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

Monday, March 16, 2015

"A student comes to a Master, Teacher, and Guru with tears in his eyes. There are so many problems, and when he leaves, he is carrying the same tears, but the quality of the tears is different, it is of gratitude. Still tears flow, but those are of gratitude, of love; it is so beautiful to cry in love. One, who has cried even once in love, knows the taste of it, of surrender and of devotion and the entire creation rejoices it. The entire creation is longing for only one thing, the transformed tears, from salty tears to sweet tears."

 ~ Sri Sri Ravi Shankar​

Photo: Amma's lotus feet

Friday, March 13, 2015

Let Yourself Be Silently Drawn By the Strange Pull.....

I'll never forget the first time I read the poems of the Sufi Mystic Jallaladin Rumi. 
Who can? I remember how thousands of infinite possibilities seemed to explode in my young brain--and heart, and soul--when I first read these words:

"Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray."
~ #Rumi, as translated by #ColemanBarks

How wondrous it is that words which were written in the 13th century are still being read and circulated today!  And how delightfully bizarre that these ancient words are now being TWEETED. I wonder sometimes if Rumi knew, at some level, that this would come to pass.  I, for one, am grateful that his pure light messages live on and continue to inspire so many. It really is proof that if you do what you love, and follow all those "strange pulls," your work will be infinite and lasting and true. 

I think of the young me: dog-earing pages of poetry; highlighting inspirational passages in novels and spiritual self-help texts; always, always always searching for greater truth and wisdom.  I think of those books, now lovingly organized and packed in neatly-labeled boxes in an ExtraSpace storage unit. It pains me sometimes, that my books do not get to breathe, or experience dust or sun, or the loving touch of human hands. But that's another topic.  
Right now I'm thinking --oddly--that all that dog-earing and highlighting was somehow laying the ground for a future of Pinterest pins and Tweets.  And I think, mostly, that I have to start relying on the ExtraSpace Storage Unit that is my brain.  All those quotes, all those poems, all that knowledge, everything I have ever read...this all must still be inside me somewhere. So even if my books aren't breathing, I must breathe for them, and for all the authors who have inspired me so.
Rumi would say not to worry. To call the knowledge forth. 

"This is love: to fly toward a secret sky,
to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.
First, to let go of life.
In the end, to take a step without feet;
to regard this world as invisible,
and to disregard what appears to be the self.

Heart, I said, what a gift it has been
to enter this circle of lovers,
to see beyond seeing itself,
to reach and feel within the breast."