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Treasure Hunt Instructions

“The way is not in the sky.
The way is in the heart.”
~ Buddha
“As far, verily, as this world-space extends,
so far extends the space within the heart…”
~ Chandogya Upanishad 8.1.3



Follow your heart
to find what you wish.

Follow your heart
to seek what you miss.

Follow your heart
and you shall know this:

You are your heart,
you are your bliss,

You are what you seek,
you are what you miss.

So follow –
and find –

Your Heart.



Ron’s audio comments and recitation of Treasure Hunt Instructions

Listen to


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Synchronicity Story: A Spiritual Experience on Bernal Heights

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
~ Fred Rogers
“When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him, you will see yourself. As you treat him, you will treat yourself. As you think of him, you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose sight of yourself.”
~ A Course in Miracles (ACIM)

Bernal Heights view


Lately, I have been blessed with ever more magical moments and with ever increasing gratitude for this precious and lucky life. Usually these magical moments have happened synchronistically and unexpectedly. And often they’ve involved spiritual experiences with people, creatures or Nature, which I call “holy encounters”.

Just before the recent solstice holidays, I was blessed with a magical visit to a beautiful San Francisco view place which I had never before seen. And there I met a lovely man, Daniel Raskin, who shared with me a haunting story (which follows) of his unforgettable spiritual experience in a remote Utah desert canyon.

Here’s what happened, and the story Daniel told me:

I moved from Chicago to San Francisco in 1960, attracted by San Francisco’s climate, physical beauty and ambiance. Within its boundaries are more than fifty hills, several islands, and significant stretches of Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay.

So, while living in San Francisco I have visited and enjoyed almost all of its best known view places. But until recently I never had known about or seen the spectacular view from atop Bernal Heights a hilly neighborhood above San Francisco’s outer Mission and Bay View districts.

Then, just before Christmas, I was invited to attend a beautiful holiday dinner party hosted by Shelley Cook, a very talented and intuitive massage therapist who has been skillfully helping heal and realign my body since it suffered a painful lower back yoga injury.

At the party there were many lovely artistic people, all much younger than me. One of the other guests, Audrey Daniel, a professional photographer/videographer, told me she had lived for many years in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights district, which she regarded as San Francisco’s most charming and typical neighborhood – like a village within the city. Whereupon, realizing that I had never yet visited Bernal Heights during my 50+ years as a San Franciscan, I became curious about seeing what Audrey was describing.

My curiosity was soon satisfied synchronistically by The Lone Arranger, my ‘appointments secretary’.

A few days after the party, at Shelley’s request, I unexpectedly rescheduled my regular afternoon appointment with her to morning, so she could accommodate some people from Santa Cruz who’d just been injured in an auto accident.

Upon finishing our morning massage therapy session, Shelley had extra time before her afternoon appointments. Generously, she offered to show me a nearby Vedanta healing center and shrine which she had long been urging me to visit. So we went to the shrine.

There, as I gazed at an image of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa – a nineteenth century Hindu saint with whom I have long felt special affinity – I experienced a deep Divine mood, and cried copious tears of devotion.

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa


Thereafter, when Shelley and I left the shrine, it was lunch time. And instead of returning home to eat, I unexpectedly went with Shelley to a restaurant which she recommended. At first she suggested a nearby Asian restaurant, but then she suddenly intuited that we would probably more enjoy going to a place on Bernal Heights.

So, four days after hearing from Audrey Daniel about the Bernal Heights district, I visited that area for the first time in my life, and there enjoyed a delicious Mexican lunch with Shelley. After we ate and before returning to her studio, Shelley urged me to hike atop Bernal hill to enjoy the magnificent panoramic view of San Francisco, instead of taking my usual daily walk by the Bay.

So, still in spiritual mood from my experience at the Ramakrishna Vedanta shrine, I walked up steep streets to the base of Bernal hill. There I approached the first person I encountered, seeking directions to the hilltop trail.

But instead of a quick encounter about directions, we had an extended dialogue. It was Daniel Raskin, with whom I enjoyed a long spiritual chat and experienced a ‘holy encounter’, before we parted and I beheld the spectacular panoramic view from atop Bernal Hill.

Synchronistically, Daniel identified himself as a photographer living in the Bernal Heights vicinity, like Audrey the photographer responsible for my curiosity about that neighborhood. And when I mentioned Audrey, Daniel said he had participated and appeared in her documentary film The Owls of Bernal Hill.

As we chatted, I told Daniel of my interest in mysterious spiritual synchronicities. Whereupon, he shared with me a wonderful story of an unforgettable spiritual experience. Here is Daniel’s story as he wrote it for a diary in 1998, just after it happened:

A Spiritual Experience
By Daniel Raskin *

July 15, 1998, Cottonwood Point, Arizona
Sierra Club Trip: Locating Petroglyphs

Utah Box Canyon


Today we visited the end of a box canyon where there were complex and intriguing ancient petroglyphs and small ruins. After breakfast we drove a short way to our trailhead and hiked a few miles along a sandy path. The plants were mostly a bluish
aromatic sage; also juniper, cacti, local grasses and, here and there, a late blooming flower. The sky was perfectly clear, deep blue, and the sun fierce. Most of the hike was in full sun; the temperature in the nineties by ten or eleven.

The end of the canyon was a spectacular place, a high semi-circular vertical cliff. It was concave and beautifully banded, brown, light brown, reddish brown and yellow. A broad waterless wash wove through the flat valley floor. There, in the
shade of the canyon, oaks and plants with red berries grew.

As soon as I got into the shade of the canyon walls, I began to breathe rapidly. I did not feel I had over-exerted myself, and did not understand why I was breathless. I began to feel slightly nauseous, faint and dizzy. I also felt very moved by the beauty surrounding me. I began to feel very emotional. My heartbeat was rapid and my breath uncontrollably fast and deep. I began to feel like I had taken LSD.

I sat down. My condition intensified. I began to cry, copious tears. I was simultaneously relieved, frightened and confused. My thoughts and feelings wandered freely. As I continued to cry, I felt over-joyed to be alive. I felt blessed to enjoy the relative security of my middle class existence. I thought about my partner Ann. I thought about her ovarian cancer. It almost killed her, but now she is healthy again and stronger in new ways. I thought about Jesse, my twenty-one year old, and how he is now thriving after a difficult adolescence. I thought about Sam, my sixteen year old. He has survived a risky and chaotic early adolescence, and is stronger and more mature. I felt my love, my powerful love for my family. All this time I was crying and breathing deeply.

I thought about the miracle of being alive, of experiencing existence in the midst of infinite eternity. What explains my chance to experience life? Who or what, ultimately, gave me and all of us this miraculous gift?

As I thought and cried, I slowly began to calm down. My breath slowed. After a while I felt stable enough to get up. I took photographs of the canyon and the beautiful oaks and wild currents growing there. Then I joined the group. They had
dispersed about the headwall to view the great array of petroglyphs. There were animals, human figures, designs and scenes pecked into the rock. The most impressive was a figure of a one-legged person. People with deformities were sometimes holy people in Native American cultures.



After looking at the rock art I investigated the remains of a kiva. A coyote had made a lair in its recesses. I found a small rodent’s jaw. I climbed down to the canyon floor. Datura, a hallucinogenic plant was growing there. I wondered: “am I in a sacred place?” After a while we left the canyon, had lunch, visited more rock art sites and returned to camp. I felt light-headed for several hours.

What happened to me? Did I become delirious from the heat? Was I freaked out by the rigors of this trip, lonely for my family? Maybe. But why did this happen today, rather than on another hot, hard working day?
And, why did this happen in a place with a petroglyph of a one-legged person, a kiva and hallucinogenic plants growing?
I’d like to say I had a vision, if saying that didn’t feel arrogant and presumptuous. Who knows? Fortunately, life is full of mysteries.

After returning home: I shared my experience with Ann. She said that I had had a spiritual experience about the gift of life and the power of love, as she had had when she was sick with cancer.

* Daniel Raskin is a retired San Francisco preschool teacher and photographer.


******

Do you agree (as I do) with Daniel’s partner Ann that he “had a spiritual experience about the gift of life and the power of love”?

And didn’t Daniel’s spontaneously copious tears express more eloquently than any words the heartfelt depths of his joy and gratitude for this blessed life?

Ron’s moral of the story:

Daniel’s deep spiritual experience, shows us that we don’t need religious rituals, beliefs or dogma to experience Divinity; that, beyond religion, our grateful communion with Nature can be an equally powerful spiritual path.

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Introduction to Ron’s Memoirs

Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas



“Follow your heart – even if it contradicts my words”

“If there is love in your heart, you don’t have to worry about rules.”
~ Shri Dhyanyogi Madhusudandas


During a traumatic divorce and “mid-life crisis” in 1975, I experienced what Hindus call a spontaneous awakening of the kundalini energy with sudden realization that I was much more than my physical body, its story and thoughts with which until then I had always self-identified. 

That realization triggered an extraordinary and unforgettable “rebirth” experience, accompanied and followed by many amazing mystical experiences, which forever changed my life and impelled me to begin questioning whether the universe worked the way I’d thought or been taught; and to soulfully seek answers to ultimate questions and a new paradigm guiding the remainder of my life time.  So, paradoxically, a broken heart opened me to a wonderful new way of experiencing life.

Since then my life has unfolded in ways I couldn’t previously have imagined, like a spiritual mystery story. For example, after starting life as a non-observant Jew – a secular Hebrew, I was initiated into a Hindu tradition by a venerable Hindu guru, and for many years thereafter regarded myself as a “born-again Hindu”. Though I no longer consider myself a “born-again Hindu”, but an “uncertain Undo”, I write today because of what my guru told me eighteen years ago.

It was February, 1992.   I had just retired after thirty four years of practicing as a San Francisco litigation attorney, and had come to Ahmedabad, India, to pay my respects to my then 114 year old venerable Hindu guru, Shri Dhyanyogi Madhasudandas (Guruji).  Guruji was living in the apartment of a local doctor.  His mental, intuitive and prescient powers were amazingly acute – as ever, but his 114 year old body was weak, and he was obliged to spend his days mostly in bed.   On one of those days, I was granted an audience together with a small group of Guruji’s closest Indian devotees, including his female successor Shri Anandi Ma, her parents and her husband, Dileepji.   Except for me, all present were Indians with whom Guruji conversed in Gujarati, while I knelt facing an altar at the foot of his bed.

After a while, Shri Anandi Ma’s father, Pravin Jani, a Vedic astrologer and pundit, spoke in English to me: “Guruji wants to know if you have any questions.” Having just retired, I was thinking of starting a daily diary of spiritual experiences as a way of promoting my spiritual progress – my “sadhana”. So I asked if this would be OK, and received an answer which astounded me, and which I’ve been considering until now.

Guruji said:  “Rasik should write and publish his spiritual memoirs. They will inspire many people”.  Rasik – meaning “one engrossed in devotion” – was the spiritual name he had given me upon my initiation in 1978. I listened in astonishment and bewilderment, thinking: “Publish my personal memoirs? Shouldn’t they be kept private?  How could the experiences of an ordinary person like Ron Rattner inspire many people?.”

Eighteen years have passed since that day in India.  Since then, I lived for many years in introspective semi-seclusion, without a TV, computer, newspaper, or radio news of the “real world”, meditating, praying, seeking answers to ultimate questions, and “enlightenment”.   Since then I’ve made many mistakes and have had many experiences and insights from which I think I’ve learned and benefited a lot. Though I haven’t stopped making mistakes and learning, I’ve now lived long enough to realize the prescience of Guruji’s instructions to me, and wish to honor them and you by sharing with you some of my spiritual stories, and their significance and lessons for me.

I feel that Humankind is now processing an extraordinary evolutionary leap in our common consciousness; that we are evolving from millennia of hierarchical dominance and constraints to an epoch of egalitarian and democratic sharing and openness; that we are democratizing and merging the spiritual and secular aspects of our lives. So, though I began my mid-life spiritual journey with an hierarchical Guru-disciple relationship, which I eternally honor, I now consider Life to be my spiritual teacher. But I am guided by Dhyanyogi’s highest teachings:  “Follow your heart – even if it contradicts my words”; and, “If there is love in your heart, you don’t have to worry about rules.”

Many meaningful and noteworthy experiences have revealed to me the deep and essential commonality, connection and interdependence of all life on Earth, so that everything we think, do or say changes this world in some way.

This life has become like an amazing spiritual mystery story. Without yet – and perhaps never – solving the Mystery, more and more I’ve learned to honor it, with gratitude and awe. And I now gratefully experience my life as synchronistically magical and miraculous – feeling happier than ever before. So in sharing with you what I’ve learned from these spiritual experiences, I do not and can not write as a Guru, but as just another participating ‘fellow traveler’ on the spiritual path to an ever mysterious shared destiny.

My deepest aspiration is that everyone everywhere – all life forms – flourish and be happy; that all humankind be empowered to use their unique gifts to fulfill their highest potentialities, and thereby harmoniously to benefit all life on our precious planet – and beyond.  

So in now sharing with you some of my experiences and perspectives my intention and dedication is to contribute to that vision and goal.   As a ‘senior citizen’ and member of ‘Generation Exit’, I especially wish to be of help to younger people to whom we bequeath our future, as they inherit the mistakes and learning experiences of their forebears in an ever changing world.

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