Guns and Gurus

By Keith Varnum 

“Treat death as an ally,” the shamans advise.

I often wondered what Native American medicine men and shamans meant by this saying. One idyllic summer afternoon, I got my answer. The messenger was Indian—not from America, but from India!

His name was Muktananda. My friends in Boston wanted to visit this particular Indian guru they’d read about in books. I usually went along with my friends’ spiritual adventures. We had a track record together of very good karma. Our intuitive guidance was almost always in sync. Whatever they were attracted to usually turned out to be something that was valuable for my spiritual unfoldment. We were what I call “karma buddies.”

I agreed to go with them to visit this newfound sage. Leaving Boston Friday morning, we drove the length of Massachusetts, ending up at an ashram retreat in the middle of upstate New York for a weekend of communing with Muktananda. That evening, we attended our first satsang, a meditative, question-and-answer session of truth-telling with a spiritual teacher. Satsang is a term from India that means literally “abiding in truth.”

As soon as I laid eyes on him, I liked Muktananda. Of short stature and dark complexion, he sported a closely cropped beard speckled with gray. His countenance radiated calm acceptance. He was friendly, jovial and humorous. Exuding a delightful spark, he spoke with penetrating wisdom. In front of several hundred, aspiring disciples, Muktananda talked for a brief period and then answered many detailed questions about spiritual practice and discipline. After countless, lengthy exchanges, we all meditated together in silence for a full hour.

My first encounter with this unassuming master had an unexpectedly dramatic effect on me. Muktananda’s passion spoke directly to my soul, and, in so doing, stirred up uncomfortable, challenging issues for my personality. The meditation stimulated many disturbing memories and intense emotions within me. Wave after wave of energy releases rippled up and through my body. Overwhelmed, anxious and unnerved, I crashed out in my room immediately after the Friday evening satsang.

The next morning was one of those crisp, cloudless summer days that people in New England long for, but seldom get. I decided I’d rather take off, find a lake, go swimming and enjoy the sun, instead of staying cooped up inside with Muktananda and my emotional baggage. After all, my personality reasoned, I could meditate anytime, anywhere, in any weather. I felt an overpowering urge to take advantage of the day’s extraordinary external conditions. In truth, the overpowering urge of my ego was to avoid the day’s extraordinary internal conditions. Looking back, it should have been obvious to me how threatened my ego was that morning. I was antsy and fidgety at the breakfast table, and irritated with everybody and everything around me.

After breakfast, my friends went to Saturday morning satsang. I took off by myself in search of the perfect swimming hole, or, more accurately, in search of the perfect anywhere-but-here!

A thick evergreen forest surrounded the ashram property. Although there didn’t appear to be any trails leading into the woods, a pair of railroad tracks cut a wide swath right through the trees. Deciding it was as good a path as any, I walked along the tracks into the quiet, cool cathedral of pines. Eventually, to my delight, I came upon a small, secluded, crystal clear lake encircled by dense green growth.

Since there was no sign of human presence in or around the lake, I stripped off all my clothes and pierced the serene, mirror-like surface of water. Totally enjoying the refreshing water and sense of complete freedom, I swam out to the middle of the lake and floated peacefully in my own slice of Heaven.

Suddenly, two rifle shots shattered my reverie. The bullets punctured the water within a foot from my head. I quickly hid all but my head below the water and looked around. It took only a few seconds to identify a boat about fifty yards away with two men in it, shooting a rifle—at me!

Where that boat came from I’ll never know. As far as I could see, the pond was totally enclosed by a primeval wilderness. There were neither roads leading to the lake nor houses on shore. After they fired a third bullet in my direction, I darted beneath the water. Under water, I could hear more bullets whizzing within a few feet of my body. A sharp thrust of panic rippled through me. I had no idea why they were shooting at me, or why they felt they could get away with it. Then it struck me that this lake was so isolated and remote, I could be killed and no one would ever know what happened to me.

I felt very helpless, alone and scared. Every time I surfaced for air, a round of menacing shots encircled me. I couldn’t stay under the water forever. Frustrated and desperate, I dove as far as I could into the dark recesses of the water and called out silently to God for help.

“Please get me out of this,” I implored. “I’ll go back to the ashram,” I promised. “I’ll go back to satsang where I’m supposed to be!  Just get me out of danger.”

Instinctively, I knew I should be at satsang with Muktananda instead of swimming in a lake. On some level, I was very aware that a soul morality play of sorts was unfolding here.

When I broke the surface of the lake again, a second motor boat had mysteriously appeared out of nowhere. I was positive the boat wasn’t there before because I could easily see the whole shoreline of the small lake. There were no corners or inlets to hide a vessel. No docks or structures existed anywhere on the shore. But there it was, another boat. From its bow a man was yelling at the top of his lungs at the two shooters to stop their firing. When the newly arrived boat sped toward the riflemen, they turned on the motor and took off down the lake.

Well, that was enough excitement for me for one afternoon! I swam to shore, put my clothes on, and took off as quickly as I could down the railroad tracks to the ashram. As I ran, I thanked the good Lord for the intervention. God had sent me a crystal clear message in responding so quickly to my plea for help. I’d promised to go back to satsang if I got out of this predicament. I was going to keep my end of the deal. So, that’s where I headed, posthaste! I was returning to satsang to open my connection to Spirit and my real self.

Scurrying down the railroad tracks leading to the ashram, I vaguely discerned a person way down the tracks in front of me. As I approached the figure, I saw it was another man with a rifle!

“Oh, my God!” I whispered to myself.

The man leveled his rifle and pointed it at me. I bolted off the tracks into the forest. I never heard a shot and didn’t care at that point. I was gone. I ran through the thick timber as fast as my Nikes could go, heedlessly pushing low limbs and bushes out of my way. My skin was becoming laced with small nicks and scratches. The lacerations were not my primary concern. I’d already created being shot at once. I wasn’t about to slow down and allow another opportunity for my inner coach to motivate me with a second round of bullets.

I ran through the woodland, stumbling and bleeding, all the way back to the ashram—just in time for the afternoon satsang!  Entering the building, I collapsed in the back of the room, secure and peaceful for the first time since early that morning. I’d have to explain all the cuts, but I was safe from the materializations of my mind.

My suppressed fears have manifested physically before, but not in such a dramatic and extreme way as they did this bright summer morning.

Needless to say, I received a lot of value from the meditation session that afternoon. I saw how scared my ego was of its own death. My mind and its rigidly structured world were being severely shaken and threatened by Muktananda. The wily Indian was inviting me to surrender my ego control, and allow God and my inner coach to direct my life. I saw that after the Friday evening satsang, I became afraid the raw force of my lifetime of repressed emotions would explode from within and kill me. I also realized I was afraid of the freedom and personal power waiting for me on the other side of resolving my emotions. Unconsciously, I held the belief that if I owned and shared my true wisdom and strength out in the world, I’d be killed. The fear of my suppressed emotions and the fear of my innate, vast potential had materialized in the form of a real physical threat. The gunmen were reflecting my paranoia for me in such an unavoidable way that I had to face it, feel it, own it—and then release it. What a blessing! Those fears needed to die. And they did die—that afternoon in satsang.

Muktananda was walking around the hall, selectively touching his meditating students lightly on the head or heart with his hand. When his fingers landed on my forehead, I felt a sharp shot of shakti holy energy shoot up my spine and out the top of my head. This ecstatic electrical charge activated an outpouring of divine bliss from the innermost recesses of my being, infusing my body with euphoria. I entered a state of oneness with All That Is. I allowed myself to be filled with the safety and serenity of my own spirit and of God’s presence. 

This fateful weekend, with a “gentle” nudge from my external environment, I surrendered to the care and comfort of my inner coach and my highest destiny. Hallelujah!

This true story is an excerpt from Keith’s latest book, Inner Coach: Outer Power:

Forty-eight firsthand stories reveal the amazing creative powers within you that can heal your body, expand your heart, and attract phenomenal abundance into your life. Fresh and captivating, Keith shows you the practical, everyday use of levitation, alchemy, multi-dimensional travel, near-death experiences, out-of-body journeys, parallel realities and time-tripping. Spiritual teachers unveil their secrets to happiness. Ancient shamans impart how to manifest an easy flow of money. Angels illustrate how to heal the body instantly. Nature devas share keys to attracting soulmates. Spirit guides demonstrate how they can save your life in a crisis. Using his vast exploration as a healer, mystic, acupuncturist, urban shaman, filmmaker, personal coach, and seminar leader, Keith helps you become a real Miracle Maker!

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