Hey homeboys and girls. Thank you for clicking
this button. As you probably know, I am a guitarist/musician.
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.
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
and other stories about dealing with ALS, as well as more
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
enlightenment. Follow your own heart.
We live thinking
we will never die.
We die thinking we had never lived.
Cut it out.
Life, Music, Disease and Yogananda
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. Most
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.
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.
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,
jazz, blues, rock - whatever I could find. I performed
at school and little coffeehouses from sixth grade on.
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,
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
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".
|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
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,
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
I thought it would go away. (See TEARSHEET
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.
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.
The 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.
My 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
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. This 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
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.
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.
When 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.
While 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
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.
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.
I 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
and best friend Serrana, girlfriend Marilyn, and huge team of
family and friends. The doctor wanted to teach me a lesson for
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
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,
a week, eggs, beans or something cooked. I sometimes even fast
on juice. Since this diet, I have gained over forty pounds. I
doing Kriya Yoga since October, 1997, only in my mind. It is
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.
wonder how I can be happy and excited about life with no movement,
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
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.
has taught me to love and respect saints of all religions. Thanks
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."
I 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
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
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.
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).....
"Amma: Healing the Heart of the World"
Judith Cornell, www.mandala-universe.com
Medicine and Miracles"
by Bernie S. Siegel,
"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: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web Site: http://www.baar.com
Cure for all Diseases"
Hulda Regehr Clark, Ph.D., N.D.
(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: email@example.com;
of a Yogi"
by Paramahansa Yogananda
(Also available in audio cassette, read by Ben Kingsley.
available from Self Realization Fellowship at 323/342-0247)
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
Rumi" translations and commentary
by Coleman Barks, illuminations
by Michael Green
by Robert Arnett
"Fit for Life"
Harvey and Marilyn Diamond
"Stupid White Men and Other Sorry Excuses
State of the Union"
by Michael Moore
"A People's History of the United
by Howard Zinn
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.
her attitude and now she is totally free of any symptoms.
The amazing David Atkinson had ALS pretty severe and now
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.
how many "healthy living people" have died in the last
ten years, while I have made two CD's, written a few articles,
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
you can understand them and not just think they sound and
look ridiculous, and three minutes ain't enough.