In 1992 I was in the process of dissolving a 30-year marriage. I was living on my own in a little log cabin in Virginia, and was having these persistent dreams of a beautiful man who was my lover. That summer I was taking a workshop with Leonard Orr, which was offered at someone’s home. I walked into this person’s house and there, on the mantle, was a picture that just drew me in. I literally took it down from the mantle and pressed it to my heart, asking, “Who is this man? I have been dreaming about him.” It was Babaji.


At that time I had just started doing rebirthing and later that summer I heard that Sondra Ray, the mother of rebirthing, was coming to Washington, D.C. Some friends and I went to hear her talk, and while we were there, I heard that she was planning to go to India for Fall Navratri. I had hoped to go to Africa with a girl friend that fall, but I changed my mind, I knew I had to go to India. So I went with Sondra and experienced my first aarati in Haidakhan. When I came to Babaji’s ashram everything looked like the dreams I had often had of a place I called Shangri La. It had to do with the way the river flowed and the mountains looked - everything was exactly like the dreams I had had since I was 13 years old. I felt totally at home. I loved all the flowers around Haidakhan; I loved the tiger skin Baba was sitting on in the picture at the shakti dhuni --- I thought “He decorates just the way I would!” Everything felt totally as if I was at home.


I went back to Richmond and continued doing workshops and rebirthing. When Sondra came to Richmond the following summer, I went to see her. And one afternoon, in my little log cabin, I was in my closet pressing all the sarees and the thought came “I have to go to India again!” I called Sondra and told her I wanted to go to Fall Navratri again (1993). I ended up  being her assistant. While I was there, I made the commitment to come to India with Sondra for 5 years. That’s what I did and some of those trips were quite memorable. On one of them, sixty participants out of ninety had their heads shaved!


My life had totally changed. It was as if I had a life before Babaji and a different one after Babaji. My old life dissolved and I became totally focused on a life centered on spirituality. I was doing rebirthing and taking every workshop that was offered. I could not get enough, as if I was on a fast-track of getting “it” and understanding “it”. That’s why I went to India so many times. I wanted to be part of Babaji’s family. It was very intense. I took Chundan the first year, and again three years later. That time I kept my head shaved for one full year. By then I had remarried and we were living in New Mexico, so it was a bit easier to do this than in conservative Virginia. Anytime the hair grew out a little bit, I felt totally out of balance. The minute I shaved it, I felt clear again. At about seven months, I thought I should let it grow out, but one of the teachers Sondra had introduced me to in Santa Fe, told me after a lecture that Babaji wanted me to keep shaving my head until I went back to India. She also told me that for a month before going to India, I was to wear very plain, light-colored clothes, no make-up and no jewelry. I did do that, but it was really hard, as I love all the glitz, glamor and bangles. It was quite a sadhana for me.


I was working with Sondra quite a bit then and one year we actually lived together for 80 days. In 1994 she was doing a Divine Mother conference in Santa Fe and we rented a condo together. Sondra was thinking about buying property in Santa Fe and I went with her to see if she could be pre-approved for a loan. This encouraged me to do the same and I ended up buying the condo we had rented. It was a beautifully-built town-house, all in adobe, During that Divine Mother conference, Sondra had taken a group of us to the ashram in Crestone.  


My second husband and I moved to Santa Fe in 1995 and in 1996 one of my neighbors said that she wanted to visit the ashram. We came up together the week before Mother’s Day. While in the temple I heard this voice in my head saying, “ You need to come and do service at the ashram one week a month.” 


I went home to consider that. My husband was out of town, so on Mother’s Day week-end I drove up to Crestone by myself and announced to Ramloti that I was going to come for one week every month. When I told my husband, he agreed to the plan. So in 1996 we started coming regularly, doing any service that was needed to help finish the earthship. We hauled in the tiles for the kitchen floor and did some painting. In April 1997 we moved to Crestone and that was the year when Muniraj came to the ashram. We remained in Crestone until 2004.  


When we got married, my husband had said that Babaji was “my thing.” But when we started coming here he jumped right onto the band wagon and participated in everything. He had met Sondra when she visited at our house and he loved her. One time he attended a seminar with her in Breckenridge. On the way home he asked me to drive. He was in too much turmoil to drive himself. When we got home, he picked up three Babaji books I had given him. After reading them he announced that he didn’t want to go to India, but that he had to go. He considered aarati a bit strange at first, but he was always the first one in the temple every morning and evening during the whole time we were there.


During the seven years we lived here, the ashram was my main focus. I had been asked to build up the gift shop and that’s what I did. I loved it. Eventually Babaji told me it was time to leave Crestone. But the ashram still has my heart, and all my wonderful friends are here. Sometimes when I come, I find people visiting here whom I had met in India or had not seen in a long time.


I never met Babaji in person but I continue to dream of Him. And I’ve had dreams of the Divine Mother as well. My experiences in India with Shastraji and Muniraj were wonderful. Muniraj is known as the king of silence. You can literally sit in the temple with him and have everything that’s not “clean” come up. It is amazing how he teaches. Visiting Shastraji at his home was also an unforgettable experience. Sondra would take a group of us there. It was quite a trip just to get to that little village and there were no other Westerners around. The locals would show us the way or provide a horse and cart to take us from the train. Shastraji would meet us at the gate and his family would treat us like royalty. We slept dormitory-style and it was always very hot, but the meals were incredible. They really put us Westerners to shame with their generous hospitality. Shastraji would always expound some wisdom or recite mantras, and he would read our palms. He read the Sapta Sati every day and a simple aarati service was performed in the temple in the evening. These are all very precious memories and I continue to integrate the experiences I had with Sondra Ray, Shastriji and Muniraj. Om Namah Shivaya!


Annee Laird

Fall navratri, 2008

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