When I was 23, I was on a search for a true spiritual path. I was obsessed, read every spiritual book I could find. I was turned off by most religions but wanted to overcome the ego-related insecurities I struggled with. I prayed for a "guru" like the ones I had read about, but was also extremely fearful about false leaders and cults.
In the midst of this searching process, I was having chronic neck problems and awakened one morning in terrible pain. I opened the phone book and "randomly" selected a massage therapist and set an appointment for the same day at her home. When I arrived, I was immediately drawn to a photo of Babaji next to her massage table. I couldn't stop staring at his photo and she was kind enough to share many stories about him. I wanted to know more about Babaji, and about two months later was invited by the same massage therapist and rebirthing practitioner to visit the ashram in Malmo, Nebraska. I was very excited but also had nightmares about being a "bad" person. I was confronting a deep struggle with my Baptist upbringing, which strictly forbade God in all forms except Jesus. I finally just decided to go to the ashram because I couldn't stop thinking about it.
The morning we arrived, there were about six people singing aarati in the temple. The music was so beautiful, and just hearing it was very powerful for me. A quiet, peaceful energy was everywhere, and I knew this was a life-changing experience immediately. But that morning my mind wouldn't stop telling me that I shouldn't be there. The mental chatter was incessant. "What if this is bad? I don't want to be here. All of these people are way closer to enlightenment than I am." And so I went through the day like that, between moments of peace and longer moments of excruciating negativity that I knew was not the truth.
Toward the time of evening aarati, I was asked to pick flowers for the temple. I did as I was asked, thinking the entire time that I shouldn't be there, that I should skip aarati and go home, that this was a mistake. Then, as I picked the next flower, I was stung by a bee. It stung me directly at the tip of my index finger, and that is the last thing I remember until I awakened inside the ashram house surrounded by people. Now, I realize this next part will sound implausible, but when I looked at all of those people, I was seeing them through a rainbow. I was literally seeing a rainbow of color in my vision, but it was transparent and I could also see my surroundings clearly. For some reason, I knew absolutely that this was a blessing and that God was telling me something. In fact, for the first time ever, I was totally at ease with everyone and everything. When I told the group that I had been stung in the index finger, someone, I'm not sure who, laughed and told me that in India the index finger represents the ego. Babaji had literally zapped my ego and replaced it with the greatest peace I had ever known.
That was the beginning of a path to peace. My ego came back. I don't have to mention this to anyone who knows me. But everything in my life has been a great blessing since that day. The path of karma yoga, the kindness that I've learned to offer others and myself, the sometimes embarrassing mistakes that now bring clear gifts I can eventually discern. The mantra Om Namaha Shivaya has been the greatest gift of all. It doesn't matter how messed up we think we are. The purity is all God sees, and japa, repetition of a mantra, heals our minds.
Om Namaha Shivaya!