Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Up here on the mountain, our growing cycle is always about a month behind...

Up here on the mountain, our growing cycle is always about a month behind the rest of the Hudson valley. The tomatoes are still green, the sunflowers are only waist-high and the raspberries are on the perfect verge of being overly ripe. In a way I feel like it's still August, or even July, because aren't tomatoes a July thing? 

But every once in a while I see a swath of bright orange leaves decorating a distant tree, or I hear the plunk of an apple falling to the ground and it hits me that it truly is September. The bittersweet month. 

Even though I'm supposed to be practicing non-attachment, I sure am attached to summer, because most of the things I love occur in summer: sunshine, warmth, songbirds, flowers, butterflies, green grass, thriving wildlife, trashy books, music festivals, etc etc. 

But the good news is that everything that ends begins again and everything that begins ends and the one constant thing within us all is eternal and beautiful.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

An infrequent and brief album update from the writer who never has time to write...

This week we're getting ready to mix the one track on my album that hasn't quite come together the way "I" had envisioned it. This is a traditional "Govinda Hare/Gopale Hare" kirtan song that we recorded in honor of Shyamdas. (The song and its unusual instrumentation basically came to me in a dream, fully formed, the day after Shyamdas died). All this time I have really clung to that dream-version of the song, and all this time I have been singing the song to Shyamdas, but it still wasn't coming together. Several weeks ago I actually prayed to Shyamdas for guidance and the next day, out of the blue, a good friend wrote to me saying that she really wanted me to meet a good friend of hers--a fellow Buddhist practitioner named Susan Ryan. I knew who Susan is of course--she is Shyamdas's sister--and we have met at various events, but we hadn't really spoken at length up to that point (which is mainly a product of my own shyness at large events). Long story short, Susan and I connected by phone a week or so after that and we spoke about how much we love Shyamdas. Then another message came to me in a dream to re-record the chant like a true love song (to the Divine) rather than in the big way I had initially envisioned it. So that is what we are doing today. I am grateful for all the guidance I have received on this project--from both visible and invisible sources. JSK!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Reason #517 to love Woodstock, NY

Ah, country life.

This morning, on my daily post-meditation walk past Karma Triyana Dharmachakra monastery, I happened to run into a young bear who was just about to cross the road to get back to the state forest. This bear seems to be a regular at KTD, especially after the pujas when the food offerings are brought outside. Anyway, I'm so used to bears at this point in the season that I didn't even pause when I found myself a few feet from this one. "Hello, Torma Bear," I said casually, taking out my ear buds in case he had anything to say. "Be careful crossing the road.There are a lot of cars out today." 

I swear the bear looked both ways and gave me a nod as if to say, "I'm cool."

Then we both went our separate ways: he into the forest, me down the hill.

Oh, how I love summer!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

I attended an event today at which all the "mothers" were given roses. I wasn't offered a rose, because I didn't bear any children in this lifetime. It was actually rather awkward, and for a moment I almost cried, but I kept silent. Because the truth is: we're all mothers, whether we've delivered actual human babies or not. Later, I went to volunteer at the animal shelter, and did energy work on a literal bucketful of sick kittens. They were all entwined in impossible ways--some of them resting, some of them playing. The rascal of the litter kept biting his sister's ears, but she was too tired to care. As I did the energy work on the kitties, eight pairs of tiny eyes watched me with utmost trust and curiosity, mewing in that tiny, heart-piercing way kittens have. My heart responded with compassion and care, and I thought: this, too, is motherhood. So is watering a plant. Or picking up a stray bit of trash on the hiking trail. Or saying "thank you" to the wind. Any act of caring is a manifestation of motherhood. So to all you "childless" friends I say: even though no one is giving you roses, the wind says "thank you" right back. Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

There is so much magnificence near the ocean

At this time of year, when I make the transition from sunny Florida back to the Hudson Valley and the Catskill Mountains, I usually go through a period of petulance--or withdrawal, I guess--in which I find myself missing the ocean very much. (Plus, it's darn cold up here on Mead Mountain Road!) But in my daily practice and study I am always encountering the word ocean: oceans of qualities, oceans of merit. I was recently reminded that Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche said my music echoed a line of verse in an aspiration prayer, because it carries "oceans of tones of melodic speech."  And my own refuge name is "Dharma Ocean of Compassion." So I am remembering that we all carry the ocean within us.  Which is a wonderful thing to remember.

The act of missing, of yearning, can often lead to these bright moments of rediscovery: that we are all connected, that separation does not exist. 

As the poet Kabir says, there is so much magnificence near the ocean....
Enjoy this track by Deva Premal and Miten.

Photo: my favorite beach at Hobe Sound

Friday, March 27, 2015

My interview with author MELISSA HOLBROOK PIERSON in Bark magazine!

It was such a pleasure to interview fellow author, dog-lover, and dear friend Melissa Holbrook Pierson about her forthcoming book THE SECRET HISTORY KINDNESS: LEARNING FROM HOW DOGS LEARN (Norton: April 2015) for Bark Magazine. Melissa is a beautiful writer, a consummate journalist, and one of the most interesting and provocative thinkers I know. Her new book is a must-read! Check out this profile--and more--in the latest print edition of Bark.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I’m having many moments of nostalgia as I think about album cover designs for my forthcoming album of mantra music, "Beyond the Beyond."  I come from one of those large Catholic conglomerate families, with six older siblings and step-siblings. One of my sweet step-brothers was so seemingly “old” when our families first merged I was awed and delighted to learn he had actually gone to Woodstock! Anyway, this “old” step-brother had the coolest collection of rock and roll albums the young me had ever seen.  I’ll never forget how blown away I was not only by the music (it explains why I am still such a huge fan of 70s rock) but by the cover art. I remember the curious and slightly scary surrealism of the Pink Floyd covers. Or the intricate and fascinating revolving collage of Led Zeppelin III. Or that zipper on the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers"!?!  Talk about brilliant art! 

Recently, a friend of mine advised me that when I think about cover art design for my forthcoming CD, I have to keep in mind the thumbnail factor. Most people, my friend said, won’t see anything but that thumbnail. So keep it simple and bold. 

On the one hand, simple and bold is easy. It kind of takes the pressure off to create an intricate collage (and spend the reported $50K that the old Hipgnosis covers used to cost). But it makes me a little sad that another opportunity for great art has been lost through technology.

So who wants to see a zipper on their kirtan CD, huh?   

To those youngsters who haven’t heard of the late, great Storm Thorgerson and/or Hipgnosis Designs, I encourage you to get their art books or visit.  Be prepared for your mind to BEND!
#hipgnosis  #stormthorgerson #beyondthebeyond #pinkfloyd