I don’t know what possessed me to buy a motorcycle. Maybe it was the fact that I was nineteen and didn’t know what else to do with myself. I rode the motorbike, but never felt confident on it, especially on the freeway.
On the Fourth of July 1975, I set out with a couple of friends on a motorcycle trip to somewhere. They were together on one bike; I was riding alone. We took off down the freeway, and soon we were going much faster than I had ever gone before. They were riding ahead of me and I had to keep up.
There was a dip in the road, and a sharp turn with a sign: “Speed Limit 55 MPH.” I was going way over that. The speedometer was pushing eighty. My handlebars started to shake. I didn’t have the skill to deal with what was happening.
I wasn’t wearing a helmet or any special gear, just jeans and a light jacket. I remember sliding backwards off the motorcycle, going very fast as if I had been shot out of a cannon. The next thing I knew I was standing in the middle of the freeway, watching the traffic whiz around me. The bike was a little distance away, lying sideways on the road.
My friends saw what had happened and circled back to get me. I was stunned and had some pretty nasty road burns, but otherwise I was unhurt. No concussion or internal injuries, and no broken bones.
I wouldn’t get back on that bike, though, not for anything in the world. I never really rode it again after that. It started up fine, and my friend rode it home. A truck driver who stopped to help gave me a ride.
Back then I had barely started to make my way in life, and I guess God decided my time to leave this world had not yet come.
Life began in earnest for me about five years later when I read Autobiography of a Yogi for the first time. I wanted to know more about everything in that book. I understood that Yogananda had founded an organization called Self-Realization Fellowship, but I missed entirely the part about the lessons they send out that could teach me what I wanted to know. So I went to the phone book and looked up “yoga.”
This was around 1980, and there wasn’t a yoga studio on every corner the way there is now. I found an address in San Francisco, just across the Bay from where I lived. I wasn’t that familiar with the city and made a common tourist mistake, going to Seventh Street instead of Seventh Avenue. The Avenues are a quiet residential area. The Streets at that time were something else entirely: mostly a warehouse district, with some unsavory sections you wouldn’t want to visit at night.
Fortunately, it was the middle of the day. Somehow the numbers were close enough that, even though I wondered whether I was in the right place, I kept on walking, searching for the yoga place I’d seen in the telephone directory.
It was all warehouses and almost no one else was on the street. I did pass one guy sitting in a stairwell reading some papers. After wandering awhile longer without finding what I was looking for, I went back to speak to him.
When I got close I saw printed on the paper he was reading, “Self-Realization Fellowship Lessons.” This extraordinary meeting was as much a miracle for that man as it was for me. He was struggling to learn more about Yogananda’s teachings; I didn’t know where to start. He told me about the lessons, which got me going on the right path. He took our meeting as a sign from Master that despite his own difficulties, he should persevere.