becoming woman

   ©   duy huynh

 © duy huynh


It’s almost New Year’s. That means I’m reflecting a lot on the past year and trying my best to do so with as much compassion and self-acceptance as possible. You know what I’m realizing? That this is the year I became a woman. That may sound really cliché, so please let me explain.

This year I broke through some very old patterns—patterns I picked up in childhood, or maybe even before that in another life. One of those patterns was hiding. Although it may sound strange, hiding was always how I defended myself from the world. No, I didn’t disappear under the covers, but energetically I did everything possible to be invisible. Like most people, I didn’t want to be judged or disliked, but it was more than that; I didn’t want to be seen. Actually, I did want to be seen, but being seen felt scary, so I turned the flame of my heart down to an imperceptible flicker and hoped that no one would notice it.

By the time I was 30, I couldn’t hide anymore; it was just too painful. But since I didn’t know how to be uninhibited in my own company, I went into seclusion. While living in the little cabin that is still my home, I explored my creative yearnings for the very first time since childhood. It was frightening to call that wild energy back, but when I did everything changed.

My album came out last January and in March I performed live for the first time. Sitting in the fire before 40 yogis and yoginis, I honestly thought I might die from self-consciousness and fear. But once I dropped inside that sacred place in the center of my being, something happened: All of my stories and neuroses disappeared and there was nothing left but music. It was amazing. My hard shell of self-protection vanished and I became as vast as the sky.

Revealing my vulnerable heart in front of complete strangers was almost too much for my system to handle, however, and later that night I got really ill—so ill that the owner of the yoga center in Atlanta had to drive me back to my hotel in the middle of dinner. Somehow I made it into the huge, king-size bed in the dark with all of my clothes on and tried to fall asleep, but it didn’t work; I ended up vomiting all over the clean, white comforter. Just when it felt like nothing more could possibly come out, I found myself gripped by another violent wave. Once the entire bed was drenched, I ran to the bathroom. As I sat on the floor with my head by the toilet, it seemed clear that this wasn’t just a case of food poisoning or the flu; this was a purification. Something ancient in my gut was being expelled and I had no choice but to let it move through.

When I got home, I called a friend who is a gifted healer. He scanned my energy and said, “You broke through some deep patterns in your maternal lineage—that’s what the vomiting was about.” I thought about my mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, and how all of them found different ways to smother their light. They passed those patterns on to me, and I took them on unknowingly in the form of subtle behaviors and beliefs.

Like precious heirlooms, we all inherit pain from our family, and perhaps from other lifetimes, too. These deep-rooted samskaras, as they’re called in Sanskrit, can feel impossible to break through, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck with them forever. I really believe that life wants us to be free because life loves the truth. Our patterns are like masks we hide behind, but it’s inevitable that those masks will fall away because we’re all destined to discover our original face.

Over the past year I’ve started to see my patterns more clearly, and the light of awareness has helped them shift, however slowly. Now when I get caught up in my habitual tendencies and feel like hiding from the world, I understand that it’s the child inside who feels scared. That child gets lost in her emotions and can’t see beyond them. She wants someone to make things better, and blames the world for how she feels. But the woman in me knows another way, and this year she taught me that becoming a woman is a journey without end. After all, what is a woman but the feminine mystery in form? What is a woman but the shining expression of shakti?

To me, a woman is someone who owns her stuff—dark and light—and knows how to hold it all with tenderness. She doesn’t turn away from fear, but embraces it. Though painful at times, her sensitivity is the most beautiful quality in existence. Sometimes she feels strong, and sometimes she doesn’t; either way, it’s okay. She yearns for truth even when it slices her heart, and understands that life only wants to open her to more of her true self. When she feels ugly, ignored, and small, she knows that there is radiance underneath, powered by an intelligence that is far beyond the mind.

Sure, she has stories about herself that may be false, but she works to witness them. Unlike the girl who gets lost in a narrative, she goes inside the story then moves beyond it. She gets that this world is an illusion held together by the beautiful yarn of spirit, but she doesn’t deny the beauty that is here. Giving love is her nature; receiving love is her edge. Though on the surface she may appear soft, in her core she is stronger than a diamond. Of course she forgets this, but there are plenty of opportunities to remember. She is brave enough to meet pain and pleasure fully, without closing down. It’s not always easy, but who said it would be?

Once in awhile she feels desperate for something that has no name. The feeling can be hard, but when she really surrenders, a door opens to the infinite. She knows she doesn’t need a man to be happy (if she’s straight!), yet she still longs for him because the fire burns her awake. At times she feels full from the inside and that fullness spills out of her in the form of light. She wants to give that light to someone resonant, for she knows there is nothing more sacred. When love is shared in deep communion, it blesses the whole wide-open world.

A woman’s heart is full of rain clouds, always shedding tears for the suffering it sees. She carries a weapon called compassion, though sometimes she forgets to wield it on herself. The wilderness lives inside her body, and so does a ferocious lover who is hungry to be claimed—maybe by a man, maybe by the wind and stars. She’s not afraid of her yearning; rather, she dives into it. Like the moon, sometimes her light circulates in secret; other times it radiates everywhere.

Now and then she messes up, but mistakes are a perfect part of the path; she knows that what matters most is recognizing them and being humble enough to say sorry. When life knocks her down, she feels the earth. Maybe she weeps, but then she plants her anger in the soil and rises up reborn. She values kindness and tries her best to forgive. Usually, it doesn’t happen all at once, but that doesn’t matter. She stopped trying to “fix” her ego long ago; now she lets life fix her in its own, invisible way. Now she allows her heart to ripen effortlessly, without force.

This is the path I am walking, sweet blog reader—it’s so new, yet so familiar at once. Even though I still feel like a scared little child, I know there’s so much more. Who can say how transformation happens, how patterns shift, how love looks out through our eyes? Who can say how wholeness is born out of brokenness? These are things I am contemplating on the brink of 2012.

Yes, 2012—my new lover who helps me to begin again—I open to you, with all of your mystery yet to be revealed. I want to trust you. I want to blossom in you. I want to love in you. Now, in this moment, in this life— this precious, fleeting life—I want to know the light of my being and rest at ease in That. I want to keep untying the knots that make me feel separate and small. I’m ready for you. Please come and ravish me ever-more deeply into my true nature.

me: untangling the threads


A few weeks ago I spent a fortune repairing my car—the head gaskets were leaking. As you might imagine, I was more than a little irritated that a paycheck’s worth of money vanished in one credit card swipe, but something beautiful happened on the way home: When I looked out the back windshield, it was covered with hearts! The sweet mechanic had drawn them all over my car, which pretty much erased any memory of the bill; it also made me think about marrying him for a split second, but that second faded very fast.

Anyway, that night I went to sleep with the prayer that it wouldn’t rain so as not to ruin my windshield art, but the gods had other plans. I awoke to a thick grey sky and lots of raindrops, and by mid-morning the hearts were no more. This depressed me a little and it set the stage for a very sad day: A few hours later I learned that a friend—well, an acquaintance, but a meaningful one—took his own life. We had crossed paths many times over the years as we shared the same spiritual teacher and friends.

This young, 37-year-old guy was so beautiful—just filled with light. He was a gifted percussionist and kirtan leader, and an all-around bright soul. His suicide shocked me because he always appeared so happy and openhearted, but something else was obviously happening beneath the surface.

His death made me wonder: Do we ever really know what’s going on with other people? In our Facebook world it’s all too easy to be fooled by appearances. Instead of looking deeply, we often take people at face value and then paint a picture of them in our mind with the thick acrylic of our wrong perceptions. But people, like life, are fluid and changeable, and putting each other into little cubbyholes does nothing but give us a false sense of control.

Truly, what do we know? Maybe the rude woman who cuts us off in traffic is on her way to see a dying friend in the hospital. Maybe the holy guy in the white robe can’t stop fantasizing about the brothel across town. And maybe the woman who appears so happy in the arms of her lover really wants to give her heart to someone else. It’s easy to see what we want about people, and not necessarily what’s there.

A few months ago I sent an email to a friend whom I hadn’t spoken with in some time. She wrote back: “Life is really hard right now, but I don’t want to put a damper on things because I know you’re doing really well.”

What?? I had no clue what she was talking about, so I probed a little further. “Well,” she said, “I saw on Facebook that you’re doing all of these things with your music and writing and stuff, so you must be happy.”


Suddenly it hit me: Social media makes it so easy for us to make assumptions about each other. Sure, I publish articles and compose music, but that doesn’t mean I’m floating in a cloud of rainbow bliss. So what if my face is on the cover of a CD? I’m still a human being subject to all range of feelings and emotions... and lord knows the reason I sing is to unburden my heart, not to get on the shelf of some new age bookstore.

It turns out that the things so many of us use to measure happiness actually aren’t good indicators of happiness at all. That’s because happiness has very little to do with external circumstances, as every single spiritual teaching tells us. But oh, how easily we are fooled! Even though we may know that nothing is what it appears to be, sometimes we don’t really know it. “Wait, what do you mean you’re getting divorced? You seemed so happy.” Seem being the operative word.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to believe that other people have “perfect” lives? Just a few days ago I was talking to a woman whom I met while waiting for a ride at the airport. She was telling me about her sweet life in Vermont where she lives with her darling husband and kids, eats organic food from her cafe, and makes art. It seemed idyllic. But as we got to talking she said, “I don’t know, it just seems like everyone else has their shit together and my life is such a mess.” I laughed because that’s how I feel so much of the time. Ah, the grand illusion!

Fortunately, I’m starting to realize that no one has it all together. No one. I’m not even sure what it means to “have it all together” anyway, but I’m pretty certain it’s impossible. Why? Because the “me” that wants to keep everything together doesn’t actually exist—at least not the way we imagine. As we inquire into our “self” through practices like meditation, little by little it becomes clear that our solid identity is just a contraction. Like an orange, when we separate the pieces there’s nothing there.

One of my professors in graduate school, Reggie Ray, used to say that meditation is like an MRI of the ego. I absolutely love that. MRIs are super sensitive—I learned that the hard way when I had to have my breasts scanned, as mentioned in an earlier blog. The sonogram didn’t see anything and neither did the mammogram, but, ah, the MRI—it showed everything. Yep. Meditation is the same. If we simply turn our gaze inwards for a few moments, all of this stuff comes onto the screen of awareness—stuff we don’t usually see. Whatever we try to hide, deny, suppress, and ignore just rises to the surface and says, “My love, you can either pretend I don’t exist or acknowledge my presence and face the music.”

What music, you ask? Oh, the beautiful music of our habitual patterns: the way we cling with all of our might to the small self; the way we push love away or lie to ourselves and others as a form of self-protection; the way we stay in situations that feel untrue because we’re scared to let go. It’s endless... and it’s all there.

For much of my life I tried so hard to be a “good” girl. I don’t even know what that means anymore, but basically I just wanted to do the “right” thing. But when I cannonballed into the ocean of spiritual life, everything turned upside down. Suddenly I felt so awful, like this huge burden was weighing on me—the burden of me, myself, and I. Since I had no idea how to bear witness to my ego with compassion back then, I suffered a lot.

One time while visiting my boyfriend after a retreat, I burst into tears at the kitchen table. “I’m a terrible person!” I cried.

“Carrie, what are you talking about?” he soothed me. “You’re a beautiful person.” But I didn’t feel beautiful, not even a little bit.

“No!” I wailed. “I’m selfish and jealous and angry, and I just think about myself all the time.” The poor guy wondered where his girlfriend went—the woman who used to read books about mindfulness, compassion, and hugging trees. In her place was a crazy person who could not stop sobbing about being a self-centered mess.

It was during this time that the intimate connection between spiritual practice and psychological work became clear to me. As I scanned my inner landscape, so many old wounds called out for attention. There were layers of shame, fear, resentment, anger, and doubt that felt overwhelming and ancient; they gushed from my depths like magma and melted my good girl persona in the blink of an eye. I saw my superficial self—the one I tried so hard to uphold for the world—and it felt like such a sham. There was no denying it: All of the things that frightened me about other people, all of the things I couldn’t stand, existed in me, too. Absolutely everything was there: dark and light, holy and horrible, kind and cruel; it hurt, and sometimes it still does.

This “unloading of the unconscious,” as Father Thomas Keating refers to it, is par for the course in spiritual life. After all, how can we go from darkness to light without first becoming aware of the darkness? How can we free ourselves from suffering if we don’t realize that we’re suffering in the first place? We need to look with kindness at the tangled knot we call “me” and embrace all of the threads, even if they’re kinked and frayed.

Ultimately this is my work: Surrendering to what I am instead of struggling to be what I’m not. It’s hard sometimes, but that’s where chanting comes in. When my mind is on fire, I just sit down and sing... and burn... and sing... and burn. Somewhere along the way my heart begins to open and all of my stories disappear into that vast expanse. I’m convinced this happens because, when I chant, every part of me has a seat at the table of love. If there’s pain, I don’t push it away; rather, I move towards it. I feel it. And then, on a good day, I throw it to the universe and let it go.

In the Buddhist tradition the scriptures speak about basic goodness, also known as bodhicitta. This profound teaching says that everyone—everyone—possesses the seeds of Buddhahood, even if those seeds are invisible to the eye. Isn’t that beautiful? Though it’s not always easy to see, somewhere in my depths I know it’s real—my basic goodness, and everyone else’s. Yeah, somewhere in my depths I know that we all desperately want to drop our self-obsession and wake up. It's intrinsic, don't you think?

Nighty night.



I’m not quite sure how to put this, but I feel completely broken today. Do you ever have those days? They’re not very fun. I just feel like I keep screwing up and making a fool of myself. No matter what I do to try and remedy things, it seems like the whole world can see through my defenses, right into the very center of my tender heart. I feel like I keep making mistakes all over the place and acting awful. I feel awkward, out of sorts, self-critical, and hard around the edges. Oh well—it happens sometimes.

I remember when I was learning how to ride a bike without training wheels. After pedaling around a little cul-de-sac with my Dad, he took me to this big hill. For the first few seconds all was well... until I lost control. Although I knew how to use the brakes, my feet wouldn’t do what they were supposed to and I ended up flat on my face in someone’s gravel driveway. I’ve felt a bit like that the last few days. Even though I know what I “should” do, for some reason I can’t seem to do it. Instead, I keep saying the wrong things and acting in ways that I really don’t like. It’s at times like these that my spiritual foundation is really tested because I have two choices: Loathe myself or love myself.

Honestly, once in awhile I wish I had never encountered spiritual teachings. Okay, that’s a huge exaggeration—and quite possibly one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever said—but sometimes the gap between who I want to be and who I am seems so immense. I wonder: Why can’t I just be selfless, surrendered, unshakeable, loving, and full of perfect equanimity? Why can’t I just white out all of my imperfections or wave a magic wand and turn my insecurities into happy flowers? There only seems to be one answer to that question: Because I’m human.

Yes, human... That means I don’t always get it right (is there a “right”?), and sometimes I feel sad, pathetic, desperate, humiliated, and raw. It means my heart shuts down and my clothes get wrinkled. It means that sometimes I feel like the universe is out to get me when really my mind is just reading things upside down and wondering why they don’t make sense. As Rabindranath Tagore said, “We read the world wrong and say that it deceives us.”

So what can we do when all of our efforts seem to turn up empty? What can we do when our deeply ingrained patterns won’t shift, no matter how hard we try? Although some silent part of us knows that an alchemical process is at work, it’s not always easy to rest in that. Personally, I forget. I forget often. I forget that I have a link with love, that I am love. I forget that my imperfections are what make me beautiful and real.

When this happens, I have to remind myself: Girl, let go. Just let go and offer everything into the cosmic fire that is raging inside your heart. Sometimes that really is the only choice. We have to offer it all: the pain, fear, loss, sadness, anger, hardness, non-forgiveness. Here, universe, you take it!

I find it always comes back to the same thing: acceptance, acceptance, acceptance. Simple acceptance of what and who I am right here, right now. I may never be “better”—at least this body-mind-cluster-of-conditioning. I may never be “done” trudging through the muck of it all. So what to do but bless the mess, witness the play without judgment, and love myself to smithereens?

It’s raining. I’m making pumpkin pie without the crust (I guess that makes it pudding). The clouds are thick and my heart is longing... for itself.

More and more I’m starting to see that, when I really come home to ‘what is’ and settle into the moment, an ease and lightness arises. Everything feels manageable—or rather, the unmanageability of life feels okay; I don’t need to fix it. Life simply is, messy and tousled like my hair in the morning.

Exhale, baby. Exhale.

i. am. grateful.


Gratitude. I’ve come to see that there’s only one problem with it: Once the feeling starts, it just takes over... everything. Have you noticed that? As soon as I spend one minute focusing on what’s going right in my world, a hundred more wonderful things come into view. Then it’s like a full-on forest fire of appreciation. I particularly notice this at the end of my kirtans when I thank the host and other musicians. First, I look around and see all of the beautiful people in the room and feel so grateful for them. Then, I notice the other musicians who have taken their time to play with me and I feel even more grateful. After that it’s all downhill... I start to see how everything in the entire universe has conspired to help me, and I just want to dance around or bow down and bawl my eyes out.

One of the things I’m beginning to recognize is how dramatically different my life feels when I regularly cultivate gratitude. No matter how much things suck, there’s always something to be grateful for. If you’re reading this blog, you probably have food, clothes, and a place to live. You probably have a body, too, and I bet your body is doing lots of things you think nothing about—like digesting food, firing neurons, and killing germs. What an amazing miracle.

Right now I’m going to tell you what I feel grateful for today:

The meadow where I took a walk this evening as the sky was getting dark and the almost-full moon was resting over October Mountain. It was so beautiful I cried.

Skype. I’m really grateful for Skype. Last night I got to chat with my beloved friend in Australia and this morning I got to talk with another dear friend in India.

Pancakes for dinner. I’m a pretty bad pancake flipper, though. Oh well. I’ll blame it on the frying pan!

My harmonium. I sang for a good while this evening after working on the computer for much of the day—it brought me right back to the here and now.

Disappointment. I know that may sound strange, but sometimes disappointment really forces me to look inside and see where I give my power away or behave in ways that feel untrue. Something that I wanted to happen today didn’t happen, and in the end it was a very positive thing. I got to sit in my discomfort, notice the grasping energy inside, feel all itchy and uneasy for a little while, and then move on.

My parents. I think they’re bodhisattvas.

Red, pink, and orange. I really gravitate towards those colors. I honestly never thought I would ever like pink, but it turns out that I do. It has to be a certain shade, though—more in the rose family. Mmm, beautiful.

Water, sunlight, paper, electricity, endless cups of tea, olive oil, the loving grocery clerk, clouds, and courage.

My beloved body—for doing all that it does without my attention.

Home Depot. I had to buy an extension cord for my PA system and that was the closest place to go. Walking down the aisles I realized that—if I really set my mind to it—I could probably install a ceiling fan or kitchen sink. I might swear a lot in the process, but it would feel very gratifying in the end.

You—for reading this. Thanks so much for taking the time.

I am blessed.

bright moon, blessed life

   ©  susan seddon boulet

 © susan seddon boulet

I just learned about the Mosuo people of southwest China. They live close to the Tibetan border high up in the Himalayas and are considered to be a matrilineal society. While some accounts say that political power rests in the hands of men, women rule in all other areas—including the bedroom. It turns out that in Mosuo culture there are no “conventional” partnerships. Sexual relations are kept completely separate from family matters and only unfold in the secret silence of the night. If a woman wishes to be with a man, she invites him to her “flower room”. Depending on her desire, he either stays the night or sleeps nearby, but every rendezvous ends at sunrise. Even if couples reunite the very next evening, they part as if for good each morning. In this way, the relationships live and breathe in the present moment. Lovers never live together or share property, and the messy politics of a shared household, childrearing, work, and everything else stay out of the sacred sphere of their loving.

But that's not all: Mosuo women are permitted to have as many lovers as they like. Most of the time, though—from what my limited research has revealed—they tend to keep the same partner for many years, perhaps even for an entire lifetime. Although complete promiscuity is permitted, women often choose one man to go deep with in the moonlight hours. I find this beautiful.

Here in the West, many people have trouble relaxing into committed relationships. Affairs are increasingly common and some folks avoid commitment altogether, lured by the prospect of other fish in the sea. But perhaps that would change if more of us loved each other fiercely and fully in the moment, aware that our time together is truly precious. Perhaps we would love without limits—not just in our intimate relations, but in all our relations. After all, awareness of impermanence often brings a razor sharp poignancy to everything and makes it much harder to take each other for granted or love in a half-ass way. Personally, if I knew I only had one night to be with someone I loved... well, I wouldn’t mess around. I would open my heart as wide as possible and hold nothing back.

Unfortunately, sometimes I do hold back... not just in my relationships, but in life. Reflecting on the Mosuo has made me think a whole lot about this. I don’t ever want to take my life for granted; I really don’t. It’s so easy to get amnesia about this rare and blessed incarnation, which is why the Buddhist teachings speak so much about “precious human birth”. When we remember that our lives come with an unknown expiration date, we invite the beloved to our flower room right away!

Last November I was in Michigan on a three-day retreat with my teacher Amma. It was just after Thanksgiving and my album was due to arrive from the printer ten days later. To put it lightly, I was completely freaked out. I had never released something so personal into the world, and the thought of sharing my voice in such a vulnerable way made me want to hide under a banana leaf on a remote island or curl up in the fetal position for many hours.

While rationally I knew that there was absolutely nothing to fear, the idea of people seeing and hearing my raw heart made me tremble. For most of my life (well, teenage-hood on), I was absolutely terrified to reveal my authentic self. Actually, I had no clue who my authentic self was because I always tried to smother her with spiritual platitudes. As you might imagine, that approach didn’t work very well, though it was a great formula for a miserable existence.

Anyway, as soon as I arrived at the retreat, a tidal wave of worry swept over me. Every time I went for darshan (a blessing, which Amma gives in the form of a hug), tears soaked my face. I just wanted the fear to go away so I could move on with my life, but it felt like this insurmountable emotion that was very, very old.... like lifetimes old, if you believe in that sort of thing. Basically, for a woman who spent nearly two decades trying to hide, making an album was absurdly out of character. That’s what I loved about it, and that’s what made me cringe.

In my terror I started to concoct all sorts of horror stories about what might happen, like getting arrested by the rishi police for pronouncing Vedic chants incorrectly. Exasperated, I shared all of this with a friend. He touched my arm and said, “Carrie, have you thought about therapy?” Um, yes—I had thought about it, but I really wasn’t in the mood. After so many years of analyzing myself to shreds, I wanted to try a different approach: surrender. Without thinking, I began to repeat the same prayer over and over: “God, you crazy mystery, please take my fears away. Please, take them away!” Somehow I forgot that sincere prayers are often answered... just not always the way I expect.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” the gynecologist said as she scribbled a prescription for a breast sonogram. It was three days after the retreat and I was at the doctor for my annual exam. “I’d rather you get things checked just to be sure, that’s all.”

Let me say, when the gynecologist feels a lump in your breast, it’s not a particularly happy occasion. I walked out of the office with my heart racing and ran to the Indian restaurant where my dear friend and I had planned to meet after my appointment. As things go in this strange universe, it happened to be the anniversary of her breast cancer diagnosis, which she found out about three years before, at age 29. Obviously I wondered if that meant something, but tried my best not to indulge in nightmares. Instead, I mushed some saag paneer around with a fork and took two bites of rice. Then, I walked over to Chelsea Market in the freezing cold and called the radiology office while resting my elbows on a huge wheel of cheese. Miraculously, they agreed to squeeze me in the next day.

The sky was pewter when I got out of the subway and walked two blocks to the doctor’s office. Once there, I waited for an hour, then had an ultrasound. “Well,” the radiologist said, “I’m almost sure everything is fine, but I’d like to get a better look.” I suddenly felt ill. “I’d like you to have an MRI.”

That was it; every ounce of composure I ever had vanished. “An MRI?” I sobbed as she handed me a box of tissues. “I’m scared to go in that machine!” Yes, my three year-old was alive and well. For some unknown reason, I had always been petrified of MRIs; in fact, the thought of going into one of those high-tech contraptions scared me like nothing else. But what choice did I have?

For 45 minutes I tried to utilize every relaxation technique I knew, but that stressed me out more because I couldn’t decide which one to use. Finally I stopped trying so hard and started chanting a mantra with great intensity. At that point only one thing comforted me: After the magnetic resonance ride was over, I wouldn’t have to go on one again, at least not anytime soon.

Ah, life. Later that day I got the results. “Something actually showed up that we’d like to biopsy, so please schedule another MRI.”

Everything started to look fuzzy. I didn’t know what was happening, but the most intense, primal fear I had ever felt rose up from the depths of my unconscious and swallowed me in one gulp. This went on for four days, during which time I watched almost every satsang on YouTube and stared at the wall. No matter how hard I tried to rest in the present moment, I simply couldn’t do it for longer than five minutes. Honestly, I felt like such a failure—like all of my spiritual training had resulted in nothing. The darkest parts of my mind began to surface and grief choked my heart. I was scared about my health, yes, but even more than that, I was scared about my life.

There’s no question—brushing up against the reality of one’s own death tends to put things into perspective. Why was I so freaked out about releasing an album? So what if I never studied music, sang in front of people, learned how to write a chord chart, or set up a PA system? What did that have to do with anything? Suddenly all that mattered was the sad realization that I had spent years limiting my light in order to make other people comfortable. Why? Why did I settle for a small and suffocating life when I could fly? Why did I push love away? It made no sense.

When the call came, I was looking out the window at a bare tree branch. “You’re okay,” the doctor said. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.” My mother cried. I crouched down on the kitchen floor and breathed into my broken heart. Glancing around the room, everything looked different: the light, my hands, even the oven. At that moment I knew it was time to follow Rumi’s instruction and “sing like the birds sing, not worrying about who hears or what they think.”

Two days later my CDs arrived—all 1000 of them. The spines were printed upside down, but it really didn’t matter. I spread a bunch of them out on the living room rug with some mailing labels and looked at the woman on the cover. She was a beautiful mystery, unknown even to herself. Like the light of the moon, her music did not belong to her; it reflected something beyond form that she could never name.

The late Indian master Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “The mind creates the abyss, and the heart crosses it.” Does a truer, more beautiful sentence exist? Time and again, the mind gorges itself with fears and the heart responds, “It’s okay, darling. There’s another way.” That way, I’m learning, is love—the willingness to be fully myself and to hold nothing back while I’m here in this holy flower room.

Beloved blog reader, I ask you this: If life was your lover and you only had one night with him (or her), what would you do?

Let’s all contemplate that question and love this world awake.

Of Love

   © billy dodson

 © billy dodson

I have been in love more times than one, thank the Lord. Sometimes it was lasting whether active or not. Sometimes it was all but ephemeral, maybe only an afternoon, but not less real for that. They stay in my mind, these beautiful people, or anyway people beautiful to me, of which there are so many. You, and you, and you, whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe missed. Love, love, love, it was the core of my life, from which, of course, comes the word for the heart. And, oh, have I mentioned that some of them were men and some were women and some—now carry my revelation with you— were trees. Or places. Or music flying above the names of their makers. Or clouds, or the sun which was the first, and the best, the most loyal for certain, who looked so faithfully into my eyes, every morning. So I imagine such love of the world—its fervency, its shining, its innocence and hunger to give of itself—I imagine this is how it began.


At Home in the Abbey (at least for now)


Lately a lot of people have been asking me if I want children. I don’t know why, but the question keeps coming up for no discernable reason. Maybe these lovely folks are trying to figure out why someone in her thirties is living in the boonies all by her lonesome, but whatever the reason, I only have one answer: I don’t know. Having kids is something I take pretty seriously, considering the divorce rate and the fact that the world population is more bloated than my worst premenstrual moment. Also, it’s a bit hard to imagine making a person since I haven’t yet stumbled upon a man I want to make one with.

I’m always completely fascinated by the way two people come together, drawn by the force of mutual attraction. It really is an amazing thing, if you think about how many billions of people there are in this world. While it’s definitely possible to feel attracted to all sorts of folks on a regular basis, I think that thing only comes along once in a blue moon. You know what I mean, right? The thing that makes you say, “Um, I have no idea who you are, but I’d like to hang out with you for the rest of my life.” Past experience has shown me that this particular feeling isn’t always a good indicator of a successful relationship, but still... it’s truly wild when it happens.

Throughout my life, I’ve had a few long-term relationships, interspersed with periods of intense aloneness. It’s been interesting, to say the least. Currently, I’m in one of those “alone” periods, which means I frequently have to come up with good responses when people ask me why I haven’t met someone. These exchanges are quite possibly my least favorite in the whole wide world. Though I know the kind-hearted questioners mean well when they ask why I’m not shacked up with a man—or at least dating one, two, or three—the look on their faces makes it obvious that they feel a wee bit sorry for me.

“I’m taking some space to find my center again,” I tell them.

“Totally,” they nod. “But isn’t it about time?” At this point, I usually put my hair up or take it down to distract the listener, but that rarely works.

“Honestly, I don’t think these things can be forced,” I say. “And for the last few years I’ve been channeling most of my energy into creative projects. When I’m ready, I’m sure the right person will come along.”

Sometimes when I say this sort of thing, the lovely human looks deep into my eyes and sends a ray of compassion into my lonely little soul. The thing is, I’m not lonely—at least not all the time. I enjoy my own company and, if there’s any prerequisite for a good relationship, I think it’s knowing how to be with oneself. That doesn’t mean I don’t wish things were different sometimes—of course I do—but enough life experience has shown me that things change. In other words, my life won’t look this way forever. I’m trying to appreciate the beauty of the way things are now.

I’ve never understood the taboo against being single. When you’re single, sometimes people act like you’re missing something huge. But there are lots of benefits to flying solo, as my partnered friends often remind me. For instance, I can sing as loud as I want in the middle of the night or sprawl out in my bed without harming anyone. It’s nice. Plus, I’ve learned a lot from being on my own—like how to use a power drill (sort of), make a killer fire in my wood stove (after a few tries), and eat a pan of brownies all by myself (I’m really good at that).

At the same time, I have to admit that every so often—when I’m feeling kind of down or insecure—I start to believe that life would be way better if I had a partner. You know, someone to bake muffins for or share the depths of my soul with on a very regular basis—like, every five to ten minutes. This sweet pipe dream comes up really strongly sometimes, but it never lasts very long. Sooner or later, life reminds me that, relationship or not, true happiness ultimately has to come from within. Dang it! Must I always be reminded of that spiritual truth? “Yes, darling,” life says, “genuine, lasting contentment can’t be found in people or things.” That doesn’t mean I need to stay in a nunnery for the rest of my life, of course, but it is a good reality check.

To be honest, I’ve found that being alone from time to time serves me in very meaningful ways. For one, it helps me see where I feel empty or somehow insufficient, and gives me a chance to love those parts of myself, instead of cover them up with another person. It’s quite easy to use a friend or lover to avoid uncomfortable feelings, but that only goes so far. At the end of the day, we still have to face ourselves. I love what one of my professors in graduate school, a wonderful dharma teacher named Reggie Ray, said about this: “As long as we look at others as potential escape routes for our own loneliness, intimacy is not possible.” How true is that?

More and more, I feel that healthy relationships create space for two people to look at their habitual patterns with love. But how can we do this sacred work with each other if we can’t do it with ourselves? Obviously this isn’t the easiest thing on earth, but it is possible, and we don’t have to wait until we hit the sack with someone for that process to begin. As cliché as it is, we do need to love and accept ourselves—at least a little—before we can expect to genuinely love someone else. And let’s face it, if we don’t feel worthy of love, anyone who tries to love us won’t get very far.

My spiritual teacher, Amma, often says that worldly love is like two beggars begging from each other. Neither person has anything to offer, but each is trying to get something from the other. I love that image because it’s so absurd and, sadly, so common. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve looked to other people to confirm, appreciate, and value me, when I haven’t been able to do that for myself. It drives me crazy, but after years of noticing that oh-so-human tendency, I feel a bit more relaxed when it happens. After all, what’s wrong with wanting love? We all want love, even if we use different methods to get it. There’s something kind of innocent about running after someone and screaming, “Love me!” at the top of our lungs (well, when no one’s around). Though it may feel a bit pathetic, it’s a natural desire. If we could only turn that longing in on itself and run towards our own heart with those very same words, we might discover that—whoa!—we are love; we don’t need to get it from anyone.

These are the kinds of things I think about when I don’t have a man to elbow in the middle of the night. Actually, these are the kinds of things I think about even when I do have a man to elbow. But something about the groundless space of singledom makes the inquiry a bit more intense. That’s probably because when we’re not in a relationship, we don’t have anyone to project our stuff onto—good or bad. We don’t have anyone to blame for our problems, or anyone to grab onto for a sense of worth and approval. Sure, we can still get that from friends, family, food, pets, and a plethora of other things, but it’s not quite the same.

This is one of the reasons I consider the time between relationships to be so very sacred. If we really use the time—whether nine months or 19 years— to become full from the inside, we have a much better chance of attracting a truly resonant partner. I’m convinced that this kind of resonance can’t be maneuvered or manipulated; it can only arise out of openness and authenticity. While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making crazy long checklists documenting all the things we desire in a significant other, I’m not sure how helpful that is, ultimately. Don’t we all desire a magical, nonsensical connection with someone? Whatever that connection is, God knows it can’t be explained—not in a checklist or anywhere else—so why not just relax and surrender to the mystery? This is what I tell myself anyway, especially when it seems like the only calls I get are from the convent.

There’s a spiritual teacher whom I like quite a bit these days named Mooji. He said something so perfect about intimate relationship in a satsang I watched recently. He said, plain and simple, “Don’t go into a relationship in a disadvantaged position. Don’t go desperate; nobody wants anybody desperate. It’s such a turnoff!” And, man, is that true. I won’t lie—sometimes I do feel desperate—but what I’m really desperate for is my own wholeness, my own light. It’s a little funny to feel desperate for something that I already am, but that seems to be the paradox of the human journey: We’re all seeking something that we already are.

Fortunately, we each have the opportunity to discover this truth, partnered or not. And this is really what I’m learning—that there’s no need to wait for external circumstances to change before opening in love. Whether we are in the arms of our lover or of life itself, the sky inside is endless. I’m ever grateful for that.

Ode To a Night Flower


It’s summer in the Berkshires, and a beautiful one—wet with rain, quiet blossoms, and bird songs. I love the changing seasons. Here in the Berks I live in a cabin that is pure magic—filled with skylights and wooden beams, little lights, and hanging stars. The space is so special sometimes I just look around and smile. Then I remember that, yes, it’s beautiful, but it’s also in the middle of nowhere. This thought often propels me to pack my car and move far away, but as I stand in the driveway and look at the house with all of its loveliness, I always walk right back in and make a cup of tea.

While it's true some might not consider this the "real" boondocks, for a woman who spent the first 13 years of her life in New York City, it's a far cry from urban life. Sure, there are more gas stations than one might find on a stretch of highway in Mongolia, but it's not exactly hopping. Most of the artists, yogis, retired folks, farmhands, and outcasts are tucked away in their little cocoons, raking leaves, eating muffins, and doing whatever they do.

Still, this has been my creative nook for the last two years—the nook where I first wrote a song and, most importantly, found my voice. In the silence of winter with nothing but crackling fires to keep me company, I dove inside. Much to my amazement, something came out—it sort of sounded like a song, but I wasn’t sure. After all, I had no background in music. Yes, I had a harmonium, which I bought from some guy on Craigslist, but I didn’t really know how to play it. I just held two notes to create a drone and one day a melody emerged out of nowhere.

This didn’t happen in some romantic cloud, however. It happened because I felt totally lost and didn’t know what to do but sing my heart out. I had just arrived in the Berkshires from Colorado, and things weren’t going the way I hoped they would. No matter how hard I tried to find a job, nothing worked out. By the first week of January when most of the shops had closed for the season and immense icicles decorated the landscape, I hit bottom. It was freezing, there was nowhere to go, and I was completely, agonizingly alone—at least it felt that way. Every day I had to face my own mind and there was nothing around to distract me except falling snow.

Whenever I didn’t know what to do, I sat down at the harmonium and attempted to sing. For the most part, I cried and cursed—which didn’t sound all that bad accompanied by chords—and somehow, over time, my pitiful sounds of frustration and longing began to morph into something musical. It was a huge surprise. Without mulling it over much, I decided to record the spontaneous creations since I was already playing around in the studio. The end result was my album, Soma-Bandhu.

Now that the album has been out for about six months, I’ve had some time to reflect on the experience. In all honesty, I still find the whole thing rather shocking. Out of everything I ever imagined doing, making an album was never up for consideration. Why would it be? I didn’t play an instrument or compose a melody until I was 31; that was only two years ago. Yes, I studied piano in elementary school, but my music reading ability was about as good as my Aramaic.

Also, I never thought of myself as particularly creative. It always seemed that creativity was something that belonged to those “special” people, whoever they were. In my early twenties I spent five years in relationship with a singer-songwriter whose creative process evoked immense insecurity in me. At that time, I felt utterly lost and in the dark about what to do with my life. Whenever people seemed to know their heart’s work—my boyfriend or anyone else—a typhoon of uncomfortable emotions swept through me.

I tried hard to become a part of other people’s trips—to define myself through them—but that sure as hell didn’t work. I also tried to will away my desire for an inspiring vocation, but that didn’t fly either. After losing my non-profit job due to lack of funds, I took a position at an independent bookstore. The work was monotonous, but I began to eat books like pretzels—devouring them, at least one per day. This lasted a good year or so before I closed shop on my life and escaped to India for five months. It seemed the only option for a lost soul like me was to screw everything and become a nun, but soon after arriving at the ashram, I realized that, nun or not, I would still have to deal with my fears and desires. Darn.

Still, I threw myself into ashram life with wild abandon, which essentially meant sobbing on the temple roof every single day, napping near the clotheslines while my once-white punjabis dried in the sun, and making French fries in the cafe. Yes, making French fries, which involved submerging sliced potatoes in a huge fryer filled with dirty oil, an unexpected ashram job.

After that very powerful half-year came to a close, I headed home with absolutely no more clarity than before. Everywhere I turned, someone fired the question at me: “So what are you going to do now?”

“Run far away from you!” I thought. But my time in India had taught me that there was absolutely nowhere to go. Alas, I became a little potato in the dirty fryer of my mind, searching everywhere for some direction.

Two months later, I moved to Upstate New York and worked as an administrative serf at a retreat center for one year, becoming far too intimate with spreadsheets. It was obvious that this was not the right profession, so I headed to Divinity school with the hope that reading about enlightened beings might rub off on me a little bit.

Unfortunately, as soon as I arrived in bone-dry Boulder, everything turned inside out. Heavy clouds smothered my heart from deep inside and a dark cloak descended over my life. It all started with fatigue, which evolved into absolute exhaustion. For months I tried to heal with the help of herbal potions, soul retrievals, journaling, prayer, and every other modality known to humankind, but nothing worked—as far as I could tell. After seeing almost 30 doctors and healers, no one had any answers. Even my acupuncturist broke up with me because he didn’t know what to do. Leaving his office, I pulled off the road and bawled my eyes out next to a herd of concerned cows.

Eventually, extreme exhaustion led to depression and everything started to fall apart. For the first time ever, I found no comfort in spiritual books—my whole being was burning, that was all. Sure, I had read about dark nights of the soul—periods of feeling alone and abandoned by God—but whoever coined the term “dark night” was very misleading; my dark night went on for years. People asked incessantly, “What’s the problem?” But I had no answer; in fact, I didn’t know who the hell “I” was anymore.

During this time, I bought a beautiful Indian drone instrument called a tamboura from one of my professors. Holding it in my lap, I rested my head against the long, wooden neck and strummed the resonant strings for hours every night. In the beginning I was too shy to sing, but little by little my self-consciousness faded into the sweet mountain air. As I expressed my feelings through sound and offered my intense longing and desperation back to the universe, the contraction of fear deep inside me let go.

After finishing graduate school, I went back to the east coast for a visit. While spending time in the Berkshires, an apartment ad caught my eye. Without thinking, I drove over to the little house, took one look around, and signed the lease. Two weeks later, my tamboura and I drove from Colorado to Massachusetts without a damn clue what would happen. Thus began my healing hibernation.

Reflecting on this wild journey, only one thing comes to mind: I know nothing. And, honestly, what do any of us know? It’s so easy to judge things based on appearances, but there is almost always a deeper process at work. It is often when we are in the darkest depths that an invisible intelligence plants seeds of light inside our heart. Though imperceptible, these seeds take root in the soul and begin to germinate, fertilized by the rich soil of our pain. Little by little—as we surrender to the process—our sacred seeds blossom into a field of stars.

The Sanskrit word Soma-Bandhu means “Friend of the Moon,” but it is also the name for a white water lily that blooms at night. Unfolding her petals when no one can see, the flower that opens under dark skies offers a special magic. Hers is a quiet beauty, born out of rest and letting go. As the sun rises, her true light is revealed, shaped and sculpted with great skill by the secret hand of love.



Understand, I'll slip quietly away from the noisy crowd
when I see the pale stars rising, blooming, over the oaks.

I'll pursue solitary pathways through the pale twilit meadows,
with only this one dream:
You come too.


Inside the Secret Cup


When I started meditating many years ago, every time I sat down and closed my eyes, I burst into tears; it seemed like a problem. Other people appeared so damn peaceful when they meditated—eyelids gently closed, hands folded nicely in their laps. What was wrong with me? My crazy mind was on fire with thoughts and all I wanted to do was let out a long, piercing shriek. Still, every morning and evening I plopped myself in front of my altar and tried again. Without fail, as soon as I began to scan my inner terrain, the tears made their way out of hiding and demanded my attention. Dammit! Wasn’t I supposed to be a happy little Buddha? Wasn’t meditation supposed to make me feel peaceful and loving towards every speck of dust in the universe? If so, something was wrong because that definitely wasn’t happening. Instead, my experience on the cushion was complete torture. I spent most of the time berating myself for being such a miserable meditator, and the rest of the time worrying about what to do with my life.

One evening, after a very hard day at work, I begrudgingly sat down on my cushion. After lighting a few candles, I closed my eyes. Again, the intense emotion pressed against my chest, but before I could bolt, the tears began to flow. This time, instead of running away or resisting the pain, I surrendered. The grief felt unbearable, but there was no turning back—every ounce of sadness I had ever suppressed was in my face, or at least it felt that way. I wept for everything: lost love, resentment, loneliness, fear. It was all right there, and it hurt.

This sob fest went on for a really long time—so long I wondered if my eyes would ever be dry again. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, something shifted: My mind relaxed into a deep space of effortless meditation. No matter how hard I tried to dig up painful thoughts and feelings, I couldn’t find any. Everything was quiet and, for the first time in ages, the world felt soft again.

Sometimes, the more we resist something, the larger it looms. This is particularly true when it comes to painful emotions, which perpetually ebb and flow in the ocean of consciousness. When we turn within, these painful emotions often rise to the surface of our awareness in order to be released. The problem is, as soon as we sense such uncomfortable feelings, we often run away or distract ourselves... but that’s hardly a surprise. After all, how many of us want to look our pain right in the eye?

Unfortunately (or fortunately), that’s what spiritual practice asks us to do. Whether we choose silent meditation, chanting, yoga, or prayer, attentiveness strips us down. Such practices expose our strategies of self-protection and reveal all of the places we are stuck or insincere. This often feels like shit, but ultimately it is the willingness to be real with our experience that truly sets us on the path. As we look with love at our self-contraction, it begins to unravel in the most natural way. Like a dark cloud that releases its rain to the earth, our tears purify us.

In the bhakti tradition, or the yogic path of love, it is said that we don’t have to abandon our emotions; rather we can channel them in a higher direction. This means that when we feel sad, we don’t have to will that sadness away with platitudes. Instead, we can ride each wave of emotion back to the source of our pain—the sense of separation from our own heart. Rumi articulates this truth in the most beautiful way: “The grief you cry out from / draws you toward union. / Your pure sadness / that wants help / is the secret cup.” Yes, it is.

Though we may not like it, grief can be a gateway to enlightenment if we embrace it without turning away. So can confusion, disappointment, envy, joy, and everything in between. All we need is an attitude of acceptance—a willingness to meet ourselves completely, knowing that who we really are is beyond any thought or emotion. We don’t have to fear our habits of closure because, in truth, they are portals to great openness. As we step towards them, we awaken the tenderness deep within and tumble into silence.

Live From Lee-La Land


Lee-La Land. “What’s that?” you ask. According to Hindu philosophy, leela (sometimes written lila) is a Sanskrit word for “divine play”—this wild play of life that unfolds on the timeless stage of the universe. In Lee-La Land, each of us is here in a particular body for a finite amount of time. Some days, this bodily existence is bliss. Other days, it’s brutal. But whether we experience sweetness or shit, beneath the choppy surface of our life drama, our true nature remains untouched by pleasure and pain—so says spiritual wisdom. We simply need to realize the truth behind these words and move from conceptual knowing to embodied experience. Fortunately, that is what Lee-La Land is all about: It’s a grand adventure to discover, or remember, who we are.

Most of my life I’ve had an insatiable ache for something I could never name. As a teenager I was certain there had to be more to life, and figured if anyone knew what it was, it had to be the mystics from around the world. I wanted to know how Rumi wrote profound poems, each one a delicacy that wet my eyes. I was desperate to understand how Teresa of Avila experienced the ecstasy of Divine union, and the Baal Shem Tov saw the entire universe as a manifestation of God. I longed to break bread with Jesus, stroll in the forest with Buddha, and enjoy some mountain tea with Lao Tzu. Call me crazy and irreverent, but I aspired to hang out with these fine folks and discover just what it was that made their hearts blossom with love and their bodies’ shine with light.

This deep yearning for my own mystery ignited a wild fire in my heart. Right away I started to devour spiritual literature, plumb the depths of my psyche, and sob for no reason whatsoever. The self-help section of every bookstore became my second home. I took refuge in music, practiced meditation, and wrote love poems for a man I had never met. Often, I stared up at the sky. Some moments were full of awe; other moments the vastness was just too vast and I ran inside to eat a bowl of cereal.

More than anything I wanted to be happy, but happiness felt so far away. No matter how much I read, studied, practiced, contemplated, and cried, I continued to find myself on the merry-go-round of suffering with all of my habitual patterns, negative emotions, and worries intact. It didn’t help that I approached my spiritual life the same way I approached everything else: with aggression, impatience, fear, and doubt. C’mon, wake up! I screamed to my heart. You’re not compassionate enough! You’re not selfless enough! You haven’t practiced enough! In no time, my mind transformed spiritual teachings into arrows, which I pointed at myself.

Very quickly it became clear that waking up wasn’t going to be easy. Whenever I looked within, hoping to find an ocean of peace and bliss, I found dirt and cobwebs instead. Frankly, it sucked. I wanted love, compassion, enlightenment—you know, the simple things—but I kept running head first into my ego. No one ever told me spiritual life would necessitate diving into my shadow in order to find my light, and I was less than thrilled about the situation.

Eventually, after galloping through life like a metaphysical maniac for so many years, I woke up one day completely exhausted. I mean really exhausted. This wasn’t the kind of exhaustion that a good night’s sleep could cure. This was the kind of exhaustion that had me in bed for over two years, with nothing but my crazy mind to keep me company. Suddenly I had no energy to be a super devotee, diligent meditator, or passionate seeker. My holy woman project crumbled. All I could do was sleep, sob, and—rarely—surrender.

It was during this incredibly challenging time that I took an honest look at myself and really did not like what I saw. In my fervent quest for “enlightenment,” I had cast certain parts of myself aside. Imagining I could somehow transcend my ego without first becoming a whole person, my life was way out of balance. Still, I didn’t know how to make a change. The only option was to sit in the very center of the fire and admit that I knew nothing.

As things go, of course, this delightful dismemberment turned out to be an invaluable experience. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, I began to explore the edges of my authentic self and reclaim the discarded pieces of my being. Grief, loneliness, desire, fear, insecurity, desperation—all were invited to the table. I had no choice, really. Exhaustion made it impossible to hold things together. It was as if life took the tightly wound ball of yarn that was my “self,” grabbed the loose string, and threw it into the sky. My concepts unraveled, and the weathered rope that once tethered my boat to shore came undone. Terrified, I drifted out to sea with only my raw heart to guide the way.

In many religious traditions there is a notion that we must cast off our small selves in order to truly commune with the great mystery. Certainly this makes sense, for it is not easy to feel the divine presence if we are full up with our own self-importance; we need to empty ourselves of ego so that something new may emerge. At the same time, if spiritual teachings are used as a means of bypassing the totality of our human experience, in a sense we are not living up to their full potential and purpose.

One of the things I’ve always loved about the great saints and sages is the way that they embody their humanity completely. They don’t say, “To be enlightened you must discard your human life.” Not at all! Rather, so many of them delight in simple pleasures such as drinking a cup of tea, watching the clouds, smiling at the flowers, sharing affection, and singing songs. Their lives are the true scriptures, and so are ours. As we contemplate the fine print of our experience and approach the messiness of life with reverence and curiosity, we find countless diamonds of self-knowledge beneath the storyline.

I offer this blog in honor of the sacred human journey. May my little slice of Lee-La-Land inspire you to study the holy book of your own unique and precious life.


   ©  ingrid chavez

 © ingrid chavez

In the Hindu tradition, it is common practice to invoke blessings at the beginning of any venture. Traditionally, Ganesh (the elephant-headed remover of obstacles) and Saraswati (goddess of learning and the arts) are called upon for their guidance and grace. I, too, would like to ask these beloved deities to shine their light on this blog—my newest creative endeavor.

Divine friends, please transform this blog into a ray of beauty for the world. Please inspire me to share words that touch people’s hearts, not just take up space in the blogosphere. And please forgive any grammatical errors—I’m human, which means I’ll probably mess up once in awhile.

If anything beautiful comes through in my writing, it’s only because I’ve somehow managed to get out of my own way for a moment. Just to let you know, I like those moments a lot. If you feel like giving me more, I won’t complain.

Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi.

hear me chant a Sanskrit invocation to Ganesh and Saraswati...