A journey of Love, darkness and grace...and beyond.
I thought that I would share a bit of my path, and of course this is a much shortened version of a path that was filled with a lot of grace and a great deal of difficulty. I hope you enjoy it and are inspired by it.
As a young child I was one of those kids that felt a little left out, like I really didn’t belong. I was sensitive, intelligent and very confused. At a young age, I was aware of an unseen Presence that I perceived as soon as I put my attention on it. This perception made me long for something that felt unreachable. I had no idea what this was. As a result this made me even more confused.
This confusion didn’t leave me throughout my youth. I remember watching folks that were always running around, trying to find something that I didn’t quite understand. I only knew that what I wanted wasn’t here in the world, and I continuously felt drawn to the unseen presence as my source of connection.
When I reached my teens and early twenties I started doing a lot of drugs, thinking that if I could just find the right experience then I would “bust through” this cloud of confusion. It never worked though, I always came back, along with the sense that I didn’t belong in this world. I had no interest in building a career, or getting financially secure. I just wanted to know what this “thing” was that I longed for, and I knew I wasn’t going to find it in the world.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I woke up one day and my desire to have any experience through drugs was completely gone. I was done with it. I was living on the Truckee River just outside of Tahoe City, California. I went down to the river and sat down and closed my eyes. Immediately there was a tremendous flow of energy entering into me, and I started to lift up out of my body. I was ecstatic. But in the next instant a big force, like the hand of God, came and slammed me back into my body. My eyes popped open, along with the immediate recognition that I was not what I thought I was. I also recognized that what I longed for was meant to happen in this body, not in some “other” place. This initial awakening was the first step on a journey of intense seeking. The path soon became like a guide itself…leading me to places I could never have dreamed of.
I became attracted to Native American philosophy, maybe because of my awareness of this unseen presence all around me. I wanted to be alone with this presence, and I would spend many days with my dog in the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierras. I would go out and do ceremonies, honoring the presence that was in the glorious nature all around me. I had no idea how I knew the way to do ceremonies- I just knew. In the wilderness I was given many gifts, both physical and spiritual. My mediations were very deep and inspiring, so I would spend many hours completely absorbed.
I was so high. I felt that I had finally found my life, and my longing for the Divine was a light and blissful experience. I hiked in wildernesses all over the western states and got strong and healthy. I was on the quintessential spiritual honeymoon…only I had no idea that I was. And so I had no clue that the honeymoon was soon going to end.
I began to take little pilgrimages to the Southwest, visiting the ancient sites of the Anasazi. I would go into the Great Kivas very early in the morning, before anyone else was there, and perform my ceremonies. I always felt the presence of these ancient places responding to the ceremonies.
One day when I was travelling in Arizona someone ran into my truck, and I needed to leave it in the shop in Flagstaff for three weeks to get it fixed. The shop loaned me this little tin-can-of-a-car, and I drove it down the Oak Creek Canyon into Sedona. The year was 1986, just after the town was incorporated, and it was still a quiet little town. I remember seeing all those amazing red rocks and pinching myself to see if it was real. Sedona had claimed me the minute I drove into town.
I decided to rent a room in a house that some other newcomers had rented. My landlord was a sweet woman named Monica, who just happened to be an internationally-known psychic. It was all very wonderful being in Sedona, and that feeling lasted for about two days.
And then the shoe dropped. Driving down the main street in Sedona in my little jalopy, I was overcome by a grip of intense angst. Pure rage. The car in front of me was going too slow, so I screamed at it to get out of the way, which it did. I went home to my room and closed the door. I had no idea what was going on. I sunk to the floor, leaning up against the wall, and as soon as I did the room turned dark. I was terrified. I was no longer in my room, but standing on a cliff somewhere. I was looking over the edge, getting ready to jump. My heart was filled with a gut-wrenching grief—a despair too bottomless to live with. I was a Native American, and all my people had been slaughtered. There was no reason to live. I didn’t want to live--so I jumped.
My body was so full of intense angst; I could barely stand it. I remember the light slowly returning to the room, and I realized that it was still the middle of the afternoon. I knew I needed to get some help, so I went next door to where my landlord lived. Monica answered the door, and she could see I was not myself. I told her what had happened, knowing that she would believe me. She slipped into her “inner knowing place” and told me that someone was coming very soon to help me. I had a past life that needed clearing before I could evolve any further on my journey.
I was still very much into Native American philosophy, so when I saw a poster advertising a Native American ceremony called a Yuwipi with a Lakota Medicine Man, I knew that I needed to go. A couple of days later, when I arrived at the location, I was impressed by the handsome people helping with the ceremony. We went into a room and sat around a large square altar that was bordered by strings of tobacco-ties and sacred objects carefully placed inside the border. Then the lights were turned out. It was completely black. The medicine man began singing Yuwipi songs in Lakota, and his family members would sing along with him. And then amazingly, the objects that were placed inside the altar—gourds, bird’s wings, etc.—became lit up! There were tiny lights in them and they started to move through the air. The objects would move around the room and find someone that needed healing, moving up and down their body, while the little lights inside blinked. Then I noticed that the singing voices were behind me as well, and that there were many more voices all around us that were not there before. The ancestors had come to help us.
I was so incredibly moved by the ceremony, that I didn’t feel much angst for a couple of days. And then I got a phone call. It was the medicine man, and he was inviting me down to his family’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. I was a bit nervous about this, but I agreed and drove down to Phoenix to meet him. I was cordially welcomed by his family and given some nice food. I was invited to help prepare for another ceremony that they were performing in a few days. This was the beginning of a two-year relationship with the medicine man and his people. We would drive all over the southwest doing ceremonies for Native peoples. I witnessed some very sad circumstances. But through my relationship with the medicine man, my past life was cleared, and I was ready to begin some very deep purification.
My path changed completely after that. I was no longer interested in Native American ways. I was still living in Sedona, yet I began to hang out with different people. Then I started to get sick. Really sick. I had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and there were some days that I couldn’t even get out of bed. I had a small inheritance, and I used it up trying to get better. I went to natural doctors, acupuncturists, you name it, but nothing ever worked—not even a little bit. I only got sicker. My image of my healthy, vibrant self began to dissolve. I felt moved to open up to prayer as I had done for those years before, but now my prayer had a deep longing in it. I wasn’t praying to get better, I couldn’t pray for “myself.” I felt a deep longing for that which I was praying to. And the more I prayed the more intense the longing became. Soon a presence began to visit me. It was a feminine presence, and so I called her Mother. She would hold me as I lay so sick. She would comfort me with her presence, which only made me long for her more. As I learned to relax in Her presence, a deep-seated grief began to emerge, and I knew this was the same grief that I had experienced earlier during the past-life recall. This grief was allowed to consume me. Mother took me deeper and deeper, until I “forgot” my story of being sick. The one that was sick dissolved, and my health returned. Yet gone was the image and identification of a healthy, vibrant woman. Now I only wanted HER…all of Her.
During this time, I began to sit with a group called Clear Light. They were all older than me, and some of them were disciples of Paramahansa Yogananda and of Satya Sai Baba. We would meet three times a week, play bhajans and meditate. And then we would do the work. The Clear Light work was a method using kinesiology to unlock stories within our unconscious. This unlocking would trigger some deep emotional releases—sometimes quite intense ones. This was an important for me, as I became accustomed to being with emotion. I saw that the emotions were not “bad” or “wrong,” they were merely attached to an unconscious belief. As the belief was being freed from my system, so was the emotion. I worked with this group for about two years, three times a week.
Several years passed this way. With my prayers for Mother deepening, I wasn’t really concerned with my relationship with the world. I didn’t pursue any financial stability, and I would float from one simple, ordinary job to the next. Sedona became busier and more built-up, and my body longed for the cool mountains. I ended up moving to southwestern Colorado. I felt really alone at first, keeping my deep relationship with the divine to myself. The circle of friends I found in those mountains, however, had their own brand of spirituality. They were sensitive people who didn’t really fit into society’s mold. Mountain people. The year was 1993.
And then my dog died. She was 14, and she had been with me throughout my entire spiritual journey. I was lost without my little companion. I decided to go to California to see my grandma. The Clear Light group had told me of a beautiful saint from India named Ammachi. Amma was going to be in the same area of California when I would be, so I decided to visit her, too. I was craving spiritual nourishment, but I was not looking for a teacher. I had my own inner relationship with the Divine Mother that was quite rich enough. I also felt that if I ever met Mother in the flesh, I wouldn’t survive it, because I loved her so much. Little did I know what was waiting for me…
When I got to Amma’s ashram in San Ramon, there were only about a half dozen people in the parking lot. A nice Indian man in yellow robes opened up the gate for me so I could drive in. I parked near this small group of people and exchanged a few words. One woman took me under her wing and brought me up to the temple, telling me that since I was a newcomer, I could sit in the front. There were a few people doing various tasks around me. I noticed the wonderful energy and lovely fragrance in the temple. I was happy to sit and wait for Amma to come.
When the time was close for Amma to arrive, the small crowd took up a chant “Om Amristeshwaryai Namah.” I felt my heart swell with love and longing for the Divine. Tears came, and I knew I was right where I was supposed to be—this was going to be so good for my sad heart. When Amma walked in, oh my gosh she was so small, there was a tangible shift of energy. A very strong presence came with her, and the silence was so alive. She got up on the small stage and took a deep bow to all of us, smiling sweetly as She sat down. Then She proceeded to gaze lovingly at all the people assembled before Her. She never once looked at me, but that was okay.
She gave a talk that was translated into English. And then the swamis and others surrounded her on the stage for the evening bhajans. The music started, and I closed my eyes. Immediately I began to soar! I had never experienced anything like it before. I felt one with everything, and Amma’s voice entered into me and became my own. Wow!
After the bhajans, people began lining up for Darshan. Each person kneeled in front of Amma, where She took them into her lap, embracing them. She would look at them so lovingly, sometimes holding people for long periods of time. Sometimes the person would cry, or be in bliss. I sat there mesmerized. I had no idea what was going on, but something definitely was.
In those days, you decided when you were ready for your Darshan. It was several hours later when I finally felt ready to go to Amma for my first time. I remember feeling as if while sitting in the line you were already receiving some kind of “pre-darshan,” as if Amma was getting you ready for Her. It was wonderful. And then I was in front of Her, and She pulled me into Her lap. She whispered something in my ear. And then She released me.
Wow, that was quick. She didn’t look at me or anything. I did feel something though, a strange kind of quiet. I sat back down and watched Her continue to give her Love to each and every person who came to her. I wasn’t overly concerned that my Darshan was so short, or that She didn’t even look at me. Come to think about it, She didn’t look at me at all during the entire night. “It’s probably because my ego needs reducing,” I remember thinking.
I came again the next day, and again She ignored me. My Darshans were short, and She never would look in my direction. I almost began to feel it was intentional, and I would convince myself it was because She was working on my ego. I didn’t let it bother me.
Amma finished Her programs in San Ramon, so I followed Her to Santa Fe. I sat inside the big tent, waiting for her to enter. Everyone around me was chanting. I had skipped seeing Her in Los Angeles, and I found myself looking forward to seeing Her again.
In came Amma, with her incredible presence. And She walked right up to me, and put her hand on my head, and pushed down really HARD! And then She walked up to the stage and proceeded to gaze lovingly at everyone assembled before Her. But never did She look at me…not once. I felt myself start to crumble inside. I couldn’t even pretend this didn’t bother me anymore. I wanted some of Her love, too! I felt like I had been left out, forgotten, and waves of intense longing arose in me--stronger than ever before. I started to cry a lot. I had to get out of there, so I Ieft the tent and sat amongst some trees and cried and cried feeling so much intense love for God, so much longing for the Divine Mother. I cried for hours and hours. By the time I stopped the morning program was finished, so I went to my truck and got something to eat. And then I went back into the temple to wait for Amma and the evening program.
In She walked, up to the stage. As She sat down I felt so empty inside, so wrung out. But I could feel myself wanting Her to look at me. She quickly glanced at me, with one of those out-of-the -corner-of-one-eye glances. But it was enough…She saw me.
When I went for Darshan, She gently took me and held me for a very long time. No long, loving looks, but something more real. All the longing for the Divine was shared as a silent conversation. I knew She knew me then. She released me, looked at me, and said sweetly, “Good girl.”
After Amma and her entourage left Santa Fe, I went up into the Pecos Wilderness for a little overnight trip. I needed some quiet time. As I sat high up on the mountainside, overlooking the New Mexico desert, I knew without a doubt that I was going to India. And I was going to sell my little truck to get there. This began my new relationship with the Divine Mother on the “outside,” which led to a deeper relationship with Her on the inside.
That was back in 1993. My time with Amma in India was very challenging. She knew my longing for the truth, and so She pushed me quite hard. But of course there are good memories too…too many of them to share here. My mediation continued to inspire me, as I was graced with many awesome experiences. But deep inside I knew those experiences were not what I was looking for, and that I would not know complete satisfaction until this process was finished.
It is said in the scriptures that love leads to knowledge (Bhakti to Jnana), and knowledge leads to love. That they are two sides of the same coin—not separate. There arose in me a natural resonance with self-inquiry, and with Amma’s blessing I spent two years a Ramana Maharshi’s ashram in Tiruvannamalai. Amma had me return to Her ashram in 2003 for one full year, and it was the best year ever. Then one day I knew I was done with India and returned to the west.
Nine years later, in which there was such intense de-conditioning, India was finished; I knew it. During my India years, I would come back to the states and work for a few months to get more money, but during those times I had no place to live, no car, my family questioned my life choices, and many friends left. I was stripped of everything that I could count on to provide any resources. So when I did come back for good, I was very disoriented. I didn’t know how to live in the west, without the seeker-driven focus of a planned return to India. I also had no interest in making a life for myself. None. I found myself a little job, and it took about five months to find a more permanent place to live. Meanwhile for my first winter in Colorado in nine years, it snowed a lot.
When I went to see Amma in Santa Fe the following June, I was physically exhausted. I was still quite disoriented about how to live. But I knew I needed to keep seeing Amma when I could. One day, as Amma was walking out of the hall after Darshan, She walked up to me, put Her hand on my heart and said, “So tired.”
I completely crumpled inside, showing me that I had no energy left to pursue God. As Amma walked out, I went and sat down. All the energy to put forth effort fell out of my system, along with the small separate self. Only I had no idea that’s what had happened at the time.
A few satsang teachers had come through my little town in Colorado. I felt a resonance with a couple of them, and I enjoyed sitting with them. When I first listened to Adyashanti in 2005, I knew that he was someone that I could benefit from, as he seemed to come from a very clear place.
When I sat with him during my first retreat a little later that year, I chose to sit in the front row. I was in meditation when he walked in, but I could sense his strong presence. We sat for a while in silence, and then he spoke, “A complete loss of the personal self—that is what has happened here.”
My eyes spontaneously opened, and Adya was looking right at me. I knew what he said was true. Only there was no-one left to own it. I spent a lot of time with him for the next five years, as he spoke to my mind, so that it could grasp what was happening to its previous reality. It was an extremely powerful and important time in the unfoldment. He also let me know that he could recognize that I was “delivered” to him by Amma, like on a conveyer belt. I am deeply grateful for his guidance. He helped me tremendously, and not all of it was pleasant either!
I received Dharmic Transmission from both Amma and Adya in 2005, which is the authorization to teach. A couple of dear friends had asked me to teach, including Pamela Wilson. When I asked Amma about teaching, She told me to “Wear my own pants.”
I have always felt that the importance of teaching comes from sharing from my own direct experience, not anything that is merely conceptual. With this sharing comes the transmission of the experience, which is like sharing everything that I am with a person. I can feel my entire being wanting to share itself when I teach, which is because it is our true essence, or conscious awareness, that is sharing with itself. The words and transmission are talking to their own true self, so I don’t ever hold back.