I’m Richard Cahall and I’m in the Kirtan Hall at the Haidakhandi Universal ashram in Crestone to tell my Babaji story.
The journey began in 2001 when my teachers, Jim and Sari Trusa (?) invited me to attend an evening of Babaji-related events in Florida. Led by Ramloti, some Babaji devotees from Europe and the U.S., were doing a “Victory Tour”, visiting devotees in different places. They told stories, played the harmonium and sang bhajans. I loved this energy, loved their stories of Babaji and I said to myself, “whatever they are doing, I want to do as well.” I bought some music tapes and started listening to them.
That summer (2001), Jim and Sari took a group of us to Crestone. We visited a number of spiritual centers and spent a day doing karma yoga at the ashram. I liked pulling weeds and sitting in the temple. At that time there was only the little temple and we all had to squeeze in. Ramloti did a small, early-morning fire ceremony in the courtyard -- my first experience of the fire. I enjoyed aarati, even though I could not pronounce the words. (Six years later I’m finally getting better at it!) The next day, two friends and I came back for more devotion and karma yoga. I met more people and it all felt good in my heart. It was a very important trip for me.
After that I started receiving the ashram newsletter and met some devotees in Florida, Sal and Sarena Morello. In 2003 Ramloti and Premanand came to Del Ray, FL to teach a fire ceremony workshop. My friends and I attended it. It was cold and we had to bundle up under the mango tree to do the ceremony. After that we began doing a monthly fire ceremony in Del Ray and I became acquainted with other people who were attracted to Babaji.
In 2004 Ramloti and Premanand came to Sharda and Jeff’s resort on the West coast of Florida. We did fires, aarati and experimented with raw foods. I met Lok Nath and devotees from Atlanta and it began to feel like community to me. So that summer I came to Crestone by myself during Family Week and was impressed by the love that was being extended to the children and to their parents. The energy was wonderful and I really enjoyed it all. That was the year when the Kirtan Hall was being built and we all pitched in and helped in some small way.
During the Samaj meeting that followed, I was appointed Treasurer of the American Haidakhan Samaj. Accounting was my profession and it so happened that their Treasurer was stepping down. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but was deeply honored to serve in that capacity and I enjoyed meeting the other Board members.
When the Kirtan Hall Dedication took place in June 2005, many of us from Florida attended. It was a large gathering and during the 3-day celebration I met people from India and from many other countries. I also met Sondra Ray and that became an important connection for me.
At home I had built myself an altar with photographs of Babaji and the Divine Mother. I would quietly sit and meditate with those pictures. I also delved more deeply into the Vedic tradition and with this knowledge I became more secure in my practice. When I met Sondra, my spiritual practice took a different direction, I learned rebirthing and metaphysics and enjoyed getting to know Babaji through her eyes. She had been with Baba for a long time and was quite articulate in recounting her experiences with Him. By then I had felt a desire to go to India, but had not had the courage to go alone. So when I learned in 2006 that Sondra was taking a large group of people to India to attend Spring Navratri in Haidakhan, I eagerly signed up. I was setting off on a trip around the world and was able to join the group as part of it. We stayed at the ashram for eleven days. Besides the ceremonies I enjoyed sitting in Babaji’s cave or the dhuni. I met Muniraji and got to know devotees from India and many other countries. It was a really a profound experience for me.
In the summer of that year, I again came to Crestone for Family Week and the Samaj Meeting. The following year (2007) I returned to Haidakhan for Spring Navratri with Sondra’s group. This time I stayed on longer, waiting for friends from Crestone to arrive (Ramloti, Premanand, Melinda), Together we explored the hills behind Haldwani, visited Old Babaji’s ashram and other sacred sites. I went to Chillianaula and saw the hospital which the American Samaj supports in a small way. We had a lot of adventures, and being in Muniraji’s presence at his home, provided me with a lot of comfort and inspiration.
As a member of the Samaj Board, I have the opportunity to stay in touch with fellow Board members through our monthly phone conferences. We share information and discuss ways to spread Babaji’s teachings. We published a new edition of I am Harmony, a book about Babaji by Rhade Shyam. I also continue to attend the monthly fire ceremonies in Del Ray. So I’ve had consistent support for my practice.
I enjoyed a long stay in Crestone in the summer of 2007 again, meeting old friends and making new ones. Now I’m here for part of Fall Navratri, enjoying the energy in the presence of the Divine Mother. Today I was honored to do puja to Mahalakshmi, which was a very healing and changing experience for me.
My process has always been to get out of my head and tune into my feelings, to learn to be more in the moment. This journey with Baba and all the supportive friends has helped me grow. I really feel at home here at the ashram, especially in the Earthship, where we can share meals with friends. It all ties in with a deep longing I have had since my early twenties. But now I feel very connected. It feels right for me to be here, in service to Babaji and the Mother. It’s been a real blessing to me.
As far as personal experiences go, I have never had any dreams about Babaji. At first I was hesitant to talk to Him, because I was not sure who He was. But after visiting Haidakhan I decided that, yes, I could talk to Him. I don’t do it often and only after I have given the matter a lot of thought, but when I do ask Him something, I usually get an answer before I finish asking the question. He has made Himself present to me by giving me good, powerful advice. The main benefit of this Babaji experience has been to find a loving and supportive community. And the journey goes on. At the last Samaj meeting I was asked to join the ashram Board of Directors as a Samaj liaison and that is a great honor. I look forward to learning a lot.