Wednesday, December 7, 2016

99 cent sale! REX AND THE CITY on sale for the 2016 Holiday Season

My humble memoir "REX AND THE CITY" is on sale for 99 cents now through 1/2/17! Thanks for supporting the artists...your support helps me help dogs!

"Hands-down the best human-with-dog memoir you will ever read!" —THE BARK MAGAZINE

Just in time for the holidays! Get Lee Harrington, Author's REX AND THE CITY for only $.99 in eBook for a limited time!

Get your copy here:

#barkmagazine #rexandthecity #diversionbooks #bestdogbooks #dogoir #bestdogoir #holidaybookdeals #holidaybooksale #bestholidaybooks #bestholidaygifts #doggifts #holidaydoggifts #doglover #dogloverbooks #dogbooks #bookdeals #kindledailydeals #99centebooks #ebookspecials #publishersweeklyreview #booklist #libraryjournal #newyorktimesbooks #citydog #newyorkcitydog #englishsetter #springerspaniel #frenchspaniel

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Post Election Stress Syndrome

Today I am contemplating the image of the 1000-Armed Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion. He has 1000 arms to better serve all the millions and millions of suffering beings. 

I didn't stay up to watch the election results (I couldn't) but all night long I could feel the pain of millions of other people and feel it even more so now: Confusion. Fear. Shock. Betrayal. (The challenges of an empathic life are that you feel EVERYTHING). I'm reminded more than ever that we are still in the Kali Yuga--the "degenerate" age. Those of us who are lightworkers and truth-tellers and earth-protectors and heart-openers and consciousness-raisers and wisdom seekers and dharma teachers and Christ Consciousness-raisers and Way walkers, yogis, Khalsas, mystics, sages, animal rescuers....this list goes on...those of us who are somewhat awakened simply have more work to do, starting now, to help others awaken.

I keep staring at the 1000-Armed Chenrezig: look at what he holds in his hands: lotus flowers, musical instruments, malas. It's clear that most people in this country believe we need guns, walls, hatred and Otherness to protect themselves from their own fears. But let's continue to create a new kind of super-hero, which is actually a very ancient one. Let's just keep loving everyone, serving everyone. We have many Great Ones on our side. We are the sparks of the great flame. Keep igniting! 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Farewell, Thom Jones

I woke up this morning thinking intensely of my friend Thom Jones (and the other night I actually dreamed I was writing like him) so after I made my tea, I sat at the computer, intending to write to him because I hadn’t heard from him in a while.  That’s when I discovered—via his Facebook page, of all places—that he died on Friday 10/14.  I was travelling all weekend and not was not online much to check emails or Facebook. So my first reaction on learning that he’d died was shock—that such a driving force of goodness and intelligence could just disappear (although, given that both Thom and I believe in reincarnation, we know that his mind/soul lives on and will delight us again in some other form); then there is the guilt that so many months have passed without my reaching out to check in; then there is the sorrow that life is indeed very short and very impermanent.

Thom and I met through my role as an editor at various literary magazines in New York City and also through our mutual friend Alice Turner, who died two years ago.  Thom and I shared a love of books (but not so much of having to write them), a love of dogs (which should be listed first), and complicated brain chemistries and life histories that left us both prone to intense depressions. And thus prone to be writers.  He was, in so many ways, my de facto psychopharmacologist (back in the days when I took meds) and my de facto shrink. A number of times, especially during the “get me off this planet” years, he probably saved my life. His humor was one of a kind. Truly.  You’d have to read his stories to know what I mean.  There was no writer like Thom Jones and this is why still, to this day, zillions of aspiring writers try to write like Thom Jones. But miss the mark. Because you can’t be authentic by trying to imitate someone else.  

Thom’s world view encompassed so much—light and dark, good and evil, truth; always Truth. Thom saw and described the world as only a depressive, genius, and sometimes off-kilter person can: as both beautiful and terrible. Poignant and banal; supremely intelligent and idiotic. Thom understood and accepted that such dichotomies exist. That you can’t have one without the other.  (We had many conversations about duality). And that, in the end, Beauty always wins. So it’s no wonder that Thom was one of the first authors to write—full force, no-holds-barred—about manic depression and AS a manic depressive. And certainly to first to make it all seem comic. And therefore bearable. And temporary.

Those of you who read authors’ acknowledgements page (and most writer and editors read it first, before reading the book) know that Thom broke ground in his acknowledgements page by thanking a Big Pharm company—I think it was Eli Lilly?—for providing him the opportunity and the sanity to write (I should find that page and quote it properly, but I am away from my books right now).  Before then, not everyone was willing to admit they struggled with psychological issues and/or that they took medications to cope.  Both the struggle and the ways in which one attempted to cure such struggles were considered shameful things. Dark. Scary.  Thom helped take that shame away.  And I know he became a willing confidante, cheerleader, uncle, friend, mentor and counselor to many a young writer struggling with the “curse of a creative mind.” His simple kindness and total lack of judgment has helped many, many people I am sure.

I also had the honor and pleasure of editing Thom, which gave me a cherished window into his creative process. Structurally, his first drafts were often a delightful mess, but one could always see the genius and energy behind his words. (As an editor, I have an inexplicable ability to take messes and make sense of them--inexplicable because I don’t seem to have that skill when it comes to my own life). Plus, in Thom’s early drafts, there was always an irrefutable through-line, and that though line was pretty much, as stated above: life is painfully comic and/or comically painful, but beauty and love always prevail.  Other editors/readers might see a different through-line, but that is also the genius of Thom’s work. It operates on so many levels. 

I’ve used Thom’s brilliant—sorry, I meant f*cking brilliant—story “Cold Snap” in all of my creative writing classes since 1998. My strategy is to bring this one out about three weeks into the semester, after we’ve read and discussed a few modern classics and gotten a sense of typical story structure. Then—wham—I offer them Thom Jones and enjoy the pleasure, again and again, of witnessing their reaction, of feeling what they feel, which is basically “you mean I can write as myself, with a voice?”  Invariably, some students will then try to write using Thom’s voice, and, if I’m successful as a teacher, I can help them find their own voice, which sounds cliché, but is the essence of all creative writing.  What I’m trying to say here is that Thom Jones is/was one of those authors who can help an aspiring writer find his/her own voice. His work gets writers excited to write. So read him. And love him. And celebrate him.  He took on a lot of pain in this lifetime and gave back reams of beauty, of life, of wonder.  That’s what a true Artist does. Praise him.

 Thom’s advice to me, during my dark days, was always to 1) write about it and 2) spend more time with dogs. Chloe and Sugar. Chloe and Sugar. Our dogs never met, but they know one each other’s names.

I haven’t gone through my correspondence yet to highlight all the nuggets of advice I’m sure to find in his many emails, and I look forward to reading some of our exchanges about Schopenhauer  (Thom’s favorite philosopher) and Buddhism (my guiding force) but for now I am just going to sit with this feeling of awe and gratitude and wonder, that a man with such an “untamable” and “poisoned” (not my words) mind could put forth so much kindness and generosity and joy and peace.  Those qualities are all the antidotes to poison.  Imagine the amount of energy and essential goodness it took? To transmute one’s own mental poisons into beauty for others to enjoy?   Thank you, Mr. Jones.

Here’s an oft-quoted quote from an interview in the Mississippi Review: “I channeled my obsessive-compulsive behavior into my writing and soon found that if I wrote a lot each and every day, a kind of psychological integration took place within me and a form of peace became available...”

Thank you, Mr. Jones. You were a true Champion in this lifetime. May you now dwell in the purest of Pure Lands.  Om Ami Dewa Hri. 

My heart goes out to his family, including his sweet-faced Boxer-dog Sugar.  

~ photo of Thom Jones by Zhong Juanning‎

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Happiness is....August in May!

Happiness is: feeling the heat of our 80 degree weather at 7:00 am. (It feels like India!) Walking barefoot through the meadow, parting my way through four-foot tall grasses and wildflowers and fragrant phlox. Sitting down for morning meditation on a literal bed of moss. (So soft! I plan to carpet my future house with moss!) Watching pleasure boats carve silent wakes in the river. Listening to the giant and jubilant nation of birds singing. How many species of birds are there in this Hudson Valley meadow? Dozens? Hundreds? And yet they all live harmoniously, letting their individual calls join into one large healing song. A song that wakens something ancient in this human's blood. There is no "Us verses Them." It's all Everything. Listen. Happiness IS!
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Thursday, March 17, 2016

"Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Soha (Beyond the Beyond) is another one of my favorite tracks from BEYOND THE BEYOND: A MANTRA MUSIC EXPERIENCE.

"Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Soha (Beyond the Beyond)" is another one of my favorite tracks from BEYOND THE BEYOND: A MANTRA MUSIC EXPERIENCE. That's why it's the ‪#‎TitleTrack‬. This mantra--known as the Great Supreme Mantra, the Unsurpassed Mantra, the Mantra that Cures All Suffering--brings us to a state of "perfect wisdom" and bliss and contentment. It takes us beyond the mind, beyond the beyond. 

When the music and melodies and harmonies for this mantra first began to percolate in my mind, I realized (to my surprise) that this ancient and revered Buddhist mantra was coming forth as a gospel song. And why the heck not? It's a very celebratory mantra, at least as I feel it.
I am blessed to have yet more amazing vocalists contributing to this track, starting with ‪#‎LamaKarmaThendup‬ of ‪#‎KTDMonastery‬ singing the prelude. The one and only ‪#‎GauraVani‬ takes a solo, sings backup, and set this ship to sail; ‪#‎CaliaMarshall‬ and ‪#‎HelenStyringTocci‬ of ‪#‎KirtanSoulRevival‬ join the gospel choir with ‪#‎KeithFluitt‬, ‪#‎JohnJames‬, ‪#‎ReverendKimLesley‬ and‪#‎RashmiPierce‬. ‪#‎SatyaFranche‬ takes a short solo. The elegant and sublime ‪#‎JohnMcDowell‬ played piano and djembe (and I'll never forget that recording session, in a snowstorm, in sub-zero temperatures in Amherst MA); ‪#‎AnthonyMolina‬ plays bass, organ, tambourine and steered the ship to shore. I played the shaker, thereby earning me a ‪#‎percussion‬ credit. 

Please join us in dedicating the merit of this track, and this album, that all beings be free from suffering and that all beings experience happiness. And that this mantra, in particular, takes everyone beyond the beyond. Thank you!


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Preview of another track ("Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha") from my album "Beyond the Beyond"

Here's a preview of another one of my favorite tracks from my album #BeyondTheBeyondAMantraMusicExperience. This track, "Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha/Homage to the 21 Taras" features Tibetan vocalist #DrukmoGyalDakini singing the Twenty-One Praises to Tara. WIth #SteveGorn on flute, #HansChristian on saranghi, #GauraVani on harmonium (Gaura also orchestrated and assembled the band), #HollyMontgomery and #BenLeinbach on bass (we have six bass tracks on this track!) and #ANthonyMolina on just about everything else, this is an EPIC fourteen minute track that will transport you into the realm and soundscape of Arya Tara, the mother of all the Buddhas.

This song and melody came to me fully formed while I was in the middle of a #GreenTaraRetreat at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra monastery. So I feel the melody carries the essence and blessings of Green Tara herself. May all beings benefit.
#greentaramantra #omtaretuttareturesoha #omtaretuttaretureswaha #homageto21taras #21praisestotara #mantramusic #kirtanmusic #buddhistmantramusic #buddhistchants #contemporarybuddhistmusic

Monday, March 7, 2016

Happy Maha Shivaratri! Here's my track "Om Namah Shivaya/Holder of the Moon

Happy Maha Shivaratri! 
It's a beautiful day to celebrate the union of Shiva/Shakti, the Divine Masculine and the Divine Feminine. It's also a great time to integrate those aspects of ourselves that we think of as "opposites." Think union, not separation. And love everything. And chant Om Namah Shivaya as much as you can during this auspicious time.
Here's track 2 ("Om Namah Shivaya/Holder of the Moon) from my new album BEYOND THE BEYOND: A MANTRA MUSIC EXPERIENCE. 
There's a long story behind the title, and behind the music and melody for this mantra, which you can read in my liner notes. 
This track features an amazing ensemble of maestros in the kirtan world: the incomparable #CCWhite on backing vocals, #StevePostell on electric guitar, #WynneParis and #AnthonyMolina on additional acoustic and electric guitars, (Anthony also plays piano, percussion and more); #HollyMontgomery (my idol) on bass guitar and #AndyHamburger on kit drums (channeling his inner #KeithMoon). The elegant and talented #JohnMCDowell plays Hammond organ and African drums. Internationally reknowned sound healer #PhilippeGarnier sings the intro and plays the Sruti box, crystal bowls, chimes, and overtones. Response chorus includes sweet devis Eileen O'Hare and Cat Guthrie of #Blissing. Produced with my beloved bhakti brothers #GauraVani (who also came up with the great song title and got this big ball rolling) and #AnthonyMolina (who held things together as the ball kept rolling). I love you all!

#spiritvoyage #beyondthebeyond #mantramusic #kirtannewreleases #omnamahshivaya #musicforshivaratri #shivashakti

Saturday, February 27, 2016

My cure for post-India withdrawal and jetlag:

My cure for post-India withdrawal and jetlag: lying in the Florida sunshine, eating ‪#‎HailMerry‬ chocolate tarts (note the plural), reading YA fantasy fiction, studiously avoiding the gargantuan To-Do list, and listening to ‪#‎SinghKaur‬. If I had at at-home steam room, I'd add that to the list as well.


I am back in the land of hot baths...

I am back in the land of hot baths, high-speed internet, Western toilets, paved streets, and silence. While I appreciate that I am no longer at risk of having my long-trailing scarves and kurtahs getting accidently dipped into toilets pits, I miss the noise and the chaos and the mayhem! Last night was the first night in two months in which I was not waken up by amplified music at 12, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6:00 am. There was total silence all night long. My ears are buzzing as my system readjusts...someone told me this would happen (the post-India ringing-ear syndrome). What's that about?


Thursday, February 11, 2016

The amazing women at Amma's ashram

It's Friday morning here in India, and it's a day of goodbyes as most people are leaving the ashram to follow #Ammachi on her South Indian tour. I've met so many amazing people: the kind Monique from Montreal, who follows Mothe Meera; Padma from Michigan (by way of India) who loves Sai Baba; Patrizia from Italy, Uta from the Netherlands, the elegant Mireille from Paris, who looked so much like my Aunt Isabelle I could not stop staring at her. The two people who have struck me the most are 1) Maddie from Montana--who decided at age 79 to leave her life behind and move to India for good, because she had always wanted to and "never got the chance until now." Until NOW! My other superstar inspiration is Winnie from California, who left home at age sixteen, graduated high school at 16 and came to India at 17. This young, brave, nonplussed person has all the makings of a swamini. She has been talking about India since third grade, she says, and furthermore, she recognizes that any problems she may have had at home with her birth family were simply catalysts to get her to India. I rejoice in her has taken some of us years (decades!) to recognize that most life challenges are simply catalysts for growth. And here she is, at age seventeen, accepting her past and willing to accept whatever comes. From Maddie I learned it is never too late to become who you are meant to be; from Winnie I learned it's neer too early either. Rock on, little sister! And rock on, revered grandmother. I love you all.
#keralachronicles #amritarpuri #beyondthebeyond #spiritvoyage #ammachi #ashramanecdotes

Friday, February 5, 2016

My album is featured on SpiritVoyage's Free Music Friday!

Surprise surprise...February 5th is my ‪#‎FreeMusicFriday‬ with ‪#‎SpiritVoyage‬. IPlease enjoy this free download of my track ‪#‎AadGureyNameh‬ from my new album BEYOND THE BEYOND. Based on a melody by ‪#‎YogiBhajan‬ himself, and featuring the response vocals and instrumentation of Renee Finkelstein (Radharani), this mantra will build a strong protective aura around yourself and your environment. Enjoy, beloveds!

Profile of me and BEYOND THE BEYOND on Spirit

I just realized that #SpiritVoyage posted a profile about me and my music a few days ago. I am quite out of my own loop here in India :) They even posted an old picture of me and my dog Chloe, which was a nice surprise. 
 The album drops today! February 5, 2016
You can read the profile here: 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Feeding Your Demons

Minor ashram challenges:
The other day I returned to my hut to find that everything I brought has been invaded by ants—there were thousands of tiny red ants swarming over my clothes, my toiletries, my suitcases (inside and out), my tuning forks, etc. Given that I don’t kill insects, it took many hours to bring everything outside and de-antify each item one by one. The solution, I found, was to give the ants something sweet to eat and bless them on their busy little journeys. It was fascinating to watch the ant armies rapidly change course, racing off my new ‪#‎FabIndia‬ scarf toward the tiny piece of banana I’d offered. This summer, I’ll be taking my first “Feeding Your Demons” workshop with Lama Tsultrim Allione at Tara Mandala. This little exercise in feeding my “invaders” felt like a sample of the larger work to come.

It's been a unique birthday...starting with archana,

It's been a unique birthday...starting with archana, then tea, then sunrise, then some unsettling emails, followed by sitting onstage with Amma and handing prasad to Amma, then lunch, then a quick rehearsal for my song offering at darshan this coming Thursday, then a walk and a blazing sunset, followed by a dharma talk and, finally, some private time at the Kali shrine, where I asked her to help settle what has been unsettled. I know we are all born for "a reason" but sometimes I still have to search for what that reason is. My hope is that my birth has been a gift to this world--not a curse. And so, as I get ready for bed here in India, I return to my Bodhisattva vow:

May I be a guard for all those who are protector-less,
A guide for those who journey on the road,
For those who wish to go across the water,
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.
For all those ailing in the world,
Until their every sickness has been healed,
May I myself become for them
The doctor, nurse, the medicine itself.
~ Shantideva

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Monks playing kit drums in my dreams...

I always have interesting dreams after White Tantric Yoga and the 3HO Winter Solstice retreat. I also usually have interesting dreams around the time of the full moon. This year it was a double whammy, with the full moon occurring just after the solstice. Before I get to the dream: in my waking life I have been a bit worried, off and on, about the intensity of the drums—that would be the full-kit drums—on one of the tracks on my kirtan album‪ #‎BeyondTheBeyond‬, which launches on 2/5/16. The track is “Om Namah Shivaya and the drums, at times, sound a bit Keith Moon. There is a longer story behind that (which will eventually be up on the website), and I should state here that I adore ‪#‎KeithMoon‬ and his frenetic, masterful drumming and the constant fills. But does a Moonie belong on a kirtan CD? That’s what my worry-mind sometimes wonders (until my wiser mind reminds the worry-mind to let things be). So imagine my delight when I dreamed that one of the younger Khenpos at the monastery where I practice was playing a full drum kit during an intense Buddhist puja. He was whaling away on the drums and having a blast, and the puja was as powerful as ever. This confirmed to me something we all know but continually forget. That every sound is sacred as long as the intention is there to make it sacred. I felt that Khenpo was reminding me that the “Om Namah Shivaya” track was blessed. Is blessed. And all is well, well, well. 
‪#‎3HO‬ ‪#‎3HOWinterSolstice‬ ‪#‎WhiteTantricYoga‬ ‪#‎dreams‬ #beyondthebeyond ‪#‎spiritvoyagerecords‬

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Honoring our incarnations....from the Kerala Chronicles

When I started packing for my first trip to India a few weeks ago, I began to think about my spiritual origins.  Even though I was raised as a Catholic, from a very young age I was always yearning for a system of spirituality (and why I use the word "system" I cannot explain) that would make sense to me.  That yearning has led me along many beautiful paths, including the path I walk today, which I call "mostly Buddhist." (In Woodstock we're called Hindu-Bu or BuHindhist). As I was packing for the trip and closing up the Florida cottage, I had to take all the images off my traveling altar and tuck them away. As I took down the images of Christ and Mary, I said to them: "Don't worry. I am not leaving you. I am just going home, to India."

"And how," the Inner Voice of Reason countered, "can 'home' be India if you were born in Massachusetts?"

Clearly, Reason does not believe in reincarnation.  Good thing we don't listen to Reason too much :)

Anyway, I believe in honoring one's incarnation, and this time around I was born into a Catholic family. So be it. When I arrived at our retreat center in Kerala and stepped out of my little cottage on the first morning, I was delighted to notice that I was situated right next to a tiny Catholic church. Here's a picture of it, just over the wall of our compound. The presence of this tiny church, so close by, seems like a beautiful little in-joke between me and my first Teacher: when you honor your incarnation, your incarnation honors you. 
#keralachronicles #@EM_Harrington #beyondthebeyond