For all you folks out there who have ever felt “too sensitive” Nancy Furst has a beautiful perspective on us sensitive types and is able to put into words things I’ve been feeling for awhile but haven’t had the bandwidth or brain power to verbalize. Hang in there my people!
I was already planning to blog about self care for empaths when I heard of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide only days after Kate Spade’s, as well as another person’s husband who had just killed himself. Along with the obvious opioid epidemic and high usage of brain altering prescriptions for everything from sleep assistance to anxiety, I believe there are some other factors contributing to the rise in suicide.
A close friend of Tony Bourdain’s described him on CNN as being a highly sensitive and nurturing person. He was also born in the sign of Cancer, which I often refer to as the empathetic sponge of the universe. (I’m Cancer rising so I know it well!)
In the United States, we have a hostile president intent on stimulating reactive and divisive interactions in our own country and the world. A daily assault on truth has dislodged our moral compass and we now…
Before our Women’s Journey to India started, I shared with Nancy that I felt 2 themes were emerging around this trip, based on the few things I was learning from the participants and our itinerary. The two themes were ‘mother’ and ‘water’. I knew we were going to Mother India and I was curious to see all the ways these themes might express themselves to each one of us. We had chosen to go to places in India that celebrated life, death and rebirth – many of these life/death rituals happened near or in the Ganges river – otherwise known as Mata Ganga (Mother Ganges.)
We landed smack dab in the middle of Durga Puja – a celebration of the Goddess Durga – the mother of the universe, mother of us all. What a “coincidence”! The time of Durga Puja is a holy time celebrated throughout all of India. Sculptures made out of clay are formed in her likeness – a powerful woman with 8 arms – and she is honored for several days with parades and dancing in the streets. In Varanasi, the beautiful statues are decorated and worshipped, the streets are clogged with processions down to the river, and Durga is sent off in boats to the middle of the Ganges to be set free in the river, clay returning back to mud.
Waiting for a boat to take Durga out
When we arrived in Varanasi, the weather was ominous with frothing white caps on the river that was at a record high and rain lashing at our hotel windows, creating puddles of water that soaked anything left on the floor. The scene was all too familiar for those of us from Colorado. We were dismayed to learn that all boat trips were cancelled indefinitely due to dangerous weather conditions. I stared longingly out my hotel window at the river – Mata Ganga – churning wide, brown and swift, wishing to be on it.
The Ganges is considered one of the holiest rivers for Hindus as well as a goddess: Ganga. Unlike other goddesses, she has no destructive or fearsome aspect, accepting all and forgiving all. It is considered an honor to die at the banks of the Ganges if one is a Hindu, and if that is not possible, to be cremated on her banks with the ashes set free in her current. It was my first time to Varanasi and I had come with the special task of releasing some of my dear friend and world traveler Lance’s ashes into the river. What with the late monsoon floods, and rains from the typoon happening to the East, I was dubious if I would get the chance to fulfill this task.
On our last day, we were told that boats could make the trip and we would indeed be able to take our evening ride with a priest (Pujari – one who officiates puja – offerings/ceremony) so that all of us who were releasing ashes (symbolic or otherwise) would be blessed. The current had finally died down enough so that the boat motors could power their way back up the river once they had drifted down to the burning ghats (the place of cremation in Varanasi that is at the water’s edge.) Punam told me later that she had prayed “day and night” to make sure we could have our boat ride and I shared that I had been praying too!
Before I left my room at the hotel, I lit some incense and prayed to be present and open for the ritual I was about to participate in.
In some ways, it felt like the end of my journey with Lance. From holding his hand as he slipped into a morphine sleep, to lying with his body in the wee hours of his death, to painting silks that wrapped around his body while he lay in his casket, to honoring his life at his memorial months later, here I was, in a final moment with him, releasing a baggie of ash and bone in India.
On the boat, a fresh wave of grief hit me and I sobbed in the dark. The women each held my story about Lance and his family in their hearts and gave me the strength to honor my friend.
After my wave of sorrow passed, came a joyful knowing that Lance would have LOVED knowing his ashes were in the Ganges, in a place that had meant so much to he and Nancy. I felt lighter and calm. A nice reminder for me that resistance is really the only thing that causes my suffering.
this is a re-post of something I wrote 2 years ago…still applies
“Where were you on September 11th?” my son asks me at dinner. “I was at the airport in New York waiting to fly home to California.” I reply. “I was with your dad and your sister and you were in my tummy.” He can’t believe it. “You were in New York? At the airport?” he asks with awe and disbelief.
I’ll never forget it. I was impatient to get back to my home after a long summer stay with in-laws, extended by a rare illness I had incurred after getting bitten by a wasp while pregnant. Just after the morning sickness cleared up at 4 months, I was struck with nausea, vomiting, high fever and lethargy. “You will most likely miscarry” my unsympathetic OB told me over the phone. I was in shock. It took weeks and several trips to the hospital and finally an ultra-sound to soothe my fears that this baby, a boy, was healthy and I too was starting to feel human again – now five and a half months pregnant. I couldn’t wait to get back to my life and start nesting!
“What’s the hold up?” I asked the ticket agent at the United counter. “Looks like there are going to be some flight delays” he said, “apparently a plane flew into the twin towers.” Huh? I wasn’t prepared for this information, or any other information that came flooding in over the next 48 hours. Soon after the ticket agent told me to expect delays, the entire airport shut down and we were directed over loud speaker to collect our bags and exit the airport immediately. I remember my daughter (then two) being disappointed we weren’t going on a plane ride and explaining to her that we were going back to Gramma and Poppa’s house.
Life, so precious, felt very tenuous. Back at my in-laws, my husband and I went to the empty playground and pushed Lili in the swing, wondering what would happen next. The skies eerily silent, the neighbors lit candles flickering on their porches.
It would take us another 3 weeks to finally make it back across the country to California. Little did I know that we would be leaving that beloved state just a few short months later to move to Boulder, Colorado after my husband lost his job. My son, a healthy, active 8 pounder, would be born in January on a cold snowy night and my marriage would end less than two years later.
On this 10 year anniversary of September 11, 2001, I am struck by how the planes crashing into the twin towers marked an end of innocence for me – a false sense of security really. Fear came into me in a way that I had not experienced before. Being a mom, I fear some things more than ever. I fear dying and leaving them behind while they’re still young. I fear something terrible happening to either one of them. I honestly don’t know how I could survive it.
Now 12 years later, I hadn’t even registered the date today until I checked Facebook and saw people’s posts remembering this fateful day. I had to check the calendar and see that it is “Patriot Day” today. 9/11. A Facebook “friend” (a friend of a friend) lost her husband on one of the planes that day. They think he may have been one of the heroes that was trying to fight off the hijackers because he was one of the few who wasn’t making a call on his cell. I would call him a Patriot of the highest order My prayers go out to all who lost a loved one that day…and to the entire world, that we may live in peace and that our actions cease to cause suffering. To paraphrase one of my mother’s poems, I wish to wrap my arms around the earth and hold it close. Peace.
Do YOU feel the Yearning….in your Heart & Soul….to CHOOSE something Bigger for YOU?
Join us for this life transforming journey; we will explore some of the most exciting, potent and spiritual places in India. This is a special opportunity to gather together in an intimate group of women. There are 2 spaces left!! Through meditation, yoga, and sharing stories, we will connect and open to the mystery and medicine that is India; a study in contrast of Death and Rebirth, Suffering and Joy. Together, we will find and celebrate the gifts that come from the heart breaking open. Many once-in-a-lifetime experiences await you! Old Delhi, sunrise puja on the Ganges, exploring the Ghats of Varanasi, visiting with Varanasi’s children, classes with Indian yogis, sacred temples and holy sites in Rishikesh, satsang with living saints, honoring our loved ones that have passed, immersing in Mata Ganga for purification – all these are just a few events planned for you!
JOIN Nancy and I on a Conference Call tonight to LEARN MORE about our trip behind the veils.
I have just returned from my three week journey to Kashmir and India. I distinguish the two in deference to my Kashmiri family and friends that hold for an independent state. Hindus and Moslems, Kashmir and India, Family Compounds and a Hamlet….my trip was one of deep contrasts.
As always, I am profoundly and deeply changed by my experience. The themes for this trip emerged as Family and Commitment. As Westerners we experience our families as “Roots and Wings”….a foundation from which to launch into the world…a place that rarely includes more than our immediate members…and our elders are more and more being placed into other’s care. We even have a name for this: Empty Nest Syndrome. Indian and Kashmiri families do not comprehend this Western notion of “family.”
I had the privilege to be accepted into a Moslem family of over 30 members. We slept together, ate together, washed dishes & clothes, peeled vegetables, laughed, teared up, sang and danced together. I witnessed three days of wedding ritual and ceremony on the groom’s side….a contract between two families that binds their ancestory forever. I have never seen such devotion to welcoming a bride into the family. The women opened their arms, sang their ancient songs, and their hearts were unconditional in their love for Subeena….a new sister/aunt/cousin/child….and wife of Tahir.
The landscape of Kashmir is more beautiful than can be described. It is often referred to as “Heaven on Earth.” The mountains are dramatic…..filled with shepherds and gypsies and mosques that call everyone to prayer five times a day. It was stunning as I trekked past the 8th century Naranag temple dedicated to Lord Shiva.
I then traveled to Dharamshala. This is my second visit to McLeod Ganj- the home of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government in exile. Like the Kashmiris….the Tibetans hold for an independent state….and a maintenance of their cultural history. Their commitment to independence is fierce with patience that comes from their loving and compassionate hearts.
I had the honor of being the first American EVER to be invited to live in the hamlet of Daloh…a 2 km walk up a mountain on a “goat trail”….to the home of my good friend, Aju…where there is only a “nature bathroom” and a sleeping mat on a roof to keep cool at night. Dinner is prepared in a separate kitchen over a fire….by three sisters and a mother that work harder than anyone I have ever witnessed. Every day….with no time off….year after year. And yet, at sundown we gather at a simple altar….in the cow field….and chant…calling in Durga, Kali, Saraswati, and Shiva….clapping with joy….the tears rolling down my face in the dark as I feel so privileged to be there under the Indian stars, wisps of incense and manure, shoulder to shoulder with my family….and a heart that is wide open to the offering to the gods and goddesses.
I feel that I am a seasoned India traveler….navigating this vast country filled with 1.2 billion beings. I don’t feel alone or unseen. I feel welcomed into the heart and generosity of it’s people…who have extended their hearts and homes to me….and included me as family. We share stories and secrets….and I depart…knowing that my return is eagerly awaited. They have no idea how eager I am to come home again. Their home. My home. India.
Just working on my video (I call it my virtual business card) that Kirsten Boyer is helping me with. She’s an amazing photographer – you wouldn’t believe what she can do with natural light…wow. And she’s an amazing videographer. Stay tuned. Hopefully next week all will be up and running. Important to me because I want to get the info about the trip to INDIA that’s coming up in October, 2013. Alison Litchfield and I will be co-leading that one. More soon.