalini meditation, I took this as a sign and drove up again the following evening. Upon being in this mans presence something began to shift in me that I cannot explain. It was like I was getting re-wired to tune into a cosmic awareness that was unlike anything else I had ever experienced. I felt so much love. This man was so down to earth and practical, so wise, so compassionate, so humble, I fell in love and took him into my life like an adopted grandfather.
On that auspicious day I knew that I had met the one who could help me to see the light that I was seeking vainly on my own. His way felt right, for instead of "following" him, he simply helped me to see what already lied within, but which eluded me through my own projections of what I thought I knew. All that I had learned before became bondage. As soon as I left behind my thoughts and beliefs I experienced freedom. Instead of working so hard at meditating it became a blissful dance with my beloved Creator. I studied with this Swamiji for many years. He took me under his wing, and prepared me to be a teacher in his lineage.
Later I underwent the advanced training and then served as the teacher in Swamiji´s absence when he would go back to India or other parts of the world where he had hundreds of thousands of students. I would travel with him, assist in the initiations and traveled to India to see him on several occasions. Upon completing my years of training, Swamiji decided to remain in India and asked me to continue conducting the initiations in accordance with the lineage. With his blessings I have initiated thousands all over the world.
During one of my trips to India I came upon a most unusual and powerful Yogi, one Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi Maharaj. I had already heard of this Yogi from other masters who I had studied with who revered him. This Yogi is famous for sitting twenty-three hours a day for eight years, followed by another twelve hours a day for four more years to complete twelve years of yoga "tapas" or austerities. When a yogi stills his or her mind through Dhyana, meditation, the underlying consciousness of the individual merges into the underlying consciousness within the entire universe, which is known as Samadhi. Through the transcendence of the mind the individual consciousness is liberated and God is realized. More simply put, you become aware of the living presence of God and realize your underlying nature as that consciousness. The same innate intelligence that created and sustains the universe created and sustains you, and the two are one. The individual bodily form is like a cell in the body of God. When you are in the presence of an awakened master, you can feel their energy stronger than most, it can even feel blissful. When you are in the presence of this Arch Yogi, you get so blissful you can hardly speak.
It was during a trip to see Sai Baba, the Avatar from Bangalore that I came to meet this Shivabalayogi. Sai Baba has millions of disciples from all over the world, a whole industry exists to support all the foreigners who come to see him, and it turns out that when students are ready for advanced spiritual practice he sends them to see this Shivabalayogi. One evening my driver didn´t show up so I spent time in the hotel lobby of the Cavalry Continental Hotel speaking with various travelers from all over the world. At one point during a conversation with a Dutch woman, she broke from her line of thought to ask me if I had seen Shivabalayogi yet. She knew I was doing research on gurus for my Spiritual Seeker´s Guide book, so I thought she was just being helpful, but then after completing just a few more sentences on her original conversation she got up suddenly and walked outside. Curious and confused, I followed her outside where I saw her speaking with a rickshaw driver. She rushed me into the rickshaw, which promptly sped off, and the next thing I knew I was careening through the streets of Bangalore in a three-wheeled motorbike with a driver who didn´t speak any English, although he was able to nod when he heard me mention the name Shivabalayogi.
Upon entering the gates to the ashram I was greeting by my first name and ushered into the main hall (nobody had called ahead to announce my arrival, I checked). I was instructed to sit in the middle of this large hall. I crossed my legs in the traditional lotus posture whereupon the greeter, a Mr. Sing, touched my forehead on a place called the third eye, right between the eyebrows (where you see married Hindu women put red dots or gems are placed on Buddha statues). All of a sudden a rush of energy came into my body through this point, and a feeling of bliss that was so intense it bordered on pain swept me up out of my mind and body. Five hours later I was shaken awake and instructed to join a feast in honor of a marriage that was occurring. It´s strange enough to be in India, it is a magical mysterious place and the ashram has a surrealistic feel as well, but after the experience I had just had I couldn´t even talk. Moreover, an Indian wedding is a very noisy and colorful affair that would overwhelm most Westerners new to the experience. That being the case, a sympathetic American who had witnessed my Initiation into the Shaktipat or energy of this Yogi, explained to me what had just happened and what the protocols were for the feast.
On large leaves the size of placemats rice and dhal were plopped on our leaves (which were on the floor) and we consumed this curried affaire with our hands, men on one side and women on the other. After the meal the crowd gets very quiet and this little man with dreadlocks of hair and a beard tumbling to the floor, little legs and wearing only a loin cloth comes out from this little car, blesses the married couple and goes back into the car. Just moments before he ducks his head back into the car, he looks over at me, laughs, and heads off. This is my introduction to the great Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi Maharaj.
With curiosity peaked, I head back to the yogi´s ashram to attend the full evening program of singing, chanting, trance dancing, meditation and discussions, an event that I had sat through the evening before but had been oblivious to while in meditation. Just being in the presence of this being was incredible. It is difficult to explain to a Westerner. The blind see, the lame walk, people go into trances, and everyone gets high from the Shakti of the guru. It´s like God is channeling pure love into all those present. It´s what I imagined it would have been like to be in the physical presence of Jesus. There is so much love. After the program I was asked to join Shivabalayogi, who everyone calls Swamiji too (so now I have two Swamiji´s), and I am seated in front of him auspiciously with a private audience of him and an interpreter. Without me saying a word, he proceeds to answer all the questions in my head in the order that I think them, and then further explains all the things that I have been doing throughout these years. He knows which teachers I studied with, what my trials and tribulations have been, and then tells me that he is going to train me and wants me to increase my sitting time to eight hours a day.
After several years of training with this yogi, traveling with him and conducting the initiations with him, I was called back to India to complete my training in 1990. I left my job and got rid of everything I owned and left not knowing when, or even if, I was going to return. During my months in India my meditation time increased from eight to twelve hours a day, then fourteen, eighteen, twenty, and finally sat for twenty-three hours a day for forty consecutive days and nights to complete my training. During this time the Master Yogi would help me transcend through the transmission of his Shakti. Through his assistance I was able to accelerate my training and complete the tapas, and was later installed as a Yogi in this lineage and asked to conduct the Initiations and continue this lineage. The energy, the spirit, from this lineage passes from teacher to student to help awaken the consciousness, as has been a tradition in India for many thousands of years. Even before the tapas training my eyes had been opened, but now the body and mind could serve as a vehicle for the Shakti.
Before I left India Swamiji told me that the consciousness of the planet was awakening, that Westerners who were ready to self realize would come forth to see me. He said that Westerners would not relate to an Indian man, and he had prepared me to go, that God would work through me, and that I would be reaching millions of people who were ready to awaken. An ominous prospect to my now subdued mind.
This book is the result of that calling. The Truth is stranger than fiction. We are all part of a living Universe, Divine beings expressing through the vehicle of the body and mind. Our spirits have been guiding us to awaken our consciousness to full Self Realization, to become the masters of our own being and help uplift the consciousness of the planet so that we can all live together in happiness and peace. All human beings ultimately want to live together peacefully, we all seek happiness and feel compassion for others no matter how caught up in our heads we become. Your purpose in life is to awaken your full potential as not just a human being, but a fully conscious spiritual being so that you can help uplift the consciousness of the planet. We are here to work together to help create the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. Go into your soul and see if this feels right for you. If it does, your destiny awaits you.
As your brother I offer to you this little guide to help facilitate your awakening. It is gleamed from years of study with the most evolved masters on the planet, years of quiet introspection, and many years of teaching. I honor your indwelling spirit; this is the master I now serve. I do not put myself above you but rather acknowledge that Divinity within you, that which is causing your heart to beat even now.
The reading of this book creates a space for your spirit to come forth to interface of your mind, and as you are reading this book your spirit will help you to remember all that which you innately already know. Rather than to educate, I am presenting this book to you so we can celebrate together. The same spirit that guided you to pick up this book, guided me to write these words for you to read. Through these words we meet. The touch of this book is the anchor which will remind you of the destiny that is now unfolding. Take these words and come with me.
Who You Are
Human beings are still evolving as a species. We evolved from stars being born, to the consolidation of elements creating the planet, the development of those elements into molecules, to cells, to multi-celled life forms: from one sense living beings, to two sense, three sense, four sense, to five sense mammals. Then developed further into upright walking humans, and further still into sentient beings. We are still evolving into sixth sense living beings that are becoming conscious of themselves.
When you evolve your self to the point that you are conscious of having a consciousness, then your consciousness awakens. When you begin to question who you are, when you enquire into the nature of your own being, you begin to awaken from the dream to realize God and your place in the Divine order of The Universe. You are in the upper end of the bell curve of humanity awakening. The evidence is in your hands now.
Once you begin to realize that there is something to be realized, then your realization has begin. You have evolved your consciousness to the point that you are conscious of having a consciousness, and your conscious awareness is now guiding you to seek out ways to further evolve yourself. The evolution of your consciousness is instinctual, and your spirit already knows how to waken you and fulfill your life purpose. You are led through your curiosity, your hunches; your spirit prods your mind to enquire. It was your instinct that brought you to these words.
These words serve as a trigger to remind you of what you already know innately; by contemplating these words and reflecting upon their meaning you are activating a part of your brain that has been asleep and the memory is coming back to you. By continuing to read, you are exercising your spirit and developing your ability to let your spirit guide you. As you continue reading, observe the feeling providing the impetus to read and contemplate. Observe what you are feeling right now.
As we begin to look within ourselves and question our very existence, we begin to see that there appear to be many aspects to what we think of as "us." There is of course the physical body, and it is ascribed a name by our parents. So, on the surface "we" appear to be unique physical people, human beings with identifiable similarities and differences. We may also relate to the more subtle aspects of our being, such as what we think or feel. Most human beings identify very strongly with their beliefs, their race, their gender, and the persona which is comprised of many adopted attributes and characteristics. But do any of these labels, characteristics, or attributes really describe who, or what, we are innately? No. We all know we have some more subtle aspects of our being, some underlying life force making it possible, some spirit animating our existence. What is that life force, what is our spirit, what is our soul, and what makes us tick?
If we begin this enquiry with what we know most apparently, our physical body, we see an amazing feat of engineering that we personally had nothing to do with. We were given our body and it functions quite naturally on its own with little effort on our parts personally to keep it functioning. We didn´t create cells, and didn´t develop our brain. Thinking occurs naturally, and our hearts beat through a volition beyond our own control (short of killing ourselves). So this physical body has been developing over millions of years to adapt to changes in its environment and continues to develop itself some times despite ourselves. If we injure ourselves, some innate intelligence from within knows how to heal us. We kill ourselves through war, yet our instinct to survive perpetuates the cycle of life. We get stronger through our will to survive, and learn and develop as a species through the challenges that we face. But what is it that is evolving us? What is it that calls to you to seek your Self? What is our innate intelligence, what is our spirit? Recognizing that there is an innate intelligence within you is the key. Acknowledging some life force or spirit within you activates it. Being conscious of your consciousness evolves it.
Look at your hands. You can see physical evidence of something real to you. Squeeze this book. You can feel it. The book is real, tangible, and your squeezing it validates that reality through your sense of touch. The sense of touch is essentially a neurological transmission of energy sending a signal into your brain. Your consciousness observes the mental activity and registers the experience. You are conscious of holding the book. The holding of the book is a mechanism. Pressure from your hands being applied to the paper. The hands themselves are working under a hydraulic system. Nerve impulses from your brain run a signal through the nerve fibers in your hands signaling a respond to contract the muscles in your hands. Blood flows into the muscle fibers pulling the fingers together to grip this book, much like a robot moving an object from one place to another.
Your physical body is a machine. Your heart is a pump, your digestive organs are a processing and extraction device, your lungs are a filter and distributor. Your brain is like a computer, storing, computing and processing input from your physical senses: the lenses of your eyes, the sensors of your nose and tongue, and the receptors of your ears. But who is guiding the machine? As you are reading these words light is being reflected off the page entering into your eyes. Observe this. Observe the light flowing into your eyes as they move across the page. Observe the patterns being registered in your brain. As your mind identifies the characters of the letters, it is recalling what they mean. Observe your mind recalling the meaning of these words. It is a mechanical process. As your mind identifies these words in relationship to each other, this association of meanings forms thought. Observe your mind thinking as you reflect upon the meaning of this sentence. From deep within another part of your mind, you can discern whether you understand what is being said or not. Observe your ability to discriminate. Do you understand the meaning of these words? What part of you can discern whether you understand these words or not?
As you reflect upon whether you can understand what I am saying or not, what part of you is reflecting? This is key to the development of your consciousness. What part of you can observe your own thinking? What part of you has a sense of understanding? Observe this part of you. If you say, "I understand" who is this "I" that thinks it understands? What gives you the ability to understand? What observes the understanding? What enables you to look within yourself? What is this awareness that enables you to be aware of how aware you are? In this moment you are conscious of reading and trying to understand what I am conveying. Your spirit is engaging you as evidenced by your impetus to read and understand. Observe this impetus and desire to know.
You are conscious of observing, what is this part of you that is conscious of being conscious? Observe this part of you that is conscious of being conscious. What is this consciousness? This word has been around for a while, but what does it mean to be conscious? What is consciousness? It lies at the very core of your being, so as we become increasingly more conscious of our consciousness, our consciousness evolves. The more evolved we are, the more conscious we are. The more conscious we are, the less unconscious we are. Consciousness is a self-evolving process. Your consciousness is evolving even now as you think about it.
Now let´s go back to your hand. You are conscious of holding this book. Observe yourself holding this book. You are conscious of holding this book, and moving your eyes, and reading these words, and reflecting upon their meaning, and discerning whether you understand what is happening and are conscious of this whole mechanical process. Who is the witness of this process? That which is witnessing, is at the core of your being. It is reaching out to your mind, and now your mind is aware that something is happening. Your mind is reflecting upon itself. As you become more aware of your awareness, your awareness of your Self evolves. The more aware you are, the more awake you are. The more conscious you are the more you will discover who you are and why you were borne. It all right here in front of your consciousness to see. That which is evolving you is you.