A Presence That Has Lasted a Lifetime


by Brad Robinson

I met Rudi on July 4, 1972 at the 14th Street house in Bloomington.  I was supposed to meet him on Memorial Day, but my car developed mechanical problems on my way there from Lafayette, and I couldn’t make the trip (I guess it wasn’t time yet).  My first class was with him.  I received a 5-minute introduction to the practice, and then we went to the side yard, which is where the class was held.  I had studied meditation and Indian religion for several years, but nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience.  When Rudi came out to the yard to teach, he walked down the aisle between people, touching them on the head as he passed by.  The Shakti was very strong, and people were convulsing and falling all around him.  I wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?”  Because the class was in an open part of the yard, there were local residents that were driving by that would slow down to watch what was going on (I can’t imagine what they were thinking).

That was my first experience of Rudi, and he has never left my side since.  That evening, many of us slept in sleeping bags in the living room of the house (which was the meditation room most of the time), but none of us got much sleep.  The energy was too strong.  The next day I spent cleaning oven racks at the bakery (which I would do many time after that – we even rebuilt an entire oven once), and then I had to leave in the afternoon to return home to go to work.  I returned to Bloomington almost every weekend after that, sitting with Swamiji (Swami Chetanananda, whose name at the time was Michael Shoemaker).  I was totally consumed by the energy, and ask Swamiji if I could move to Bloomington.  He said no, but then he surprised me by adding that he would send Steve Ott to Lafayette, and we could start an Ashram there – which we did.

Rudi visited the Lafayette Ashram twice, once in late September 1972 and again around the first of February 1973, a few weeks before he died.  Those were magical visits, and I still have the chair Rudi used during meditation class when he taught there. We set up a talk for Rudi in a ballroom at Purdue University for his second visit and the ballroom was overflowing with people.  I was a radio announcer at the time, and I put together several public service announcements at the radio station where I worked that promoted Rudi’s talk and helped increase attendance.  We ran these often for two weeks prior to his visit.  Rudi’s visit attracted a lot of people to the Lafayette Ashram, and we had around 30 attending class at the Ashram’s peak.

During the summer/fall of 1972 and early winter of 1973, Rudi visited the Midwest often.  Those of us in the Lafayette Ashram would travel to whatever Ashram he was visiting – whether it was Bloomington, Oxford, Cincinnati or Ann Harbor.  During that short period of time, I was lucky enough to be with Rudi often, and when I wasn’t, I would travel to Bloomington to be with Swamiji as much as I could.  The connection I felt being established with Rudi over that period of time has stayed with me for a lifetime.

Shortly after Rudi’s passing, I was fortunate enough to be asked to teach at the Lafayette Ashram, which I continued when we merged the Lafayette and Indianapolis Ashrams in 1974.  After several years, Swamiji consolidated the Ashrams to Cambridge, and around the same time, I received a job offer in Chicago, which I accepted.  While in Chicago, I attended programs periodically at Muktananda’s Ashram where Nityananda’s presence and energy was very strong.  Coincidently, I was there in class on the day Muktananda passed away, and they interrupted the program to give us this news.

My job relocated me to Los Angeles in 1984, and shortly after this, Swamiji began coming to Kristin Kreiger’s house to teach.  I attended these classes and continue to do so when he or anyone from Portland comes to Southern California for classes or programs.  I often attend the intensives in Portland too.

It has been a magical journey (that is not over yet), and I have many close friends from the early 1970’s who are still involved in the practice.  My visits to Portland or visits from people there to LA are always very special times for me because of this.  I will always be grateful to Swamiji for continuing Rudi’s practice, helping all of us stay connected to the practice and expanding it beyond anything we could have imagined in 1972.  I have been very blessed to be with Rudi and Swamiji and to have many dear friends that still continue our practice.

Michelle Valentino