Category Archives: India

Transformation in India: Part II – Diary Entries

Transformation in India: Part II – Diary Entries                                        Ian Prattis

Excerpt from Chapter Five: Healing and Transformation taken from my forthcoming book: Trailing Sky Six Feathers: One Man’s Journey with His Muse. I want to write with an authentic, elegant voice and captivate the reader as I navigate past and present life experiences over four centuries – from brutal raids on Indian settlements in 18th century Arizona, insane sea voyages off the Scottish Hebrides in the 20th century and finally, to a decisive life moment of surrender to The Muse in the 21st century. These screenplay-worthy epic tales weave together to create inspiration for fellow spiritual seekers – I just have to be in the right place internally to do the weaving. India is an excellent transformation point.

Streaming video of poem, voice, photos:

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 20, 1996                   

Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India

Feel weaker than ever this morning.  Could hardly make it from my bed to the bathroom.  Hope the saints who have passed through this little ashram are casting a protective eye over me.  Perhaps they can cheer up Chotolal, the Nepali cook here, who has become quite anxious, especially as I have not had the energy or inclination to eat the special dishes he prepares.  He is watching me write in my diary, so I will change hands and write with my left hand so he can laugh and feel less anxious about me.  It worked!  Why have I become so ill?  All my bodily systems have gone off line.  Is there some major purification going on in my body, is there something I do not see?  What lessons are there?  Or are my days drawing to a close in the silence of this ashram?  My blood tests from the hospital show that I am low and deficient in just about every category and the medications only make me feel worse.  So many questions and worries yet they do not seem totally important.  I ask them then they fade away.  It is a bit strange.  A few days ago I collapsed and passed out while at dinner at Madhumas house.  I know that she and her family would take me in, yet this saints refuge is where I feel most comfortable right now.  The quiet and simplicity of the place speaks to me.  I guess it allows me to prepare for death.           

Have been in an almost constant state of meditation for weeks now.  A deep quiet silence.  Making entries in this diary is almost an interruption.  Yesterday, Tom and Bev phoned from Tuscon in the States and it was wonderful to talk to them.  They sent prayers from the desert.  Another friend, Barbara, from Michigan also phoned.  She tunes into me very closely and was sufficiently alarmed to offer to fly to Mumbai and take me back to the States to get well in her home.  Their love and care is very moving, but I know that whatever is to happen is to be here in India.  It was not easy to communicate this to Carolyn but I do believe she understands.  My prayer is that she does not suffer unduly. Have sent Chotolal to buy some cards and stamps for me.  The cards are beautifully hand painted on pipal leaves with pictures of the Buddha, Krishna dancing and other such scenes.  Want to make sure I finish my Christmas list.  Sending Christmas cards to friends and loved ones.  Feel such a calm about all this that would normally surprise the heck out of me.  The calm is just there, sitting with me, just fine.  I know there is a distinct possibility I will not live beyond Christmas and want to send out a Christmas message from India – “Blessings and Love from Ian.   Writing the cards has exhausted me, but I feel satisfied and full mission accomplished.  Chotolal brought in a package of mail from Canada: letters and cards from family and friends, a framed photograph of Carolyn, my dearest friend and companion.  Made me very happy, also made me cry as I thought of friends I may not see again.  Yet they were strange tears not full of sorrow or anything, just tears as I thought of loving friends.

I keep falling asleep very quietly then waking up very quietly.  Sleep is like a light breeze that seems to visit now and then.  Ate a little bit of dinner to allay Chotolals anxiety, but it is my supply of rice malt and vitamin C that is keeping me going.  Chotolal placed some fruit and water on the table by my bed, then left to spend the next day with Nepali friends in another part of the city, taking my pile of Christmas cards to post.  I am enjoying the silence and solitude, now that he has left.  It is about nine o’clock in the evening and I am drifting off to sleep on gentle wings.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 21, 1996                 

Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India

Waking up was easy, getting up was a struggle but did that in stages.  The quiet and silence inside the ashram is quite palpable and almost visible. I remembered my shamanic training with White Eagle Woman.  Had a dream about her during the night, but do not recall all the details.  I do remember that she told me to construct a mental medicine wheel around me and include all my spiritual ancestors.  Did that and feel an incredible constellation of energies, like millions of guardian angels from everywhere.

A decade later, when I consulted my notes and diaries from India for this book, I realized I had overlooked something totally pivotal and crucial. There were scribbled references and notes about a female deity in the mental medicine wheel who orchestrated the energy of my spiritual ancestors. She was there at every stage of my recovery, present at every initiation and ordination. I had written it all down. I felt the hair rising on the back of my neck as I reviewed my diaries.  The scribbled notes revealed the identity of the female deity as Trailing Sky Six Feathers.  How could I have been so stupid to not realize that the female choreographer of my recovery was her.

Took some fruit and returned to my book of meditations and began to read slowly, stopping frequently to close my eyes and feel the words.  Have no sense of time or space today, as each meditation seems to move me with its own measure and carry me along.  Feel such a deepening in my heart, all the way inside my body.  Aware that there is no fear or panic, just a simple and happy acceptance.  That is all that is there.  I have never experienced anything like this.  Have no thought of anything and feel deeply content for no apparent reason.  Is this surrender?  Peace with God?  No flashing lights, visitations or visions only a quiet surrender and being with the inevitability of it all, whatever THAT is.

DIARY ENTRY, DECEMBER 22, 1996                  

Prem Kutir Ashram, Mumbai, India

I woke up this morning, heard two crows saying hello from the tree outside the window.  Feel so happy to be alive.  Chotolal is singing in the kitchen and rattling his pots and pans, so I will celebrate this new day with a little breakfast.  That will make us both very happy.  A clear insight that this death is a spiritual one, as is the rebirth.  I feel completely new this morning, as though I have been rewired and plugged into sockets with a bigger voltage.  Part of my preparation to continue moving along the path of understanding. 


There was a strange voice mail on my telephone answering machine didnt recognize the voice and couldnt make out what the person was saying.   Was it Ian calling from India?  If so, it was a really bad connection.

December 12, 1996:

Ian called.  He had left the message, but it wasnt a bad connection.  He is so sick that he can hardly talk and his voice is unrecognizable.  A cold chill ran down my spine.  He says hes had surgery and that his systems are all crashing, one by one.  But hes not afraid I believe he is not afraid of dying if that is whats happening.  What can I do?  My first instinct is to go to India, to be with him, to care for him, but no, he says this is a journey he must go through alone.  I am so worried.   All I can do is surround him with light and love.  And I pray I pray that God will care for him, make him well and keep him safe. Dad is in the hospital dying from heart disease two open-heart surgeries in the last month.  The doctors are amazed that he is still living.  I wonder if he is afraid to die.  Im being forced to look at death, my fears, my attachments.  I cry.  Dad has been ill for many years and I know he will not likely survive this ordeal, but Ian.  Ian is too young.  His life work is not done.  He still has so much to offer.

Ian speaks about the possibility of death with such calm.  Hes not afraid, but I am.  I dont want to lose him.  I am not prepared to let him go.  Over the phone from India Ian teaches me about no birth and no death, that we continue living in all that we touch – simply a different manifestation than our physical bodies.  But this is too difficult for me to accept at the moment.  I am attached.  I do not want to let him go.  Ian directs me to the teachings on impermanence, and encourages me to meditate on the Five Remembrances being of the nature to grow old, the nature to become ill, the nature to die, the nature for all things to change and knowing that we will be separated from those we hold dear and that our only true possessions are the consequences of our actions.

Christmas Day, 1996:

Ian called.  He sounds a little better but is still very weak.  I shed tears of relief.  I continue to surround Ian with light and love.  And I pray.  I pray that God will give him the strength and will to overcome his illness. Hope is fading for my Dad.  Hes in intensive care and only Mom is allowed to visit him for a few minutes at a time.   None of his children are permitted to see him.  I pray that he does not suffer for too long.  I pray that he can find the same kind of peace and calm that Ian has found.  I am terrified that he might be afraid to die.  But I dont know his thoughts or feelings and my family wont talk about death.  I am caught in a paradigm praying for my Dad to let go, to end his suffering but afraid for my dad that he might be dying in fear.  That bothers me so much.  At the same time I pray for Ian to survive, but my fear is for myself at the thought of Ian passing away and leaving me.  He seems so prepared and accepting of death.  Here I am, afraid for my father at the thought of him passing away, yet afraid for myself at the thought of Ian passing away.

August, 1997:

After ten long months in the Heart Institute my Dad passed away.  Ive come to realize that he was not afraid.  He hung on for so long to allow my Mom and my siblings the time to accept his death, time to let him go.  I am so grateful that he wasnt afraid to die. At the same time Ian returned from India and I am grateful to have him back home alive and well.  His experiences in India have totally transformed him.  His near death experience also transformed me, for he guided me to look deeply into the realm of birth and death, to accept death, to let go and to see the continuation of loved ones in all aspects of life, from a flower blooming to a family member smiling.  I do see my Dad every day in different manifestations of life.       


Transformation in India: Part I

Transformation in India Part I


Excerpt from Chapter Five of forthcoming book – Trailing Sky Six Feathers.


Streaming video of “Cremation Pyres on the Ganges” – text, photos and voice –


We are so happy Ian that you have decided to die with us in India. And even more happy if you live.

Huddled on a bed in an ashram in Mumbai, India I opened my eyes to see a visiting Swami sitting beside me. I felt very calm about letting go of my bodily existence. I knew that the experiences of joy and freedom flooding through me at this time were dissolving my many mistakes and bodily pain. Trailing Sky was there constantly – I even wrote in my India diary and notes that there was a female deity orchestrating all the energies to keep me alive. Not realizing, until reviewing my diaries years later, that Trailing Sky was staring me in the face, challenging me to acknowledge who it was that saved my life in India. She must have been exasperated with how dense and unseeing I was at that time.

I had traveled to India in 1996 to teach and train in Siddha Samadhi Yoga. The Vedic tradition I was studying was ecumenical in character, a wisdom tradition totally relevant to the modern day. The ashram in Mumbai was reserved for saints and holy men. I did not qualify for either category. Lying close to death, the lack of fear provided a sense of freedom and strength. At last I felt truly like me, very peaceful, no longer a maverick standing alone. I did survive and completed my guru training six months later at a remote ashram, going into total silence during the last two weeks. Before I took my leave from the ashram the Swami arranged a parting ceremony – an initiation to receive the mantle of the guru that I was now recognized as.

In the groove

In November and December of 1996 I had become seriously ill in India. As I observed my bodily systems crashing one by one I knew there was a distinct possibility of death. To this day I am still amazed by my calmness and lack of fear. In my family and culture there is very little discussion about death and dying, though as a child I did have an intuitive understanding. When my grandfather died I felt him as a tangible presence when he was in his coffin. I quietly whispered to this gracious being: “Go to Heaven now grandpa.” I also remember at his wake how upset I became by my relatives drinking, arguing and being disrespectful to one another. In tears I sought out my grandmother and complained that everyone was making it hard for my grandpa to go to Heaven.  She listened carefully to me and wiped my tears away, then walked into the living room of her house and with quiet authority asked everyone to go home. It was much later in life, once I was exposed to Buddhist teachings on death and dying, that I realized I was not such a crazy kid after all. I had cared for my grandfather’s consciousness after his physical death.

While in India I also trained in the mastery of “bija” mantra.  Bija means “seed” and the seed mantras are powerful instruments of transformation. The major mantra I trained with, however, was the Gayatri Mantra, the main feature of the Sandhya–Upasana ceremony – a sacred ritual for Brahmanic definitions within Hinduism. It was part of my training in becoming a guru in Siddha Samadhi Yoga. The Gayatri is considered by Indian sages to be the most powerful mantra of purification and transformation, as it expands consciousness in multiple directions. The successive sounds of the Sanskrit syllables move the individual chanting it into elevated states of spiritual experience. As an invocation for enlightenment it has the effect of drawing other individuals into the same state.  This is the theory – as told to me in India.

Two twenty eight day training periods, six months apart, were the high points that the rest of my training built up to. My cultural and religious background was not the same as my two cohorts, yet the experiences we shared were remarkably similar. I could observe my mental states, compare them with reports from my peers, then verify them with the Swami overseeing the training.  Then from my experience, I could verify – or not – the claims made about the Gayatri mantra. The Gayatri ceremony was conducted at sunrise and sunset each day. The mantra was the central component of a long Sanskrit chant that prepared each one of us to experience the full effects of Gayatri. Prior to the training retreats I had months of preparation – with attention to specific meditations, dietary regime and sexual abstinence. I learned how to chant the Gayatri and co-ordinate it with the four components of breath: inhalation, holding the air inside, exhalation, holding the emptiness. There was a mathematical precision in tone, pitch and resonance of the mantra, as it was exactly co-ordinated with the different components of breath and hand movements over the body. It was all quite complex and overwhelming and I frequently wondered if I would ever get it right. I benefited from the persistence and encouragement of my cohorts who were determined that I not be left behind. I also had skilled and patient teachers who made the effort to transmit this oral tradition, thousands of years old, to a westerner not used to this form of education.

Our preparation for each ceremony was through extensive pranayama – breathing exercises – before sunrise and sunset. Attention was always brought to the union of the individual with the Universal. The rituals of the Gayatri ceremony had to be performed with grace, and clumsiness was frowned upon. In the early days I certainly drew a lot of frowns from the Swami and Rishi who oversaw the training. The effects on me were far reaching. During the first training period the twice-daily recitation brought on heavy night-time fevers. I would feel perfectly fine during the day, yet at night it felt as though I was running a high fever, although there was no unusual increase in temperature.  I found that my peers were feeling similar discomfort, though nobody was ill. I asked the Swami about this.  He indicated that we were all feeling the initial effects of the Gayatri Sandhya. Before it could penetrate our being and expand consciousness there was a great deal of “dross” to burn off – hence the fever-like states. I reported back to everyone’s relief.

My consultations with the Swami became quite an amusing ritual, as members of my cohort would not ask questions. Yet they encouraged me to do so and gave me questions of their own. It became a way to check my experience with that of others, and then seek verification from the Swami, who had quite a benevolent attitude towards me. My fellow trainees would wait for the results of my consultations, crowd round and listen to whatever I had to report. We would then discuss it from the perspective of our own experiences. It was amazing at how similar they were.  I felt it wise to always give my experiences last, so as not to provide an influence or “track” for others’ reporting.

The most significant cognitive changes came about when chanting the Gayatri with the different phases of breath and levels of mantra. These combinations produced hyper-lucidity and sharpness. This sharpness was essential for me, because there was so much to co-ordinate at different levels. I felt very alert, as though I was climbing stairs of consciousness. This was similar to the experiences of my shamanic training with White Eagle Woman. I was moving through states of consciousness to different levels of cognition but always felt a sense of being aware of where I was, of what was taking place in the multiple levels of consciousness experienced. New spaces were opening up in my mind, while I was also very aware of being located in the physical realm – an insight confirmed by the Swami without my asking. Not all members of my cohort experienced this aspect of dual consciousness. The Swami was on the lookout for trainees who got “stuck” and had difficulty returning. He also confided that he had fully expected me to be the one he had to look out for the most and was pleased that this was not so. Me too.

The second training period was with a different cohort in a different part of India – Karnataka as opposed to Andra Pradesh.  My new cohort was made up of experienced meditation teachers and exceptional gurus – quite the lineup of wisdom. With this powerful group of beings the sunset ceremony was conducted by running water to deepen the silence, stillness and penetration of the mantra. The chanting of the Gayatri took place with all of us standing up to our waists in the water. When it came to the point of suspending thought and allowing the Gayatri to arise spontaneously, to my total astonishment it did just that.  At the same time I could feel and identify the particles of mud between my toes, see minute electrons in the air and look down on my wisdom buddies from a great height. I felt encompassed by the evening sky and at the same time I encompassed the sunset, the evening sky and everything beyond it. This experience was repeated with varying intensity during every sunset rendition of the Gayatri-Sandhya. I never felt it necessary to communicate this to the Swami or to members of my second cohort. I went into total silence during the last two weeks and do not recall talking to anyone, as everyone very carefully left me in the silence.

In my diaries I recorded my experiences in poetry and art – a totally inadequate exposition for something that cannot be fully expressed in either. I persist with this inadequacy, through words, to convey some semblance of the experience. Before I took my leave from the ashram the Swami asked to speak to me. He described my experiences in complete, precise detail and arranged a parting ceremony – an initiation to receive the grace of a guru through the name assigned to me: Prem Chaitania.  My wisdom buddies were delighted by this. My teachers informed me that the Gayatri would continue to work on my consciousness, whether I was aware of it or not. Any awareness would provide an arrow of insight into further changes.  There were other perceptual and cognitive experiences that I am not at liberty to communicate, and still others that I choose not to relate.  Training with Gayatri had major life changing effects, not the least being that I became a better and more skillful teacher, both to meditation and university students.  As for the rest of my life – that it is still a work in progress!

What I can say from personal experience is that once my wild mind was reined in, clarity and compassion were suddenly there in greater compass. This provided a different basis for how to be with the planet and others in a new way. It was how to move from the Seventh Fire to the Eighth Fire – the Seven Fires Prophecy learned from Grandfather William Commanda. Whatever it takes to tame the wild mind. This partial account of my journey in India is to demonstrate that my activism for peace, planetary care and social justice now came from a different place as a result of the internal work. Steadiness, clarity and compassion are there rather than ego posturing from the lunatic fringe. Though there was a “rush” from the latter, I prefer the still-point, uncoloured by the excess of ego and desire for control and kudos-seeking. Such a still-point permits me to be free in my own sovereignty, no matter what I am doing. It also propels me to serve the planet and humanity in a way of creating bridges and pathways of harmony that make sense – to make the Eighth Fire a reality rather than a prophecy. My work in progress is ongoing, anchored by the presence of Trailing Sky throughout my journeys. I have no doubt about her presence throughout my process of healing and transformation and know she was waiting throughout the shadows of my life.