JASON BECKER Tearsheet Gallery
Intro | My Life, Music, Disease and Yogananda | Ammachi | Recommended Books | My Response to 60 Minutes

Jason Becker, 2009Introduction


Hey homeboys and girls. Thank you for clicking this button. As you probably know, I am a guitarist/musician. You also probably know I have had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease) for over 20 years. In 1989, doctors told me I would probably die in 3 to 5 years. What you probably don't know is why I am still alive, and why in the past four years I haven’t gotten any worse, only better. I have gained at least 30 pounds and three muscles, and this is with a few months here and there of getting off health food and treatments.

What follows is a hint of the nature of the book I am currently writing. Since most of this article was written for a spiritual magazine called "Self Realization", it leans toward that aspect of my life. My book will have much more music and other stories about dealing with ALS, as well as more spiritual stuff.

Please take what you want and leave the rest. I sincerely hope you enjoy yourselves while reading this.

Included are other web sites or names that help and inspire me. Thanks.

By the way, Ammachi is my guru. Yogananda's teachings, in themselves, are perfectly wonderful and, as you will see, they work. But to have a mahatma living like Amma, that you can actually talk to, and touch is the greatest thing one could hope for. An organization like "Self Realization Fellowship" sometimes thinks it can interpret the master's teachings and not just let them stand on their own. All I am saying is no one religion or organization has a patent on enlightenment. Follow your own heart.

 

We live thinking we will never die.
We die thinking we had never lived.
Cut it out.


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Part One

My Life, Music, Disease and Yogananda

My Mom and Dad, Gary and Pat Becker in the 1970's
Before I tell a little about my life and start gushing over Paramahansa Yogananda and Ammachi, let me say it is not my place to tell anyone how to live or think. Autobiography of a YogiMost of my beautiful friends are not Self-Realization Fellowship members, although they respect Yogananda and Ammachi. I just think this could be a neat story that might increase one's own faith, from wherever it stems.

When my parents (my first gurus) were young, they read Autobiography of a Yogi. So while I was growing up, I sometimes saw Yogananda's picture on the front cover. Even when I was a toddler I thought, "this guy has all the answers", just from the photo.

Ammachi
Ammachi
Paramahansa Yogananda
Paramahansa Yogananda

Gary and Pat BeckerGary and Pat BeckerMy father, Gary, played classical guitar and my uncle, Ron, played blues guitar so I wanted to be a guitar hero. I loved Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, and Eric Clapton; then Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Eddie Van Halen. From age five on I constantly practiced and visualized being a great musician. I absorbed every kind of music I heard; classical, Indian, Japanese, Native American, jazz, blues, rock - whatever I could find. I performed at school and little coffeehouses from sixth grade on.

Me at 5, 12 and 17When I was in elementary school there was a creek right around the corner where my family and friends would play. The Richmond SRF Temple was built right above it. While walking home from high school, my friends would take SRF literature and read it sort of mockingly, although the meaning couldn't be mocked. I laughed with them but always said, "He is right though. This guy knows everything." At the time, though, I thought I also knew everything because I was a very good guitarist and giving lessons to even my music teacher.

At sixteen I met my friend, Marty Friedman, a great guitarist, who had already made a few records. We made four albums of virtuoso-type guitar playing together, and played in Japan and across the U.S. We never got mega-famous together but we are known all over the world for our innovative style.

In 1989, I left to do my own music only. I joined David Lee Roth's band when I was 20. Every guitarist would have killed for this gig because the two previous guitarists, Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai were respected
stars. In 1990, I won a readers' poll for best new guitarist in "Guitar Magazine". 

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Marty Friedman, Cacophony and David Lee Roth
I had been having a lazy limp in my left leg so I went to check it out. I was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease) and given five years to live. The doctors even said don't bother changing your diet because it won't help. My family was crushed, but I just laughed and said "no way, I have things to do and I'm invincible." My father quit his job to come and live with me in Glendale. I went to Vancouver to record Dave's album, "A Little Ain't Enough," which went gold. The weakness traveled through my body into my fingering hand and, unbeknownst to all but my friend, Steve Hunter, I barely finished the album with a shaky hand. I was also falling often. I laughed about it because I thought it would go away. (See TEARSHEET GALLERY)

One night I dreamed I was running. When I woke up I forgot I had a limp, so I walked totally normal until I remembered, "oh, yeah, I have a limp". Then I immediately stumbled. That showed me that if you have control over your mind, you can do anything.

Eddie Van Halen, Steve Perry, Dan Alvarez and Mike BemesderferAnyway, back to Dave's band. Since I couldn't tour with Dave because I was too weak, I started recording on a keyboard and computer with one hand because the other hand would fall. The writing came easy because whole pieces came into my head without any effort. Having great musician friends lay down tracks the way I wanted, including Steve Perry from Journey and members of Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra, took some time but with the help of my friends, Mike Bemesderfer and Dan Alvarez, it was finished in 1995, and released in Japan. Every song came from my heart. It has my guitar playing, full orchestral pieces with flavors of modern and Baroque classical, African, Indian, blues, rock, Native American, choral, Japanese, and fire guitar. Thanks to Eddie Van Halen, 'Perspective' was released on Warner Brothers Records in May 2001.

Perspective AlbumThe first time I felt like I could die was when my voice got weak. I panicked. I needed something. I had my mercury fillings removed, chelation, acupuncture, massage, and diets. I finally thought I needed God, but I never cared or thought about God. How could I know something unknowable? Plus, many religious people I knew were nerdy, annoying, judgmental hypocrites. For some reason I thought you had to be that way to be spiritual (now most every religious friend I have is a great person who tries to live like Christ or their favorite saint). I read the New Testament and though I thought Christ was a perfect God, the words often flew over my head and I didn't think I could know Him.

Man's Eternal QuestMy father and I started reading Yogananda's book, Man's Eternal Quest and I found out there were lessons. He called the Richmond Temple and asked if someone could come talk to me. Brother Devananda came and gave me Yogananda's book, Where There Is Light. He (and since then every monk and nun who has come to my house) meditated with me, my family and devotee friends. They all give me wisdom, love and compassion, and even though they know there are higher states than body consciousness, they never belittle my condition. GitaThis wisdom and understanding from all devotees of Master put the icing on the perfect, beautiful cake of Master's teachings and I had found my path. My father and I ordered the lessons, we went to the Temple when we could, and I started reading Yogananda's Gita for hours a day. Also, sometimes my friend, Serrana, and my mother and uncle wheeled me up to the Temple. There I met an inspiring devotee, David Dunlop. He has become a great friend. He has brought many great stories, friends and monastics to my life. He often comes to meditate or just hang. His ability to see Master and Divine Mother in everyone makes my family and me so comfortable and uplifted that we can't help but share even our darkest secrets. We also see Yogananda work through him.


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gary becker's art

I could only do the lesson exercises in my head, but this never discouraged me because Master always includes us disabled folks. He doesn't give us excuses. He always says if you can't do everything, you can at least do it in your mind. He means it when he says God is for all.

In 1996, I could barely breathe unless I was totally reclined. Lack of air and so much fear made me very angry much of the time. This anger compounded because I got mad at myself for getting mad. Finally, in February 1997, I reluctantly went to get a tracheostomy (a tube through my throat for breathing) and a gastrostomy (a tube through my abdomen into my stomach for liquids). When I first got to the hospital I hadn't slept for three days. I lay down and stopped breathing. Everyone was happy I was finally resting. My girlfriend came in and started worrying because I responded to nothing. After trying to comfort the ignorant lay people of my family, the doctor finally looked at my chart and me and realized I needed a breathing mask. I had carbon dioxide poisoning. I was close to being a veggie. I am so sorry for people whose lives slip away by human mistakes. I guess it was meant to be, but dang!

I only remember a few minutes of the next week. I had never taken any drug in my life. They had me on morphine and although I needed it and sometimes it felt good and helped me sleep, it made me feel even less in control and thus very angry with everyone, especially nurses.

SerranaWhen I finally came to, I had two brand new shiny holes in my body. I was scared to death, and a groin pain that had been bothering me for a while (which I later found out was excessive air from swallowing) became excruciating every time I coughed or moved. No doctors gave any importance to it because they didn't have an answer. Only a month later did I discover I could remove cups of air out of the tummy tube, and all pain went away for good.

The hospital staff wanted my family out, but only my family could communicate with me. My father invented an ingenious alphabet board with which there is no waiting and pointing like with most boards. Each letter is indicated by two specific eye movements. I can say anything I want very quickly. As soon as the staff saw that my family was not going to leave me for a second - out of love and necessity and not just to complain about the job they were doing - they were happy to have help.

One particular event in the hospital changed my life. I hadn't slept for well over 36 hours. Every hour or two a nurse came in to stick a tube down my throat to suction out mucous from my lungs. This made me violently cough which made my groin unbearably painful. I felt that one more suction would literally kill me. I prayed to God very sincerely to not let me die without knowing the point of it all and learning more about Him. This night at 4:00 AM, my girlfriend was too exhausted to wake up. The nurse who then came in knew I was frantically trying to say no to suction, but she said, "I am just doing my job." She wouldn't wake my girlfriend up. When she finally left I lay in the dark feeling raped. I felt the life start to leave my body. My eyes were open but I couldn't even tense one muscle. I started to black out. All at once I heard distant voices of people I love. After all this hellish fear and confusion, the good stuff began.

Sanskrit Symbol for OMWhile I was still dying, I heard the OM. I felt I was being cradled by something familiar. In one silly vibration - such power, love, infinite wisdom, everything to be known and felt if only I could comprehend one tiny piece of its all-encompassing perfection. During these most blissful moments of my life, something in my heart said, "Lord, I am not ready to go". Instantly I felt life coming back to my body. My eyes were uncontrollably lifted to gaze in my forehead. Without a body, clearer than "life", I went through a door with an eye on it. I believe God was showing me "heaven". It was my idea of a perfect place. Whatever I thought was effortlessly manifest. In my mind I created a guitar and hands to play it. From my mind effortlessly flowed the most beautiful music I have ever heard. Before I even thought of the next perfect phrase it would flow into the ears. I think God was showing me the human potential. We work so hard but if we surrender to God there is no limit to our capabilities. After God was finished trying to teach something to this egotistic knucklehead, my eyes fell back down to my girlfriend sleeping on a cot in the hospital. As I slowly gathered myself and realized the incredible blessing I had received, I felt only love. I tried to remember anger and pain but they were all gone. When the nurse came back and my girlfriend woke up, a glow filled the room. We all could only smile. We all became good friends and talked a lot. From then on I made many nurse and doctor friends.

Without having read Yogananda's lessons, this Grace of God (or my awareness of it) might have ended with this experience. But now I was fired up because Master's words were proven. Every moment I could, I practiced the techniques and for once I could pray from my heart. God gave me many more lessons and visions. Words are inadequate to describe these. I am speechless in God's love and perfection. He showed me that I would never truly leave the people I love. And God is playful. When I would start to drift off to sleep, He would gently but firmly tap my foot to wake me up. After a few times of opening my eyes to see no one there, I knew he was playing with me. God didn't want me to sleep, He was having fun in our loving exchanges. Since this great couple of weeks I haven't kept up the intensity, but I will always know God is with me, guiding me, ready to play, teach and love.

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Gurus

I hung pictures of the SRF Gurus in my hospital room. I had dim lighting and meditation music playing as often as possible. The staff always came into my room to relax and talk with my family to get away from the hectic hospital environment.

gary becker's art

Mom, Marilyn & SerranaI talk a lot about doing things myself, but I am slowly seeing God does everything. And I could do nothing without my parents, brother Ehren, former girlfriend and best friend Serrana, girlfriend Marilyn, and huge team of family and friends. The doctor wanted to teach me a lesson for choosing to get a tracheostomy instead of politely dying. This was actually told to my mother, plus many more horrible things she can't even talk about. The doctor almost insisted I be put in a hospital for life. My Mom realized that she was dealing with a person who had forgotten the heart. Mom fought with love, confidence and peaceful determination. Of course she won and I went home. I eat way less than nurses tell me to (8 cans of Jevity or 2,000 calories). Mostly I eat fresh fruit and vegetable juices, vitamins, nuts, and once a week, eggs, beans or something cooked. I sometimes even fast on juice. Since this diet, I have gained over forty pounds. I have been doing Kriya Yoga since October, 1997, only in my mind. It is awesome anyway.

Now that my parents have seen the infinite ways Paramahansa Yogananda and Divine Mother are literally with me and with them, they faithfully read the Lessons and know they are not alone. The Richmond SRF Temple always sends my parents and me beautiful flowers.

My Brother Erhen and Mike BemesderferPeople wonder how I can be happy and excited about life with no movement, voice, or breathing without a machine. The most obvious reasons are a great family and friends showering me with affection. I constantly feel love and respect from everyone I meet and from fans around the world. Plus, in addition to "Perspective" having come out in 2001, I have three CD's worth of guitar material that I recorded at home while I could still play, ready to be released, an instructional video for guitarists, and a ten-minute video for "Perspective" with a full orchestra, a ballet, and my father's paintings. Plus, this SRF article that I have written with my eyes has inspired me to start writing my book. I am also trying to get funding for a computer that reads my eye movements. With this computer I could also record the music that is in my head, and write a book. And I am doing a treatment called the Wet Cell Battery, advised for ALS by the Sleeping Prophet, Edgar Cayce. I can move three new muscles that were gone for years, and my body is looser.

These things are indispensable, no doubt, but there is something subtle which is growing more tangible every day (or I should say every month because I still make many mistakes, so I only see my progress when I look back and reflect). The constancy of ALS can be overwhelming. There is never a lunch hour or even a second break. Not only during my four hours a day of attempted meditation (or, as I call it, swallowtation, because spit rolls down my throat causing me to swallow a lot), but most minutes of the day I feel an inner peace. I know Master is taking most of the hell away, literally.

I once read a story about Master's favorite disciple, Rajarsi Janakananda. Master had left the body. During Rajarsi's last couple of years, he had a painful brain tumor, yet he was peaceful. He said Master often came into his body to take on the pain himself. I know Master loves his most mistake-ridden, forgetful, arrogant devotees like me as much as his favorite disciples. A dream-vision my mother had, proved what I already felt.

One day I was meditating. Mom lay down in front of me. She drifted and then something made her look at me. Instead of me, Yogananda was in my wheelchair with a tube in his throat. He was breathing like me, looking at my mom with a big smile on his face. Mom closed and opened her eyes to see me suddenly jerk. I think Yogananda was giving me a break and my jerk was him leaving my body.

Master has taught me to love and respect saints of all religions. Thanks to Yogananda I am open to learn from Jesus and every saint I read about. A few times I have gone to see a great saint and healer, Mata Amritanandamayi, or Ammachi. Since I have a picture of Yogananda on my wheelchair, people always come up to talk about Him and are happy to know about the Richmond SRF Temple. The last day Ammachi was here, I was feeling a little guilty because I feel such love for her (even though Master is always in my mind). When I got home, there was a personal letter from the Mother Center with rose petals blessed at Guruji's shrine. To me Master was saying, "I am always with you wherever you are. I know what is in your heart."

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Part Two

Ammachi

AmmachiI was first introduced to Ammachi around August, 1997, by a friend from Self Realization Fellowship. He thought I would identify and connect with her intense suffering and complete rise above it. He gave me her biography. I was so content with Yogananda, that I wasn't searching for anything else. But just looking at her picture even before I read the book, floored me. I was instantly infatuated for life. That day I started counting the days to her November visit to San Ramon.

Every word I read drew me deeper into her. The music I heard and the ceremonies I saw on a video were weird to me at first, but her perfect love and presence made me know that was my problem and I would soon get over it.

After reading in a couple of her books of people crying when they meet her, I was a little nervous that I would do the same because I can't hide my face. When I went for my first Darshan she was so sweet to me. She rubbed my legs, arms, chest and smothered my whole face with sandlewood paste and sacred ash. It was awesome but I didn't cry so I thought I was safe. But when I wheeled back a few feet and saw her hug my father, I lost it. To see someone treating my big, bad, tough, smart father like her little boy was pretty neat. He didn't have to be the responsible one for a minute. He could just lay in Amma's lap and get loved. Then I thought that she does this for millions of people. And not only for that minute does she take our burdens if we let her. She will take all our burdens regardless of how good or bad we think we are. She looked at me crying with such an understanding face it melted me while my friend, Dave, rubbed my shoulders.

Before her next visit in June, I had been taking lortab (liquid vicadin) almost every day for months because it got rid of my intense runny nose. I had been feeling bad for not having the strength to stop, but if I didn't take it someone would have to constantly wipe my nose. I didn't want to take drugs around Amma, so I prayed to not need it during her visit. Eight days before she came I was able to stop taking it. I was grateful to get through the two weeks but now it has been six months since I took any drug, and I never feel like taking it, so I haven't. Amma is the supreme drug.

During this June visit I had a couple of wishes that weren't really big deals or what I would feel comfortable asking for. First, I had the wish for Amma to feed me a chocolate kiss.

She gives every one of the thousands of people she hugs and blesses a blessed Hershey's kiss, but almost never puts it in their mouths. I had been to see her a few times but the very day I had the secret wish for her to put the kiss in my mouth, she did. Ok, neat coincidence.

AmmachiMy second silent wish might seem pretty strange to most people and I certainly don't blame them. Most of my life when any spiritual talk started I just tuned out and thought, "let's just have fun and jam, man." I always thought there was something phony, grasping, judgmental and arrogant in assuming that you knew something too deep and mysterious for anyone to really know. But this is why I love Yogananda so much. No matter what your religious faith or even if you are an atheist or agnostic, like I was, you can scientifically prove the existence of God to yourself without having to worry if you are putting your trust in someone who doesn't really know God. Yogananda gives scientific techniques for knowing God. If practiced faithfully, they can't fail, whether you like Yogananda or not. Another thought I have had in the past was that this world is great so, why bother finding God. God is infinite, but one way I can think to describe the feeling is a long-lasting orgasm in every cell of your body and being.

So my weird wish was to have a little piece of Amma's hair. To many people there is the energy, power and love of the whole universe in a great soul. Even their cells are different. For me it is like touching the robe of Jesus.

My prayer was answered in two ways. That day she grabbed my hand and put it on the back of her head for a few minutes. Later I saw a friend of mine who used to be a Self Realization Fellowship nun. She gave me a piece of Yogananda's hair, out of the blue. I had never told one person of my wishes.

Since this time, I have seen Amma many more times. There are so many miracles and neat events that happen around her. Just when I think of her, amazing things happen. There are so many stories, but something makes me not want to tell them just yet. I need to absorb them inside first.

(to be continued).....

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Recommended Books:

"Amma: Healing the Heart of the World"
by Judith Cornell, www.mandala-universe.com

"Love, Medicine and Miracles"
by Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.

"Hope Springs Eternal, Surviving a Chronic Illness"
by David Atkinson
This guy’s story about having ALS pretty bad, and how he became 99% cured is awesome. I have talked to him on the phone and he is so inspiring he would fire anyone up.(Available from Baar Products, Inc., P.O. Box 60, Dowingtown, PA 19335; 610/873-4591 or 800/269-2502; E-mail: info@baar.com; Web Site: http://www.baar.com

"The Cure for all Diseases"
by Hulda Regehr Clark, Ph.D., N.D.

"Ammachi (a biography of Mata Amritanandamayi)"
by Swami Amritaswarupananda
(Available from M.A. Center, P.O. Box 613, San Ramon, CA 94583; 888/524-2662; E-mail: books@ammachi.org;
Web Site: http://www.ammachi.org)

"Autobiography of a Yogi"
by Paramahansa Yogananda
(Also available in audio cassette, read by Ben Kingsley.
Both available from Self Realization Fellowship at 323/342-0247)

"Scientific Healing Affirmations"
by Paramahansa Yogananda

"Women of Power and Grace"

by Timothy Conway Ph.D.

"4 Blood Types, 4 Diets – Eat Right for your Type"
by Dr. Peter J. D’Adamo with Catherine Whitney

"The Illuminated Rumi"
translations and commentary
by Coleman Barks, illuminations by Michael Green

"India Unveiled"
by Robert Arnett

"Fit for Life"
by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond

"Stupid White Men and Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Union"
by Michael Moore

"A People's History of the United States"
by Howard Zinn

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gary becker's art

My response to the February 28th 60 Minutes spot about people with ALS

This segment got my feathers ruffled for a few reasons.

  • They kept emphasizing that ALS is always fatal. Bullshit! I have a tape of a woman named Evy McDonald who had ALS and was preparing to die. She changed her attitude and now she is totally free of any symptoms. The amazing David Atkinson had ALS pretty severe and now he doesn't. You can read his story. Find out about his book in my Recommended Books section. Also, I have been living very productively ten years after being given the so-called death sentence. Think of how many "healthy living people" have died in the last ten years, while I have made two CD's, written a few articles, and somehow make the coolest people like to be around me.
  • Each person loses different things. I am blessed, even though my head doesn't really move, that my face still has some good expressions and a big shit-eating grin. I saw some people in a hospice who looked very good and had lots of movement. I definitely don't blame them and it is probably not so bad. But I don't think this has to be. Maybe if doctors and news reporters didn't give them a death sentence without the other alternatives that have stopped and even reversed so many ALS cases, they would have some fire and hope. I also understand that many people just don't have enough manpower to do it at home. Where are the friends, volunteers and community?
  • I definitely don't think that guy who had Kavorkian kill him "wimped out" at all. I have so many loving people around me constantly and I totally believe I can be healed, and I love life, but sometimes even I wonder if it is worth it. Maybe the people who "wimped out" are the doctors who admittedly have no answers who didn't tell him about therapies like the wet cell that could have stopped ALS before it took most of his movement, strength and will.
  • All of these people with ALS were wonderful, but in just fifteen minutes all I could think was "oh get real." Even though these people and I aren't lying when we say ALS has made us better people, we would all jump at the chance to be healthy again. At least that's what I think. I can picture people, even myself, saying, "who are you kidding?" Not moving and talking sucks. You have to get to know the person before you can understand them and not just think they sound and look ridiculous, and three minutes ain't enough.

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JASON BECKER Tearsheet Gallery