As I stood among the crowd at Union Station in Chicago, an elderly lady approached me with a totally unexpected question. "Excuse me, sir, are you Buddhist?" Perplexed, I smiled inside but showed no facial response. Looking up at the kind, wrinkled face in front of me I simply replied "No, I'm not." "Well, that's interesting,” she said. “I sure felt like you were a Buddhist and I'm seldom wrong about such matters."
Knowing that she was trying to strike a conversation, but wanting to remain in my much-anticipated cocoon, I offered a polite response by saying "I'm really not aligned with any one religion or philosophy but I appreciate them all."
"Oh, okay" she replied with a sense of bewilderment, "I guess I was mistaken."
The awkward silence which followed was broken by the station loudspeaker giving us instructions of when and where to board our train. Whew! Intrigued as I was by her question, I was happy to lose sight of her as we moved to our appropriate lines. I wanted nothing more than a quiet ride by myself so I could read a little and contemplate what might be in store for me. I was headed to Estes Park Colorado for my final class in the Usui system of reiki.
Little did I realize that all the contemplation in the world couldn’t have prepared me to fully embrace the Light and Love of reiki as my rod and staff. Only a frightful encounter with a ghost would lead me to that.
The line moved slowly in what seemed to be a cattle drive for humans. As I looked up to the windows of my assigned car, I could see the seats were nearly full. Once I was finally on board I looked around for a place to sit. Much to my surprise, the only seat available was, you guessed it, next to the lady who had asked me if I was a Buddhist.
I resigned. There was no way around it. Obviously, I was meant to communicate with this lady for a reason yet unknown.
Over the course of our nineteen-hour journey, I discovered that she was a recently retired accountant for the University of Colorado in Boulder and, among other things, a student of philosophy and practitioner of a healing art called Jo- Rei. Surprised to find out how similar it was to reiki, our conversation flowed smoothly into a friendship.
By the time we pulled into Denver we were exchanging contact information and promising to stay in touch. Strange but beautiful are the gifts of the Universe. I was being told it was time to open up, not cocoon myself off.
The taxi ride to the hotel was quite picturesque and I felt the excitement inside me begin to grow. Upon arriving, I was awe-struck by the sight of a glowing white wooden structure exuding the grandeur of days gone by. From a distance, it appeared to be nestled into the mountainside creating a stark contrast to the blue-grey blanket which surrounded it.
I didn’t know that this place, built by Freelasn Oscar Stanley of Stanley Steamer fame in the early 1900s, was on the official list of haunted places in Colorado.
Part of the hotel was being renovated and updated, but not the area my room was in. With dark stained wood and creaking floors, it carried antiquity and mystique from another time. The faded lampshades on either side of my slightly warped bed somehow seemed to be a focal point that balanced the otherwise awkward room. The bathroom consisted of a free-standing shower with an old wall-mounted sink and toilet. Lit by a single light bulb on the ceiling, it was funky but functional. I didn’t mind. I was in Colorado about to complete my reiki training. It all seemed very exciting to me.
I unpacked my bags and went to dinner. Upon returning, I decided to do a little exploring. As large as the hotel was, my most outstanding memory of that evening was of a very long corridor in the basement. The entrance was dimly lit, but being curious I began walking down the corridor. Once I got far enough where it was difficult to see I stopped. It seemed to continue endlessly into dark shadows which led to who knows where. It kind of spooked me and I felt a sense of uneasiness as I realized how odd this was. Quickly attempting to release my fear, I walked back out and began to explore other areas. What a beautiful and fascinating place it was.
Upon returning to my room, I hopped into the shower looking forward to a good night's sleep. It had been a very long day. About halfway through the shower, the ceiling light went out leaving me in total darkness. Surprised but not frightened, I chalked it up to the age of the hotel and forgot about it.
It wasn’t until the next day at class when people began to share strange stories which ranged from lights going out to a piano playing all by itself that I learned Stephen King was staying at this hotel when he was inspired to write The Shining. (room 217 if you’re interested)
The most outlandish story came from three women who shared a room and claimed to have heard numerous guttural sounds before noticing strange dark marks suddenly appearing on the wall above one of the beds. They became so frightened that they ended up sharing one bed together. I was not buying it. Having been around ghosts since childhood, I thought I knew a thing or two about them, and never had I experienced anything like that. I asked to see the marks for myself.
After class, they brought me to their room and showed me what they believed to be the marks. There were indeed three dark smudges on the wall above the bed, but once again I let logic rein. I reasoned that since the room seemed a little cold and damp that the marks might be mold or mildew bleeding through the plaster. Given the age and condition of the hotel, this sounded like a plausible explanation. It somehow didn’t occur to me that many ghost stories take place in cold, damp rooms. In fact, now that I think about it, it seems to be sort of a signature sign around ghost stories. I can only surmise that I was so intent on staying level-headed and grounded that I saw only what I wanted to. (Isn’t that the way it is with all life?)
As more and more stories began to unfold, I found myself wondering why everyone else was having such cool experiences except me. I felt left out. Here I was, someone who had grown up with ghosts around me all my life, and not a single experience that couldn’t be rationalized.
The front desk helped fuel the flames of imagination by telling the guests who inquired about strange happenings not to worry, “ it was probably only the ghosts.” I was convinced that they did this on purpose to keep a legacy (and revenue) alive. Our group ate it up. Pretty soon they were talking almost as much about spirits as they were reiki. I knew If I experienced something, I wanted it to be otherworldly, something that couldn’t be denied.
So it was, the next day after class, I went to my room and began drawing sacred symbols in the air while practicing the techniques we had been taught. As I began, I thought I heard a crackling noise from somewhere in my room. I stopped to see if I could discern where it came from, but I heard nothing. I began practicing again and the crackling noise resumed. This time it seemed to be closer and louder than before. Again I stopped and again I heard silence. Now, I was starting to wonder what was going on. I decided to draw the symbols one more time, but this time I would keep going no matter what until I could identify where the crackling was coming from.
Beginning once again, the image of Mickey Mouse as the wizard in Fantasia came into mind. I laughed as I thought of how I must look waving my arm and hand in the air like a crazed person. In reality,
I was focused on creating a field of high vibrational energy around me while aligning my heart with the heart of God. Using the knowledge and tools I had been taught, I continued increasing the intensity until I realized the crackling sound, now louder and more consistent than ever, was coming from an unused television quite close to me. It sounded like someone was pouring marbles, or small ball bearings, down the center of the set. The stand on which it sat appeared to actually be shaking.
That did it! So much for staying level-headed and grounded! Fear welled up inside of me in a holy shit moment of realization. My wish for a ghostly experience had come true. The ghost, the same one who turned off the bathroom light I'm sure, was obviously upset with what I was doing. The rattling and shaking of the television was its way of saying STOP. What was shaking more, me or the TV I cannot say.
Instead of calmly observing like I thought I might, I was scared shitless. Quickly and intuitively, I ran into the bedroom and pulled out a Gideons Bible from the desk drawer. Knowing that the reiki energy would guide me intuitively to find the right passage, I randomly opened it somewhere in the New Testament. My eyes landed on the powerful and comforting words of Jesus. As I read the words out loud I immediately sensed not only the calm power of Christ but also the presence of another great spiritual master, Babaji, in the room with me. Confidence, compassion, and power coursed through my cells. I put the Bible down and walked back to the room where I had been practicing.
I spoke out loud. “Spirit, whoever you are, I understand that this high vibrational energy is not in alignment with you. I can understand why you are upset but I am not going to stop. Instead, I offer these energies for your use in one of three ways. You can embrace them and transform your vibration, you can continue to act out in resistance, or you can leave. The choice is yours, but in the name of the Christ and Babaji I continue.”
As I began drawing out the symbols once again, silence reigned.