Editor’s Note: The following article is excerpted from the newly published book, Loved and Protected by Asha Praver. For details on how to obtain the book, see the ad for the book in the right sidebar of the Clarity Magazine home page.
I don’t know who saw the bird first, but all four of us rose from our seats and headed to the window to see it more clearly. I was visiting the home of Parvati and Pranaba for the first time and it never occurred to me that an open stairwell leading to the basement was on the other side of the half-wall to my right.
I was behind the others and couldn’t see the bird so I took a step backward and to the side hoping to get a better view. Instead of solid floor, however, my foot went into space. I was close enough to grab my wife’s shoulder to break my fall, but consciously chose not to for fear of pulling her with me to wherever I was going.
I was pretty reckless in my youth, falling off of every moving thing a boy can ride on — bike, skateboard, surfboard, snowboard — you name it, I’ve fallen off of it. Fortunately, I always escaped without serious injury.
So when I found myself horizontal in the air going backwards, it was a space I had been in before. I rotated my body to face into the fall and saw that I was going head first down a long steep stairwell. “This is going to be a hard fall,” I thought. “Maybe this time I wouldn’t get away unscathed.”
Then I heard a voice of power like I have never heard before. “Oh! God! NO!” It was Parvati. Usually such an exclamation at such a moment would be tinged with fear, pleading, or regret.
Not this time.
This was a commandment to the Universe, and the Universe obeyed.
Without any transition or time passing, I found myself standing right where I had intended to go when my foot went into the stairwell — behind my wife, looking out the window. It was as if what happened was only a dream. Both my feet were firmly on the floor with the stairwell behind my heels.
Later, when we compared notes, all of us had seen the same thing. I was falling down the staircase. Parvati exclaimed. Then I was standing looking out the window.
Pranaba told us that the night before he had dreamt that he fell down the staircase. Was he dreaming my karma? Did I take his? Or did Parvati, as an instrument of Divine Will, avert a terrible accident for both of us? From Turiya
Roar of the Lion
I was only three years old and couldn’t make clear to my parents the intensity of my nighttime fears. “All children have bad dreams,” they thought, and put what I said in that category. I couldn’t explain to them that this was different.
Night for me was a torment. Usually I would lie awake for hours, afraid to fall asleep. We lived in my grandmother’s house in India. Only when I could see the light of dawn through the cracks in the roof tiles would I finally doze off.
I would sleep then until late in the morning. I begged my parents to wake me earlier, but they felt I needed the sleep. Inadvertently they kept me on the cycle of nighttime sleeplessness, fear, and loneliness.
I had various nightmares, but it was one recurring dream that made me so afraid. It came several times a week.
In it I was a little boy, walking barefoot in red dirt, dressed in shorts, with two companions of my own age. It looked like Central India, only earlier, when the British were still in charge. In this lifetime I also grew up in that area.
In the dream, my friends and I followed a forest track to a temple we wanted to visit. Two stray dogs started following us. When the dogs came into the dream the fear would build.
Together we looked around the temple. I had to get home earlier than the other boys, so I went out a back door alone, taking a short cut through a denser part of the forest.
I heard a lion roar, which frightened me. I began to walk faster.
For me as the dreamer, the lion roar filled me with almost unbearable dread. At the same time, for my dreaming self, it was a relief to hear it, for it meant the end of the dream was near. I always knew I was dreaming but no matter how much will power I exerted, I couldn’t change the dream or wake up.
I parted some bushes and came face to face with the lion. At this point the dream always ended, presumably because the lion ate me.
It seems obvious this was a past life memory, imprinted so fearfully on my subconscious that when my defenses were down, it broke through over and over again. The only solution for me was to try not to sleep. In many ways, the dream was more real to me than waking life. In waking life, every day is different. By contrast, the dream was always the same, the reality of it reinforced by constant repetition.
Finally, when I was seven years old, I had had enough. One night, after going through the unvarying sequence of events and emotions, I didn’t wake up, but another part of my sleeping self took over.
I had to face up to the fear! I had to end this nighttime terror! In my sleep state I prayed intensely to God for help. Then I deliberately called up the dream, something I had never had the courage to do before.
This was a mental re-creation rather than the actual dream, so the familiar scenes were slightly different from the usual. I sped quickly through it until I came to the part where the lion appears.
Face to face with the lion, something happened that had never happened before. A sudden blaze of light struck the lion on the side of his head. He turned to face the light. It emanated from a tall robed figure, illuminating the entire scene.
The figure called to the lion, then spoke a few words to him. The lion listened attentively, then trotted tamely away. My fear had been told to go away, and it did.
The figure then turned to me and mentally said, “Well, that won’t bother you again, will it? Well done!”
I didn’t know how to respond. I was amazed that my prayer had been answered. And at the same time, I thought I was the one who had bravely banished my own fear. Didn’t the figure say to me, “Well done!”? It didn’t occur to me to say the obvious, “Thank you for making the lion go away.”
That dream has never bothered me again, nor have I been plagued by any other nightmares.
Banishing the fear, I understand now, was not only having the courage to face it, but also putting out the effort to draw the Grace of God. For it was that Grace, not I, that sent the lion away. From Rashmi
Rock in the Snow Field
When we woke at 2:30 am, the tent seemed smaller than it did when we crawled in to sleep a few hours earlier. It had begun to snow and the walls were caving in. For the rest of the night, we thumped the nylon periodically to keep the snow from accumulating and collapsing the tent. We were sleepless, but not too worried. Wilderness backpacking is something my wife Maghi and I have been doing for years.
We were camped by a lake 10,500 feet up in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming, miles from everywhere. It had taken three days of hard walking to get there, through some steep rockslides with boulders as big as houses. Rain and sleet on the way up had made hiking difficult, snow would make going down that way impossible. It was too early for snow, but the storm hadn’t read the almanac.
Our plan was to make a loop, to stay one night at this lake then hike over the pass another 1000 feet above us. The way up from here was a poorly marked switchback trail, impossible to discern now in the snow.
To make things worse, both of us had come down with sinus infections. We had a good medical kit and started right in with antibiotics. Still, we spent a miserable three nights and two days in the tent in the snow, trying to find in our trail mix and freeze dried foods something that wasn’t too hard for our inflamed throats to swallow.
I spent a lot of time looking through binoculars at the route to the pass, hoping to find enough landmarks to take us safely across. There wasn’t much to see. Snow makes everything really quiet and in three days, camped right by the trail, we neither saw nor heard another human being.
We were praying a lot to Babaji, the ever-living Himalayan yogi, figuring he was the one who could help us out of this jam. Finally there was a small break in the weather. Snow still covered the switchback trail, but we knew we had to get out of there, and the pass was the only way.
Shortly after we started walking, we saw booted footprints on the trail going just the direction we wanted to go. Everybody these days, going through such rough terrain, uses hiking poles. But there was no sign of poles, just footprints. They continued all the way up the switchback, which would have been impossible to find without the prints to guide us. At one point they led us off the main trail to a little lake, then back again and continued up toward the pass.
About halfway to the top we stopped to rest against a large rock. Close to the ground there was an overhang sheltering a small grassy area untouched by snow. Maghi leaned over and underneath saw what looked like a little grass-carpeted natural chapel, complete with a discolored marking on the back “wall” in the shape of an arch, just the right size for a wallet size picture of Babaji. We imagined him sitting there in his tiny rock chapel and prayed for his blessing.
We reached the pass and started down the other side. The snow was a little thinner here, and not too far ahead we could see the trail down. At that point, the footprints turned to the right. We weren’t depending on them now, and they were going where we didn’t want to go, but, of course, we followed, hoping to catch up with our mysterious benefactor.
The footprints led to a large boulder in the middle of a smooth, snow-covered field. There they stopped.