Annelou

 

It was curiosity that led me to the temple in Crestone, back in 1990. Intrigued by a small sign indicating the footpath, I hiked up the hill and was surprised to find this jewel of a shrine hidden among the trees. To my good fortune Rhade Shyam was there to greet me. He had just “fed Mother” and gave me some prasad. He then took the time to tell me about Babaji and how His devotees had created this temple. Additionally, he outlined the plans for the ashram that would be built there.

 

I could not relate to Babaji at that time, but I was immediately captivated by the Divine Mother. Goddess worship had been my path for several years, but even though I had explored many neo-pagan traditions, I had never found a goddess I could truly relate to. But here was this beautiful murti, being worshipped by someone who was truly dedicated to serving Her, and who, probably quite unknowingly, was laying out a whole new path for my spiritual search.

 

It would be another twelve years before I moved to Crestone to be of service to the ashram. At first I would come down from Denver sporadically, camp nearby, hike into the mountains, then come down to sit in the temple or attend aarati. On one occasion I picked up a newsletter and excitedly read about the progress that was being made. I started tithing as a way to become connected with this fascinating enterprise.

 

When Muniraj came to visit in 1997, I decided to “get my feet wet” and attend some of the events. I knew this would be the closest I would ever come to India. It was not the best way to start, however. I did not know anyone and felt totally overwhelmed by all the activities and ceremonies. But I was moved by the chanting and the satsang sessions, when devotees who had lived with Babaji, shared their experiences. I started realizing how powerful an avatar Babaji was and how He had changed people’s lives.

 

A few weeks later I returned to the ashram to do karma yoga and meet the residents. I bought books about Babaji and chanting tapes. Thus began the long process of learning the aarati chants. I would record a chant onto the beginning of a new tape, so that I could listen to it over and over again, without searching for it on the aarati tape. It was difficult for me to get my tongue around these strange words. They not only looked strange on paper, but their pronunciation seemed totally illogical to me.

 

Over the next few years I would come down for a long week-end now and then, do karma yoga and give massages. I saw the greenhouse and the dormitory being built and met a great number of new people. At home I read all the testimonials about Babaji and tried to familiarize myself with the Vedic tradition. The newsletter kept me informed, and I gradually realized that I had truly found a spiritual home.

 

In 2000 I was invited to serve on the HUA Board of Directors, an honor I eagerly accepted. I now had a legitimate reason to come to Crestone. Before long I realized that this is where I would want to retire. And when, in 2002, I found a house that suited my needs, I closed my massage practice in Denver and moved to Crestone.

 

At first I wanted to immerse myself totally into ashram life. I attended aarati morning and evening, did karma yoga like everyone else and participated in all the ceremonies. At age 70 I realized that I was pushing myself too much, but there was so much joy in it, such excitement, that I knew it was an important step on my spiritual journey. Nine months later I suffered a mild stroke. Baba was obviously telling me that He had something else in mind for me. Through His grace I recovered fully, but I learned to limit my involvement in the ashram after that. 

 

I have experienced other health set-backs over the years, but with the support of all those prayers and the blessings of Babaji and the Divine Mother, I have always regained my health. I now have settled into a comfortable routine, limiting my karma yoga to specific tasks and taking more time off to write, to garden, and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. It continues to be a very satisfying life-style and I feel joy and excitement rise up in me whenever I go to work. I am honored to be allowed to keep the temple and the new Kirtan Hall clean, as it is a chance to soak up all that good energy.

 

I have never had any exceptional or personal experience with Babaji -- no dreams, no visions. But I can’t deny that He is leading my life. There is a strong Divine Presence at the ashram, due both to Babaji and the Divine Mother. It is to this Presence that I am devoted to, and I hope to be of service for a long time yet.

 

Annelou Perrenoud

01-09-08

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