What is Spiritual Awakening ?
Part 1 The Awakening
Approximately four years ago, my mother crossed over to the spirit world. Apart from being my mother, she was my best friend. Even though I believe in life after death, I could not let go of the vast emotional pain and void. I felt as though the light of my soul had been turned off. I was an empty shell pretending to be alive. All I wanted was to sleep and wake up to discover that it was simply a dreadful dream.
While doing household chores, I came across a book that a friend had given me three years before my mother's departure. He highly recommended it. I took the book, thanked him, and placed it in my bookcase. For three years, the book was hidden and forgotten. Without any palpable explanation, the book reappeared. I picked it up and read the title- A Healer's Journey by Sree Chakravarti.
The book is an inspiring autobiography about an Indian woman's exceptional healing gift. After reading the first few pages, I was instantly captivated by her storytelling. I proceeded to read on. Unexpectedly, something happened that transformed my world. It was a chapter on Sai Baba, an Indian Saint. I read the chapter three or four times. I became obsessed with Sai Baba, and did not know why.
A week passed, and I could not stop thinking of Sai Baba. I felt an overwhelming impulse to go to Shirdi, India, and I needed to go immediately. Without any hesitation, I purchased airline tickets, got a visa, packed my suitcase, grabbed my passport and American Express ("don't leave home without it"), and headed for India. It was the beginning of my spiritual journey.
Part 2- The Journey
The trip to Mumbai, India, was long and tedious. As I waited In line to present my passport and visa, I discovered something astonishing. When I opened the passport and looked at the picture, I was shocked to see that the photo was of my mother. Somehow, both passports ended in the same carrying case. I knew immediately that it was her way of saying, "You are not alone. I am here with you." The thought of her spirit being by my side gave me tremendous comfort.
When I claimed my suitcase, I discovered that it had not arrived. I was told that my suitcase had stayed in Dubai. Instead of becoming upset, I remained serene. A friendly airport employee assured me that someone would contact me upon its arrival in Mumbai. I smiled and walked away.
The fact that my suitcase had not arrived was inconsequential. My primary objective was to visit Shirdi with or without my luggage. I was determined not to let anything or anyone impede me from accomplishing my goal. All I wanted, at that moment, was to go to my hotel room, sleep, wake up and prepare for my spiritual journey to Shirdi.
At approximately 5 o'clock in the morning, the phone rang. An airport employee informed me that my suitcase had arrived and was ready for pickup. I got up quickly, dressed, and asked the man at the front desk to get me a cab. The fear of being alone in a foreign country, in the early morning hours, and with a stranger never entered my mind. I felt well protected.
When I arrived from the airport, I went directly to my room and proceeded to get ready for my departure to Shirdi. I was getting closer to reaching my destination.
A private vehicle was hired to take me to Shirdi. The trip took approximately seven hours due to several vehicles road accidents. Although it was just the driver and me, there was minimal communication. Since I was still mourning the loss of my mother, I was not in the mood to engage in any form of conversation. Instead, I welcomed the solitude and opportunity to enjoy the picturesque view of the countryside.
I witnessed a village untouched by the outside world as we entered Shirdi. There were no traffic jams, skyscrapers, Wal-Marts, McDonald's, etc. Except for a few luxury hotels built to accommodate the many devotees who visit daily, Shirdi remained frozen in time.
When l arrived at the Shraddha Inn, a warm and friendly staff greeted me. The place was attractive and immaculate. One of the many amenities offered was a meditation room for their guests' spiritual needs, which I used often. When I got to my room, I quickly showered, dressed, and headed to Sai Baba's Samadhi Mandir (Sai Baba's resting place), approximately a five-minute walk from the hotel.
Upon arriving at Samadhi Mandir, I was flabbergasted by the enormous amount of people in attendance. Many of them kept staring at me. I felt as if I were the only foreigner there. I ignored the stares and focused on the energy around me. One friendly man walked up to me, introduced himself, and asked me, "Do people believe in Sai Baba where you come from?" I smiled and said, "I believe Sai Baba is everywhere." He grinned and nodded in agreement.
The next day, I was awakened by morning prayers at approximately 5 o'clock. I got up and headed to Sai Baba's Samadhi Mandir. When I got there, it was swamped with devotees. I immediately got on line to see Sai Baba's tomb and statue. The line was extremely long but worth the wait. You could sense the spiritual energy in the air. It was intoxicating and healing. After saluting Sai Baba, I went to the meditation hall in the same building and meditated for a while.
After an hour or so, I noticed people gathering around the hall. A few minutes later, a security guard began speaking to the crowd. Although I did not verbally understand what he was saying, his gestures indicated that he wanted them to form a line. I got up and joined the group. Despite the fact that I was clueless about what was about to happen, I did not care. I was in Sai Baba's home and felt well protected.
As the line moved, I quickly found myself standing in front of a desk where a man was collecting money and handing out tickets. I paid him the required fee, which was minimal, and received two tickets. I presented the tickets to another man, who gave me a tray, which contained flower petals, rice, red and yellow powder, and a coconut.
From there, I went to the area where the ceremony would take place, and sat on the floor. Sitting on the floor with the tray in front of me, I waited eagerly for the activities to commence. By now, a large group had converged around the room.
A few minutes later, two priests walked in carrying two statues-a large statue of Sai Baba and a smaller one of Ganesh -the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati, known by devotees as the Supreme God of wisdom, good fortune, prosperity, and remover of obstacles.
While one of the priests was performing a ritual- saturating the statue of Ganesh with a milky substance, cleansing the statue of Sai Baba, and covering it with a piece of fabric- the other priest was engrossed in prayer. Everything was done methodically.
The prayers that were sung created an electrifying atmosphere. Occasionally, the audience would join in and repeat the words said by the priest. I did the same. Even though I did not know what I was saying, I joyously participated.
Later, people began placing some red powder on their third eye chakra (located in the middle of the forehead between the two eyebrows believed to be an energy and spiritual focal point) and scattering the rice and petals on top of the coconut. The prayers were nonstop.
Sensing my immense confusion, the person next to me began explaining the process. I was extremely thankful.
As we continued to pray, one of the priests sprinkled water over us. I felt goosebumps all over my body. Undoubtedly, Sai Baba's energy was present.
Note: I did not feel goosebumps because the water was cold. It was extremely hot that day, and the water was very refreshing. I think the goosebumps were caused by the spiritual phenomenon that had manifested in the room- something that one could not see but could clearly sense.
When the prayers ceased, we were directed to get up and move towards Sai Baba's tomb. I closed my eyes, thanked Sai Baba for a glorious day, and threw some flower petals. By the end of the ceremony, I felt regenerated.
During my stay in Shirdi, I quickly acclimated to Shirdi's customs and lifestyle.
Additionally, I participated in numerous ceremonies, visited various sacred places, received vibhuti (sacred ash believed to cure many illnesses), meditated, and received many beautiful visions.
Besides being an entrancing experience, my spiritual journey to Shirdi was extremely insightful. I connected with my inner spiritual self and confronted my inner fears and demons.
In addition to the dispersal of my emotional pain, the emptiness deep inside me was replenished. Even though I continued to miss my mother, I felt tremendous comfort knowing that her spirit was by my side. Indeed, the journey was a spiritual rebirth.
"Everyone dies, but no one is dead".......Tibetan saying
"Dead we are when in the material body, and alive when we cast it off" (from Divaldo Franco's book Obsession).
On the day of my departure, I felt as if I were leaving a longtime friend. I was sad and, at the same time, grateful for the spiritual gifts I received.
The trip to Shirdi transformed me into a different person. I was reborn.
I went to Shirdi in need of healing and came back whole. Sai Baba's spirit took away my pain and replaced it with the thought that my mother was closer to me now than before.
The rest of the trip, I traveled around India, enjoying its warmth, colors, and beauty (go to Ajanta Ellora Caves for more on India).
Upon my return from my India spiritual awakening journey, the memories of Shirdi and Sai Baba remained intensely vivid. Although I purchased several pictures of Sai Baba, I had a strong urge to paint a picture of him- go to Art Gallery to view my painting of Sai Baba.
Although I presumed that my spiritual healing was completed, Sai Baba was letting me know that it was just beginning. There was more work to be done.
When I commenced painting, I felt Sai Baba’s energy around me. He was assisting me in pulling out the emotional waste that was embedded deep inside me and releasing it to the universe. The more I painted, the more I let go.
By the end, I went through a complete emotional detoxification. Additionally, I created a painting that appeared alive with Sai Baba's energy. I have no doubts that his energy guided me throughout the entire process.
Even though the painting is similar to the well-known picture of Sai Baba, the facial expression is a bit different. It is as though he is communicating with his eyes. Every time I see the painting, I feel he is watching over me.
Although my spiritual awakening and rebirth were indeed miraculous, the process resumes. It is never-ending. I continue to grow and learn more about the Creator, spirit and my spiritual mission.
Sai Baba, thank you for welcoming me to your humble earthly abode and assisting me in my healing process.
Indeed, without God, we are nothing.
This is not the end of my spiritual awakening process; it is just the beginning.
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