An Immense Burden Had Been Lifted from Me
Toni Vidor has been a devotee of
Adi Da since 1974. She is the author of the book, Beyond
the Illusion: A Spiritual Autobiography,
where you can read much more about her relationship with Adi Da.
and the Goddess" period (in 1974), devotees would drive up from San
Francisco on Friday night and stay at The
Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary until Sunday night, catching up on what
had occurred around Adi Da during the previous week and spending as much time
as they could in His Company. He would often go to Ordeal Bath Lodge, the spa
of the former
resort, where devotees would join Him in the large pool called "the plunge".
Often dozens of people would be in the water around Him —
sometimes quiet, sometimes shouting and laughing, throwing balls and playing vigorous
water games initiated by Avatar Adi Da.
Bath Lodge, with "the plunge" pool area on the right (November, 2011)
Ordeal Bath Lodge, with "the
plunge" pool area on the right
(November, 2011) (click
Toni Vidor, a middle-aged woman
who had grown up in southern California as the daughter of the early film director
King Vidor, had just become Adi Da's devotee, and flew up from Los Angeles during
this time to meet her new Spiritual Master. She recalls her first sighting of
Avatar Adi Da. This first part of Toni's story is an excerpt from her book, Beyond
the Illusion: A Spiritual Autobiography.
Coming into the presence of a true master typically does not happen as one
might expect. In the esoteric traditions, the seriousness of aspiring devotees
was usually tested before they were allowed into the rarified space of the “ashram,”
which, in the traditional meaning of the word is the abode of the realizer or
spiritual master, where he or she lived among devotees. When I finally did get
invited to the sanctuary for a weekend, I found myself tested as well. I was all
excited that I was finally going to meet this master. I canceled all my patients
and riding classes and booked a plane. However, as unexpectedly as I had been
invited, I was uninvited. I was hurt and upset, but soon I saw all this emotion
as my old emotional patterning of how I handle — or fail to handle — disappointment.
This devotee was being tested before she even got to her master’s door, and it
was an uncomfortable confrontation with self. Yet I was happy to have a guru who
would show these things to me. I took the lesson as a confirmation that the purification
of my old karmic patterns had indeed begun. Two weekends later, Doris and I finally
went up north to the sanctuary.
The Mountain Of Attention had at one time
been a Native American sacred site. Its clear-water creeks come down from the
adjacent mountain, rushing into hot springs that spout up from underground, forming
a grotto. The Pomo tribes of the region deemed this conjunction of waters from
above and below as auspicious, full of “medicine,” since such a grotto has potent
energy in it and they are very rare. Indeed, the continuously damp, highly-mineralized
volcanic soil of the sanctuary in this area feels very different from the dry
surrounding hills, which can go without rain for six months a year.
the arrival of the white man to the region in the nineteenth century, the land
was developed into a hot
springs resort and party palace for the rich of the San Francisco Bay Area.
The resort buildings had been abandoned for that purpose decades before our arrival.
All the old wooden buildings had fallen into disrepair, and that is how we found
them. It was a real fixer-upper, a ghost town to boot.
I visited the hot
springs in the bath lodge during my first afternoon at the sanctuary. “The bathhouse”
is a low, stone building close to the grotto, with a large front room conjoined
with a long corridor to form an L-shape.
The front room and the long corridor
are each lined with doors to small rooms containing Roman baths fed by the hot
springs beneath. The bathhouse interior is dark, very humid, the air pungent with
the sulfur and minerals from the water, with ambient sounds of natural waters
echoing through the whole building. Upon entering, you know you are in another
place. Adi Da named it “Ordeal Bath Lodge” — the lodge part a tribute to the Native
Americans who first used the springs. The ordeal part would soon become clear.
In the front room, I undressed, hung up my clothes on one of the wall hooks, then
walked down the long corridor that ended up at an indoor pool, just as I had in
the dream. In the pool were a few devotees playing some sort of wild game with
Adi Da. Everyone was naked — a bit surprising to me, but being someone who worked
on ailing bodies all day, I could easily accept this.
Those in the pool
stood in a circle with each taking turns being thrown up in the air by all the
others. Shouting and hilarity echoed off the stone walls. After launching someone
upwards, the group fell back as the launchee came down into the water with a great
splash, followed by everyone laughing even more uproariously. Devotees tossed
Adi Da upwards several time. He shouted, “Higher, higher, hit the rafters!” This
was impossible, since the ceiling was way up there. But His point was clear —
there was to be no holding back, of anything.
I timidly sat on the steps
of the pool, timidly watching this crazy scene. I wondered what I was doing there
and whether this really was a spiritual community. My past suggested that it was
acceptable to seek God soberly and somberly — but not to laugh and shout and be
joyous in the company of a spiritual master. I definitely had a taboo against
Adi Da called me by name, which surprised me, since I had not formally
met Him yet. He invited me to come get tossed up into the air. I must have looked
pretty ancient to all these enthusiastic people in their twenties. [Toni was
47 at the time.] I waded into everyone’s midst, got tossed up high in the
air, and I heard the peals of laughter as I came down.
This seemingly little
incident required a great effort on my part, a confrontation with myself. I had
gone along with the boisterous play, but I was really uptight throughout it. I
had been such a serious seeker for so many years that I had become dry and humorless
in the process. The stiffness of my character was reflected back to me in a manner
I had never experienced so directly, much deeper in proportion to the tiny, almost
silly incident itself. The incident required — indeed, it even forced — what Bhagavan
Adi Da called “losing face,” a letting go of one’s precious self-image and social
front in the presence of others.
More, I had just been confronted with
the notion that a positive and happy relationship to life was just as essential
for one’s spiritual transformation as a seriousness of purpose. I had gotten pretty
good at the latter, but I was obviously not so good at the former. The incident
was as uncomfortable to face as anything I had yet faced in my life, and it all
happened in my first five minutes in Adi Da’s presence. It also became clear to
me that this was His intention and design for the occasion — what He called “theater.”
Everybody there saw something about their characters and went through something
about it in His presence, even though it all seemed like harmless fun.
That afternoon, Beloved Adi Da came and sat silently with us. From the back
of the hall, I prayed earnestly and passionately to Him to relieve me of this
crippled quality that I suffered in every ordinary human interaction! Immediately,
He put His arm up with His palm open toward me and held it there. I began breathing
stronger and stronger, and I felt energy come into my heart and then down through
my arms and hands so strong that the fingers bent with the energy. And then a
great sorrow came up from the heart.
I began sobbing loudly and uncontrollably.
I was the only person making a sound! It was embarrassing, but I thought, "Well,
if I can't let go here, there's no place I can let go!" The sorrow increased,
and soon I was rolling on the floor, still wailing. Curiously, I watched
all of this come up. There was no content associated with it. It was just a huge,
enormous release. After about an hour, Beloved Adi Da got up and walked out and
every one followed, but I continued to weep loudly on the floor. After a while,
the breath calmed to the point that I could sit up. A friend had stayed behind
to make sure that I was all right, and I sat down on a bench next to her to try
to speak — and it all began again, and I spent
another half hour rolling on the floor!
When it was finally over, I felt
as if an immense burden — eighty tons of whatever
it was I had been carrying around all my life without even realizing it —
had been lifted from me.
the Divine Maha-Siddha had said on the night of "Guru
Enters Devotee", the Spiritual Process that He brings must take hold in the
"vital" — the seat of the subconscious and
unconscious life of the individual. And so, His Transmission, Working at that
level, would sometimes release a chaos of emotions and thoughts that could not
be rationally explained. His Siddhi was not merely inducing Spiritual experiences
— It was also "boiling off" the egoic patterns
and tendencies of His devotees. His Heart-Force had Its purifying effects in every
dimension of body, mind, and psyche. And, as His devotees felt His Blessing transforming
their lives, they grew to love and trust Avatar Adi Da even more profoundly.
awakening of this trust in His devotees was itself a heartbreaking miracle, a
miracle of love. Avatar Adi Da would not merely tell devotees that He Loved them,
He would show them bodily, one by one, face-to-face. He did this night and day.
Several months after that Sitting with Avatar Adi Da, I found myself once
more in the water with Him, this time in the outdoor swimming pool by the beautiful
grotto, which was later to be Empowered as a special site of healing and Spiritual
initiation. I had firmly decided that this weekend I was going to approach Him
directly and drop my fearful reluctance to engage a relationship with Him!
was a wild water-polo game going on, and, instead of sitting on the edge as I
usually did, I jumped in the water and got into the game. I never came close to
the ball, but I was participating.
At some point, I started
to swim toward our Beloved Guru. He knew my intention, and left His place in the
game to swim around to meet me. He hugged me, and He held me and held me and held
me. Soon the game died away, and everyone formed a circle around us. A great stillness
pervaded the entire place. (It was so quiet that a friend of mine woke up from
a nap in a nearby cabin!) I was cold and shivering, but I had to make a choice
between giving myself to Him or paying attention to the body. The Blissful Energy
of the Embrace became more and more intense.
I found myself
resisting the ego-overwhelming pleasure of it —
fearing to lose control. It felt as though Avatar Adi Da was pulling me up. But,
at some point, I refused to go further. I could feel Him continue to ascend, and
soon I was left holding only a body. I could feel that He was no longer, in that
moment, directly associated with His physical body. By now, I was simultaneously
in a blissful state, beyond the mind, and painfully, acutely aware of my resistance
to Him and His Love.
In spite of the limits I placed on His
Work with me, I was completely changed by these incidents. I was happy, no longer
struggling with myself — a different person.
Adi Da embracing
(many years later)