The Early Years
Throughout my life I have never spoken much about my spiritual practices or experiences. Early on because most people couldn’t relate to, or believe accounts, of me leaving my body, experiencing other states of consciousness or encountering other entities, later because my spiritual master’s always advised me against it. However, I recently met Babaji Rudra Shivabalayogi who had also done yoga tapas with Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi Maharaj, during my last visit to Derha Dunn, India, in January 2018, and I read his autobiography and found his accounts of doing yoga tapas useful and inspiring and, thus, it has inspired me to share with you my own sadhana and yoga tapas in the hopes that it inspires you.
My earliest memories were not of this world, they are not of the mind, they are just not what everything else is. From as young as I can remember I use to just sit, close my eyes, and go out. I remember sitting with my legs crossed on my bunk bed with toy stuffed animals under my arms to prop me up, and I would begin to feel energy and see light, and go out into other worlds. I didn’t know I was meditating. Nobody in my family was familiar with such things. Teacher’s and family members would say “Steven lives in his own world.”, and I did. I saw things and knew things that others didn’t, but couldn’t talk to anyone about it. It caused problems to talk about it, it frightened people. My mother would say “go outside and play” so I would go out into the rolling seaside coastal mountains now developed as The Newport Coast, in Southern California, and sit for hours on my own, in my own world. Even during school recess, I rarely played with other children, I would sit at the edge of the playing field facing the hills and close my eyes and merge into the bliss. In elementary school I would go out to the end of the South Newport Harbor jetty and just sit with my eyes rolled up for hours, and leave this world of mind.
My paternal grandmother Ruth was a Baptist, and she would set me upon her lap as a child and read to me from the Bible with tears of love for Jesus in her eyes and that was where I got my connection with Christ, the Bible and learned to pray. I’ve been guided since birth by the Watchers – angels, avatars, ET’s - or whatever you want to label them, we are all part of a larger collective consciousness and this is what we are awakening to and realizing. That the Kingdom of God is already here, but we have only to open our eyes to see. This is the enlightenment of the consciousness, the fulfillment of prophesy, this is the age of enlightenment, this is my story, and this is my message to you.
At around seven years old I was taken to the Hoag Hospital to have my tonsils removed and had an allergic reaction to the anesthesia and flat-lined. My heart and breathing stopped for several minutes. During this time, I experienced leaving my body and watching the medical staff trying to get my heart started again while hovering overhead in an astral body, and then merging into a light, and God speaking to me and getting a message to go back and that I had a mission to fulfill. Of course, I was later told I was hallucinating from the drugs and delusional, and maybe I was or am, but I came back with the strong sense of purpose and that I was here for some mission, something to share, something to reveal. I’ve had this feeling my whole life, and now it’s a part of your story too, for now you are enlightening too.
One the my “imaginary friends” who would visit me during my meditations was this really cool black man with an afro haircut, that I later discovered was, in fact, the avatar Satya Sai Baba. He would just appear, suddenly, psychically, in my meditation and guide me to other worlds. I found love, profound divine love whenever I saw Him. He became the father to replace the biological one who left our family when I was a child. I didn’t know what an avatar was at the time or anything about yoga or India, I didn’t even know his name, I was only five or six when we first met, he was my invisible friend, my inner guru and guide. Satya Sai Baba has guided me on the inner since childhood, and then physically, when I got to meet with Him in India, in 1988. He guided me to receive instruction in Yoga Tapas with the arch yogi Sri Sri Sri Shviabalayogi Maharaj in Bangalore in 1989. So, technically my sadhana, or tapas, began during my childhood, and throughout my life different gurus have guided me through various stages of my sadhana or spiritual practice, from sitting two hours a day, to four and then eight, and twelve and over.
In the late 1960’s, while in elementary school, I began going to yoga classes that were being offered at the local Corona del Mar Recreation Center, and then in Junior High School I began taking yoga classes with Swami Ramakrishnanandaji at the Southern California Yoga Center, and then in 1972, when I was fourteen, Richard Hittleman came out with a television show called Yoga for Health which was on after school and I began practicing yoga by television and listening to his Advita Vedanta Satsang’s. I wasn’t very interested in high school studies, but started reading both the Bible and Bhagavad Gita as a Freshman and completed both by my Senior year. By high school I was already adept at asanas and was sitting for at least a couple hours a day, joyfully.
For my sixteenth birthday, 1974, my parents offered to buy me a stereo and wanted to know what kind I wanted. But I asked, instead, for TM, that is, I wanted to be initiated into Transcendental Meditation. One day I was listening deeply to the lyrics of George Harrison’s song Within You and Without You on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely-Hearts Club Band: “Try to realize it’s all within yourself”, “When you’ve seen beyond yourself then you may find Peace of mind is waiting there.” And “We’re all one, and life flows on within you and without you.” I knew the Beatles we studying with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh and learned TM so I wanted to learn TM too. My poor mother shook her head and said “I wouldn’t believe you were my own son, but I saw you come out with my own eyes”, but she agreed and at sixteen I began practicing the mantra meditation given to me, but most of the time I just went into the light and no thoughts occurred.
Looking for God
It was in the summer of my sixteenth year, 1974, that one of the most pivotal events of my life took place. I had just saved up money from working at a restaurant and purchased my first car, a ’69 Volkswagen Beatle, and I drove up the I-365 along the East side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, pulled off at the little town of Independence, California, and drove up to the wilderness area, parked and climbed up above the Palisades Glacier and sat upon a mountain peak over thirteen thousand feet facing the East towards Death Valley meditating and praying for guidance. On the third day the Almighty spoke to me and I received a vision: That I was to study all the religions of the world and paths to God that existed and publish a book on the subject, a compendium or “guide book” to God, a Seeker’s Guide, later published as Looking for God.
How does one explain how God speaks to you from atop a mountain? God speaks to us all but we don’t listen very well. Of course, after a few minutes I began to think I must have been hallucinating from not eating for several days and being at such a high altitude, but even during this brief moment of doubt a giant golden eagle came swooping along the ridge upon which I was seated, looked me straight in the eye and screeched. I wouldn’t expect anyone reading this to believe that this eagle coming to me was anything but a coincidence. But just the year before I had spotted a golden eagle in the Arizona desert during a vision quest and was also given the opportunity to meet with and ask Lakota Sioux Elder Wallace Black Elk, who was also at this Medicine Wheel Gathering of the North American Nations, who explained to me that the Golden Eagle was my “totem” a symbol the Mother Earth Spirit or innate intelligence, would use to help guide me. So, for me, seeing my totem was a Divine confirmation of my mission, and I was inspired.
For the next sixteen years I used almost every evening and weekend, whenever I was not at school or working, to read books on each of the world religions, visit hundreds of sects of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindu or Buddhist, join new age groups, attend seminars and sample every kind of yoga and meditation available. Looking for God was published in 1990 and became an Amazon best-seller. Doing the research for this book was my spiritual boot camp. Working as an economist and banker provided me the opportunity to travel around the world and do the research for my book, traveling to India, China, to head hunters in Boneo and the Pyramids, Israel and dozens of countries to learn about every religious sect, cult, guru, master and spiritual teaching, the list is basically the table of contents to Looking for God, a Seeker’s Guide to Religious and Spiritual Teachings of the World.
Thus, my life took two paths that wove in and out throughout my life: The spiritual path studying world religions, yoga and meditation, and the material world of international banking, economics and investment banking. I received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Menlo College, and then won a Rotary Scholarship to study international banking at the Graduate School of Economics at the University of Wales, Bangor, United Kingdom, where I received a Master of Arts in Financial Economics, and wrote my dissertation on project financings and world economics. Out of college, I did economic research at the East-West Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, then worked in international banking for Lloyds Bank in Los Angeles, from there to bank consulting, investment banking, venture capital and fund management before retiring to teach Self Awareness full time after the dot com boom and bust in 2001.
In high school I began learning ashtanga yoga from the master BKS Iyengar who wrote the classic Light on Yoga, and I took workshops from Vishudevananda of the Sivananda order, and with Yogi Bhajan who teaches the Sikh form of Kundalini Yoga, and I received Shaktipat from Baba Muktananda, Swami Laksmana Joo, Gurumaya and Nityananda. There were years studying Zen, Tao, Kung Fu, Acupressure, and Tibetan Buddhism empowerments with His Holiness Kalu Rinpoche. I studied Kriya yoga with the Self Realization Fellowship in California, with Yogi Sidhoji in Puna, Kriya Baba at the Orissa Ashram and with Chuni Lal Lahiri, the great grandson of Lahiri Mahasai (the founder of this lineage of Kriya Yoga) in Kashi, Benares, India. I also had Swami Chetananda a Vedic scholar from the Vedanta Society, who would come to Laguna Beach each Summer to translate books on Vedanta, and helped me better understand the Vedas, the Upanishads, Advita and the Epics. Many more gurus and master’s all added to my composite understanding of mankind’s perceptions of the Creator and Creation, each group and guru helped me gain a larger perspective of the Divine and see the collective vision of a world enlightening.
When I came back to California from Hawaii to work in international banking I also began teaching ongoing yoga and meditation classes, and continued doing research on my book on world religions Looking for God. I still had a deep yearning to dive even deeper into God so I got on my knees and prayed for a guru and quickly received a vision of a classic beautiful guru with sweet wise eyes, long white beard and hair and in white and orange robe and turban. I both recognized Him, but also recognized that I have never seen or heard of him before. The next day I had driven up to Los Angeles to get some ancient Hindu texts from the Bodhi Tree bookstore. In the days before the Internet and Amazon this bookstore was a goldmine for Vedantic writings and other ancient spiritual texts. And there He was, the guru in my vision the day before, posted on a flyer at the Bodhi Tree bookstore advertising Yogiraj Vethathiri Maharishi, a kundalini master from the Tamil Nadu state, who was giving a free talk and upcoming initiation into simplified kundalini yoga and meditation. For me, this was literally a sign from God.
Meeting Swamiji changed my life forever. I drove up the next day to Glendale to hear him speak, and as soon as I entered the room I could feel his energy and see the light around his head. He gave me a look of recognition and I immediately knew I had met my guru. He kindly first gave me the Initiation, then the advanced training, then teacher training. I went to India to see him and he would come to my classes in Laguna Beach each year to give the Initiations and to train me. In 1985 we started the Self Awareness Institute and it has since grown to thousands all over the world, by the grace of God and guru. During Swamiji’s visits to Laguna Beach, and being one of his hosts, I was able to get a lot of one-on-one time with Swamiji and get into deep discussions about the Unified Field which was a subject He loved to talk about. We had walks on the beach and precious moments where he would guide me on how to be a good teacher. I got to introduce him at programs and work beside him during the initiations, and when he was getting to old to keep traveling around the world he asked me to continue to give the initiations and teach this kundalini meditation through the Self Awareness Institute. Swamiji’s main organization, the World Community Service Center, still has over five million students through India and the world.
During my first visit to India, I was on my way to Puttaparthi to see Sathya Sai Baba, when my ride suddenly couldn’t take me. So, I walked into the lobby of the Cavalry Continental Hotel in Bangalore and overhead a group of Europeans talking about Sathya Sai Baba in English. When they noticed me noticing them, I was invited to join the group and listen to their stories of Satya Sai Baba, our beloved guru. He was always producing miracles and each of us had our stories of being guided by Him. Then, very abruptly, a young Dutch girl turns to me and asked me out of the blue “Have you seen Shivabalayogi yet?” Now, I had heard of this Yogi from many other gurus and had him on my list of gurus to see, and I had mentioned that I was writing a book on world religions and gurus, but this Dutch girl was very emphatic about me having to see him right away. In fact, after returning back to her original story about Sai Baba, she turned to me yet again and said “you have to see him right now!” And she got up and hailed a taxi for me and told me to get in, and off I went (she stayed) to see Sri Sri Sri Shivabalayogi Maharaj.
Walking up the steps to the main hall in Bangalore, I was greeted by a Mr. Singh who said “Steven, Swamiji has been expecting you and is ready to initiate you into Dhyana.” And I was led into the main meditation hall and sat in the middle with my legs crossed. I assumed that the Dutch girl had called the ashram and told them I was coming, I thought I was quite lucky to have this famous Yogi give me a private audience. But it turns out the Dutch girl had not called, Swamiji had psychically contacted her and had her send me to Him immediately. After receiving the vibhutti that was applied to my third eye by Mr. Singh, I went into a deep state and lost all physical sense awareness. The Shaktipat was so powerful I went out.
After five hours someone came back and got me, I was apparently oblivious that anything had happened during this time span and was suddenly being told that there was some Indian wedding happening and Swamiji was going to bless the couple. While sitting for some rice and dhal being offered to the guests another Westerner informed me that I had been sitting in the hall for at least five hours. Suddenly the gurus’ car emerged, I stepped up onto a ledge to get a good look at Him. He had long matted hair like a Naga Baba, deformed hands from sitting without moving for so long, eyes that twinkled, and a massive energy field around his body. As he finished blessing the bride and groom and was stepping back into his car he briefly stopped and turned to look at me and laughed at me with a twinkle in his eye, and I just went out again. His Shaktipat was so strong I went into higher states. The next day I attended the whole event - the bhajans, the meditation, the prasad - but just sat in the corner absorbing as much of His shakti as I could. This guru had completed a full 12 years of yoga tapas, the only guru I knew to have accomplished sitting in samadhi for over 23 hours a day for eight consecutive years followed by sitting over 12 hours a day for another four years. The energy around his body was physically visible and he could take you into higher planes by just being in His presence.
He called me back to his room at the end of the event. Without me having to ask, He answered each of the questions I was asking gurus for my book Looking for God, and then He abruptly announced that He wanted me to increase my meditation to four hours a day and told me that he was going to train me to be a yogi and do yoga tapas. Then I was dismissed, no discussion. It was a dream come true, my meditations went to a whole new level of non-experience. He was planning to come to the United States the very next year so I invited him to come stay with me in Laguna Beach, California, and I would introduce Him to my class. He agreed, then he told me he wanted me to sit eight hours a day. Then I asked about time for working and sleeping, he said sit four hours and up to eight when you can. This has been my sadhana since. I get up at 2 or 3 am and sit until 7 and then do my simplified exercises and pray. Then I sit in the afternoons or evening for a few more hours, but it really doesn’t matter much anymore.
When Shivabalayogi came to the United States I had the rare opportunity to pick Him up and drive Him and is assistant Jaggadish all over Southern California, they stayed with me and I would help feed Him and tend to his needs and talk to him personally. He would have me introduce Him in Orange County, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and apply the vhibutti (Holy Ash that he charged) to the Third Eye of each initiate. I could feel His energy working through me so powerfully, this is how he trained me. However, just His mere presence in the room was enough to raise the energy in room enough to get you high. Shivabalayogi was the most powerful guru I have ever met, just being in his presence awakened your consciousness. He had the highest calibrated level of consciousness of any guru I knew.
The tapas shakti of this guru was so strong you could feel the vibration moving through your body and you could go into these higher states and experience sublime bliss. I witnessed miraculous healings by this yogi, including my own broken knee. By attuning to Him I was able to maintain higher states in my own meditations. I kept recalibrating to higher levels. Though Bhakti and Seva, by love and devotion to the guru, you receive the grace of the guru, and so I was truly blessed to serve as His vessel during the initiations. Over the next few years I increased my duration of my sadhana and sitting from six to eight hours, and longer on weekends, and my classes were growing and my fund managing and consulting business was successful. Everything was going great.
In 1991 I was suddenly called back to India to do my Yoga Tapas. Shivabalayogi Maharaj had been bitten by a cobra, twice, and this caused him kidney damage and He was ready to leave his body. So, I left my business and went to India not being sure for how long. I first payed my respects to my root guru Vethathiri Maharishi. He knew I had come to India to do Yoga Tapas, I asked him if I could stay with Him at his Madras ashram and he agreed. I told Him I was going to start sitting 12 hours or more a day and asked for his blessings and assistance. He generously agreed and I was given a room near him, that is now an office at the ashram, and he connected with me each day energetically and gave me Shaktipat – spiritual energy - and we shared some powerful psychic experiences together. Swamiji brought me into the awareness of the universal Intelligence Itself, like dreaming the universe and realizing how the universe worked, what life is and how the Unified Field and Consciousness interact creating life. This is where I got my inspiration to write my book The Theory of Existence & Science of Conscious. Swamiji showed me how the whole universe worked, what It is, what we are. These amazing experiences with the Maharishi were from outside time and space looking in. His shakti was so strong it grew in me, our fields merged, and we are One.
After a week with the Vethathiri Maharishi, I went with my friend and student, Jim, to Bangalore to pay my respects to Satya Sai Baba, who had previously given me his name, Sai, and who was the one who guided me to do yoga tapas with Shivabalayogi to begin with. Seeing Sri Sri Sri Swamiji this time was powerful. His Shakti was stronger than ever, and he was anxious for me to get started sitting right away. I began my sadhana at 14 hours a day in samadhi (no thinking), and then 18 and then 20. It seemed effortless under His guidance. However, the ashram was so noisy that I asked Swamiji if I could go back to the hotel, and he agreed, and then He guided me to sitting up to 23 hours a day and to sustain this tapas for forty consecutive days and nights. But at this point there was no longer any experience or experiencer. There was no, and is no, differentiation at all. This is what we are all here to realize, this is what enlightenment is. The interconnectedness of our whole being. People asked me “what was it like?” but it wasn’t like anything, nothing happened to anyone, the world is in a dream and that’s why we suffer and we have come to the age where we are ready to wake up from this dream, this illusion, and I have come to show you the way. Each day, when I got up to use the bathroom and take some water, nuts and fruit, I saw that an eagle was always sitting watching me. Jim said he was just waiting for me to die so he could eat me, but I knew he was my totem.
After years of preparation and sustaining this energy transmission of His for months, Swamiji calls me back to see Him and announces during his darshan that I had completed my yoga tapas under His direction and that I was to give Dhayna initiation and lead meditations on Swamiji’s behalf. And then He told me I needed to go back home and start giving the Shaktipat and that He would be helping me (psychically). When I came back in 1992 my book Looking for God had just been published and became an Amazon best-seller, which got me speaking and radio and television appearances and students began to come to my retreats, which were held in California, Bali, Hawaii, Mexico, Peru, Italy, Tibet and other power places. For the next ten years I continued to increase my sitting time of four to eight hours, and even led retreats where my own students were sitting 8 to 12 hours a day. Everyone was not only going into bhava but even samadhi. During these years I wrote several of my books and did a lot of public speaking and corporate leadership training but in 2001 the market collapsed and everything in my life changed.
When the market dropped I lost everything. I made and lost millions overnight, and it was the best thing that ever happened. For it caused me to get back down on my knees and beseech the Almighty for guidance. I asked for a sign and offered to do anything that would serve Him best. In this moment of prayer an Osprey – a large sea hawk/eagle - swooped by the sea bluff, looked me right in the eye from just a few feet away, and screeched. In that moment I knew everything was going to be fine. The Divine was glowing in my heart and nothing else mattered. As soon as I got home the phone rang. It was a guy named Matt who was a professional business coach who said he tested me and I had the “highest calibration” of all the gurus he had tested and he wanted me to be his “spiritual coach.”
Now, I had never heard of being a spiritual coach and wasn’t sure what he really wanted, but I had just promised the Almighty I would serve Him anyway I could so I just told this Matt fellow yes. Then he said he wanted his coaching done over the phone, and that he was willing to pay and thought it necessary to pay me $500 dollars a month for one hour over the phone each week. I told him I only worked on a donation basis, and he told me I had to change my thinking about money and said if he didn’t pay me at least that much he wouldn’t listen to me very well or follow my directions. So, I agreed, joyfully, seeing that at least some money for food was coming in. I was bankrupt and nobody I knew would help me financially to get back on my feet, but then Matt called back and said he worked better in a group and wanted five of his friends to join in. So, I said yes. And then he said they were all going to pay me $500 a month too, and so within a couple days of losing everything, I was just as quickly guided to getting paid enough to cover my bills and do what I always wanted to most – share Shaktipat and enable people to enlighten and experience the higher states of peace and bliss.
During the very first call I was wondering how I would be able to make an energetic contact with what grew to a dozen people all over North America over the phone on a live teleconference. I had passed Shaktipat across a room but never over the phone and never such distances as thousands of miles. But during the call it occurred to me to have everyone on the call put up their hands like satellite dishes as I put up mine and with the force of the Almighty the energy came pouring out effortlessly. I had only to step out of the way, both God and Gurus were working through me and now with people throughout the United States and Canada. Soon I had several classes going at once at different times and students from other continents started joining in, including Australia, South Africa and India half way around the world. With each class I could feel my own Shakti getting stronger, it was like a spiritual work out. I became known as a Shaktipat Master and thousands of students from over 120 countries have been guided to work with me via teleconference, over ninety percent never meet me in person, it’s all a spiritual energy connection and digital media. This Shaktipat has gone global.
In the last ten years I have focused on the media to extend our reach globally. My Internet station Enlightenment Radio on Live365.com had become the second most popular spiritual talk show on the Web, second to Hay House, with over a million-people streaming my Satsang’s and meditations for free 24/7. In 2008 I appeared as a spiritual leader in the spiritual documentary called Spiritual Revolution discussing the Eastern influence in Western society and how meditation is taking off in the West, and then in 2010 I appeared in Michael Perlin’s movie 3 Magic Words, as an “American Guru”, and hosted 13 episodes of a show called Spirit Clips for the Hallmark Channel in 2014 and another 12-part series on Enlightenment for Streaming for the Soul. In 2015 I completed a screenplay on the life of Christ called Christ Enlightened, in 2016 began a Global Enlightenment film project and produced our first film, which received laurels, in 2017 called Enlightenment Now, the Awakening of Humanity, which includes interviews with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Sadguru Jaggi Vasudeva, Kundalini Master Sadguru TKS and many other prominent gurus. Our current vision is to gather all the enlightened masters to come together to initiate the global enlightenment of mankind. Now we are gathering together leaders from around the world to create a movement to uplift the collective consciousness of mankind with the vison of creating an enlightened and joyous world.
Over the past few years I have been traveling to India with film crews, meeting with the world’s leading gurus, members of government and influential people to build relationships for a global enlightenment movement. We have just created a new streaming television station for spiritual content called YogaVision and are creating a series of events called Enlighten Man (first one successful in Rishikesh 2018), forming Enlightened Leadership Forums, and scheduling programs throughout India and the world to share Shaktipat and teach people how to “re-calibrate” to higher levels of consciousness, realize their full potential, and enlighten. Let’s form a group together.
I invite you to join us envision the entire world enlightening, Sai