My First Retreat and
a Miraculous Healing
Dan Sleeth has been a devotee of Adi Da
since 1983. He has worked for many years in the field of human
services as a mental health provider. Dan earned a MA in general
psychology and in counseling. After receiving his Ph.D. in Clinical
Psychology, he wrote The
Integral Ego as a vehicle for considering the non-dual
perspective possible in the clinical therapeutic setting. Dan
has served Adi Da in many different capacities, including public
outreach, regional manager, and ashram manager, as well as through
his writing and advocacy.
my first retreat to Fiji, I felt unprepared. I never thought I
would even have the opportunity to go on such a retreat, feeling
so unqualified a spiritual aspirant. Growing up, I even scoffed
at religion, regarding it to be a crutch, if not, as Freud said,
"a regression to infantile wish fulfillment." Yet, there I was,
on a bus crossing Naitauba Island, bringing me to my Beloved Guru's
Feet. I had certainly come a long way to take this ride.
Looking out the window, I considered the enormous
demand of spiritual practice, especially relative to the impending
personal encounter with my Guru. As we rode along, I looked up
into the surrounding hills and imagined my Guru waiting for me
— specifically to impose an inhuman regime of purification
and transformation, a rite of passage into a greater sense of
maturity and humanity. Yet, I was not frightened. I was elated!
And I was oddly relieved. For once, no one could see through me
as an imposter. I knew I was unqualified and undeserving —
consequently, there could be no expectations. None of that mattered.
It was simply my time to confront the Divine. In the end, we all
must take our turn. I made a commitment to submit myself to whatever
awaited me, and receive whatever was Given. No matter what, it
would be perfect for me, I reasoned, if for no other reason than
I was given over to receiving it.
Many events occurred before the healing I am
telling you about actually took place. But the spiritual encounter
with Adi Da is the focus of this story. I was in a room built
especially for the type of spiritual transmission I was about
to receive. It was a Darshan hall, where the Guru sits and can
be viewed by their devotees. However, in this process, the Guru
is not merely put on display, such that others can look at them.
Rather, Darshan involves the process of spiritual transmission,
whereby the Guru's own spiritual realization is momentarily imparted
to the devotee.
The modern mind tends to conceive of energy
as channeled through complex, inanimate objects, like orbiting
satellites, electric generators, automobile engines, and similar
devices. Every household abounds with knobs and switches by which
people manipulate the invisible power transmitted through these
conduits. However, what makes spiritual transmission special is
that it can be directed through living objects, such as human
beings. Adi Da describes the significance of this process as follows:
The point of the Guru-devotee relationship is
the awakening of the devotee to a heightened sense of spiritual
reality. It is a physics of transformation. The Guru literally
the devotee via spiritual transmission. As a result, the Guru
and devotee share in a mutual ecstasy. It is an intimate, auspicious
bond between them, through which the Guru's blessings pour.
To enter into the company of a realizer is to
be in the presence of one active at every level of their being.
They are literally a composite being, vibrant and radiant. In
their company, odd quirks and skips can take place in one's feeling,
in dimensions of one's being they might not have known even existed.
Surprising little percolations begin to burble, indeed, often
spilling over and saturating one's ordinary categories of understanding,
perhaps even forcing them to scramble to keep up. It is undeniable!
Step into their sphere and, suddenly, amazing things begin to
happen. It is more than just merely coincidental, not to say incidental.
The spiritual master intends for it to happen, offering him/herself
precisely in this way for the benefit of his/her devotees.
Sometimes, the nature of the spiritual invasion
is pure, radiant bliss, which I have also experienced at the hands
of my Guru. But on this occasion, the spiritual transmission took
the form of a miraculous healing, in which profound purification
unexpectedly took place. Often, there is chanting and recitations
in preparation for Darshan. Pujas are also frequently performed
in advance of the Guru's arrival, whereby the presence of the
Divine is invoked with an accompanying waving of lights and incense
in front of the dais and the Guru's chair. On this occasion, a
devotee was particularly immersed in the activity of invocation,
circling a candle around the chair with wild exuberance, beside
herself with adoration of Adi Da and lavishing his name in praise.
I was utterly taken by her devotion and closed my eyes, attempting
to immerse myself in the same abandoned worship.
I could feel Adi Da's extraordinary spiritual
presence enter my body almost immediately, even before he actually
arrived at the hall. I noticed unusual sensations occurring in
my hands. A tingling feeling began to take place, like the scruffy
prickling of bees crawling over my fingers. Before long the intensity
of this sensation increased, such that the swarming energy extended
out beyond the surface of my hands. It was like wearing mittens
made of bees. And more than that, they were stinging me all over
in the most unusual way — their little punctures imparted intense
bliss! An utterly exquisite pleasure came over me, undulating
on my hands in a startling and rapid boil. And it was preposterous,
located in my hands, of all places! For some reason, I found this
Soon, the sensation expanded even further, enveloping
my belly. It was like being afloat in an inner tube, buoyed in
a swarm of bliss-rendering bees, all of whom mingling in the bulge
around my torso. I thought of myself as the Michelin Man, the
cartoon mascot of a famous tire manufacturer, and found this imagery
amusing too. Caught up in this ecstatic pleasure, I was unable
to focus attention on any other activity taking place in the hall.
In fact, I never even noticed Adi Da arrive at the hall or enter
the room and take his seat on the dais, even though it was no
more than a few feet from where I sat.
After awhile, the sensation died away and I
was again able to notice events taking place in the room. Others
were having similar experiences, judging by the weeping, moaning,
and various whoops of laughter and joyous exclaims of praise to
Adi Da. However, a series of seemingly grim events quickly followed.
All at once, an intense sorrow welled up within me. I had no idea
what might be prompting this incredible grief, but I was heart-stricken
with deep longing and loneliness. I was utterly beside myself,
like one might see on the news of peasant women in war ravaged
countries, overcome by the sight of loved ones either maimed or
I began to wail out loud, at the top of my lungs,
out of the most desperate and overwhelming loss. It seemed to
me that I was directly experiencing the true state of my being,
as lived in this body. A horrific image suddenly appeared in my
mind: my heart was a stillborn baby, buried deep inside my chest
like a corpse. I wailed over this death like a tormented mother,
caught in the clutch of a brutal world dragging off her young.
I threw my arms toward the sky in supplication. And I bowed to
the floor, again and again, utterly yielding myself to the anguish.
Toward the end of the sobbing, something began to squirm in my
belly. At first, it felt like cramps, but the clench quickly became
more active than that. It began to squeeze repeatedly, like a
pile of miniature pistons churning in my belly. And more —
it began working its way up through my torso, eventually into
Suddenly, I was howling with utter abandon.
However, it was different from the previous supplicant wailing.
I was more indifferent, like an innocent bystander to the guttural
howling suddenly emerging from within. Yet, at the same time,
it was intensely personal. The sounds felt torn from my intestines,
and sent scuttling out through my lungs in a gruff and horrific
shriek. It was obvious to me that something was being pulled out
from of the depths of my being, perhaps even demonic. I could
literally feel the blackness, coarse and oily, like a mechanic's
rag, passing through my throat. Beyond any doubt, I was being
purified of some horrible foulness which I could not even name.
Shortly after that, I was sent into a fit of
uncontrollable convulsion-like spasms. I began to flop around
on the floor like a fish on the dock, my arms and legs flailing,
which was unfortunate for the devotees around me. The spiritual
energy that moved through me was a dynamo, recklessly twisting
me askew, like a sheet in the wind. But I was oblivious to any
possible repercussions. Anything other than the spiritual transmission
seemed irrelevant, utterly beside the point. I had come to "go
the distance" with my Guru, no matter what. I refused to back
out, determined to hold up my end, nevermind having no idea what
this might entail.
At some point the intensity of the episode passed,
leaving me spent on the floor. Yet, I was inexplicably transfixed
in calm and serenity. Despite being exhausted, a surprising equanimity
came over me. At last, I was able to pull myself from the floor
and sit upright. I looked at my Guru. Watching him in that moment
was probably the most deeply in love I have ever been. I was overwhelmed
with the most heart-breaking, ecstatic intimacy with him. There
was an unspoken, tacit understanding between us that we were in
this together, each doing our part: him granting the most exquisite
spiritual transmission imaginable, and me doing everything in
my power to keep up. Even as the room was erupting on all sides
in a bedlam of spiritual purification, he sat unperturbed and
serene, overseeing the event with sublime mastery. It was amazing
to consider how his direct encounter with the spiritual aspects
of our beings allowed him to so dramatically influence us, while
remaining so peaceful and at ease, seemingly without even moving
I was so happy. It was utterly unimaginable.
It was the happiest, wildest bedlam in all the world. I felt relieved
of burdens beyond my wildest imagination, all the while bobbing
in a menagerie of other spiritual transmission equally blessed.
While giving Darshan in this manner, Adi Da would scan the room
with his eyes, turning his head slightly in order to look at each
and every devotee. When his eyes met mine, I gazed into them intently,
hoping to communicate in some way my heart-broken love. I felt
so innocent and vulnerable, like a baby ready to be gathered into
his mother's arms. There was no question he had saved my life
— and while simply sitting in his chair! As I gazed lovingly
into his eyes, I noticed that his own gaze lingered. And then
it became obvious: as long as my love for him persisted, he could
not withhold his own regard. Clearly, this was the secret of spirituality:
the devotee giving love to his Guru — not only unabashed,
but unabated — in supreme gratitude for the Blessings that
have been received.
Finally, it was more than I could bear, and
he looked away. Some time after this event, I began to notice
something very strange in my posture while I was walking. All
my life I had maintained a posture that was slightly bent over,
in deference, I had always presumed, to the abuse received while
growing up. Simply put, I had grown up wary and quick to cover,
so as to deflect any blows coming my way. Although not always
that conscious of it, I was aware of a grip clenching in my belly
— not my physical torso but, rather, my etheric belly, or
navel chakra. Yet, now I could
walk upright, without cowering. It was amazing! All my life I
have felt the presence of this contracted sensation, in the manner
of a lesion or a scar, literally sucking my body downward like
a twisted rag. But, now, it was gone. Its absence was a stunning
revelation. I felt free, unburdened of enormous stress and anxiety.
The lesion had been purified and healed.* It was a blessing beyond
any comparison — certainly beyond anything I have ever received
by human hand.
It is only from the point of this miraculous
healing that I can honestly say I have finally been able to love.
Throughout my life I have struggled with entering into and sustaining
relationships. In fact, my daily experience had been one of intense
anxiety and loneliness, with the certainty that even my best efforts
would come to no result. Consequently, I lived a life of ever
increasing despair, finally reaching proportions that honestly
scared me. Simply put, my Guru healed me. I bow my head at His
Divine Feet, ecstatic to worship Him. He is the most Beautiful
and Sublime Vision I could ever possibly imagine. There is no
question in my mind that I am among the most fortunate of people,
somehow sifted out of humanity to be Blessed by His Company. How
something so wonderful could happen is a pure mystery. Make no
mistake: Adi Da Samraj is the Divine Being, alive among us in
human form. Like a plant bathed in Divine Light, it is only toward
Him that I turn.