Rinka’s Gift

Rinka….The Flower Girl

by Nancy West McGuire

Varanasi, India

February 2008

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It was a birth…that night…lit by the moon…

I had been called here to the banks of the Ganges to be born…some 30 years ago…to a place I had only dreamed of….

Pulsating…energy…excitement….every cell alive…anticipation…joy….alive…and waiting to see…to breathe…on my own…out of the darkness and into the light…..down the narrow canal…that felt like I would never arrive….pushing forward…faster…faster…faster….like the beating of the drums all around me….the thrusting of the hips came faster…quicker…the sound reverberating off the walls that were wrapped around me…pushing, pushing, pushing further and further with only faith and trust to guide me….Rapture…

Smells…people…lights…prayer…joy…sadness…eyes wide open…loud….alive…holy…I had finally arrived…

Overwhelmed…I wept…crying as I was released…from the safety of the womb…into the energy that was electric and alive…and all I could do was cry…as I breathed for the first time…took in all that was there…before my eyes…the color…the air of excitement…the River….

Get on the boat…get on the boat….Confused…I was swept onto the boat…that would take me to a place of perspective…birth and death and rebirth…side by side…naturally…no pretense…raw….

“You must have a flower” she said….”You must”…..as she followed me on to the boat…seemingly, carefully, choosing just the right flower for me…

I got on the boat…and I wept…inconsolably wept…

As I wept…the little girl with the soulful eyes patted the seat next to her on the boat…lit by the full moon…against a backdrop of color, sound, birth, death, spirits rising….as if to say “Come here…rest…sit a spell”….and so I moved to her side…feeling comforted just in her presence….

“Why you crying?”  said the little girl with the big basket of flowers.

“I am crying because I have dreamt of being here…right here for 30 years”  I replied….

The flower girl looked as if she didn’t understand….

I went on….”A dream….I’ve had this dream…for 30 years…and now I’m here…and I can’t believe it…it’s like a really, really big wish.  Have you ever had a dream?” I asked.

“I dream of being a flower girl…here…selling you flowers”

said she with beauty and depth and certainty…

as if she had sat there…

waiting for me…

knowing that I would come…

for 30 years….

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February 2012

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Nancy and Rinka, age 17…married…lives under an umbrella at the Main Ghat…

Join Nancy and me on our Journey to India this October, where we will explore some of the most exciting, potent and spiritual places in India.  Together, we will venture into a world that most Westerners have not seen and meet people that will surely touch your hearts.

This Aint No Dress Rehearsal!

Pure Joy
Pure Joy

This picture makes me happy – I’ve got my sparkly, Free People dress on.  My favorite color is turquoise and my scarf makes me look like I’m flying, and it’s 4th of July (one of my most favorite days*)  and I’m at the beach!

In Santa Cruz!

So I don’t usually use the word ‘aint’ but it just fits.  I was looking through my journal from the past year.  I am noticing that my journal is a much better resource than it used to be.  I am more discerning about what I write.  I write down my dreams and prayers more than the daily minutiae.  It’s satisfying when I see progress (forward movement) on some of my desires.  For example, last year, I hadn’t completed any hospice training and this year, I volunteer for two local hospice organizations.

In a journal entry from last February, 2012, I wrote:  “At Lili’s School of Rock show there was a little girl who was singing the lead in one of the songs.  She seemed wooden and stone faced.  The little girl in me was dying to grab her mic and belt it out.  I wanted to be the rock star!  All my life!  And I heard a voice in my head saying “This isn’t a dress rehearsal.”  And I got it.  I want to LIVE as if THIS is my LIFE and I’m the STAR and we’re rolling film right NOW!  What would look different?”

Ok, it’s a little embarrassing to share my journal, and yes, I did write all of that and use CAPS for emphasis and all those exclamation points!!!  And I do want to qualify that I don’t really want to be a rock star, I just want to star in my own life.  I want to show up and live each day like it’s not a dress rehearsal.  I know that could sound corny…but here’s the thing…

When you are around people who are dying, especially young people in their 40’s who have lovers and young children, and exciting career possibilities, you start to think about life and the impermanence of it.  The preciousness of it.  When Lance died, one of the messages I got was that I never, ever wanted the people in my life to wonder if I loved them.  I wanted to live each day loving my people and letting them know it.  I also want to celebrate life and hold the knowledge that it doesn’t last forever.  I asked myself in my journal “What would look different?” which is a really juicy question to ask oneself.  What would look different?  The things I can think of right now are I would live by the ocean, I would have a BLUE BUS all tricked out to explore the Golden State of California, I would swim with dolphins more, I would travel in a gypsy caravan of women and children all over the world, dancing, singing, drumming, praying, laughing, loving.  What about you?

My Blue Bus...the Blue Pearl
My Blue Bus…the Blue Pearl

*I always spent it with my grandparents in Narrangansett, Rhode Island, at the beach, with no alcoholic parents to mess it up.

Build It and They Will Come

So a couple months ago, I called Kirsten Boyer to see if she would be open to taking a photo of me for a flyer to use on the India trip.  I’d seen her work and thought she does lovely things with light and I was thinking possibly she could take a nice, professional head shot of me.  As we were brainstorming on the phone, Kirsten asked me if I had any interest in making a short informational video for my website – something for people to watch and get a better feel of who I am.   “Oh…like a virtual business card?” I asked.  “Yes!” Kirsten exclaimed.  “Sure, why not?” I answered.  And that’s how a phone call with Kirsten about a head shot for a flyer becomes an entire website with 5 (five!) videos and some of the best pictures I’ve ever seen of myself.

I’ve been wondering what is going to come of this…why a website?  Why now?  The noticing part of me is watching…observing…curious to see what will evolve.  Kirsten was my midwife.  She might be uncomfortable with that title, but I’ve thanked her all along for inching me along, seeing a bigger picture (no pun intended.)

Working with Kirsten is a special experience.  She has an amazing eye – she can take a cloudy day, a clump of weeds and a self-conscious model and get this:

One of the best parts of working together was getting to hang out with Kirsten.  I miss her now that the project is done.  I’m busy cooking up new ideas so we can hang out. Maybe I can carry her camera equipment 🙂

Don’t be fooled by her gentle demeanor.  It’s a tribute to Kirsten’s personality that she is as approachable and mellow as she is, but she knows what she is looking for in a picture and she’ll direct you.  Your best bet is to enjoy the ride and trust her eye.   It was creatively inspiring as well as heart opening to work together.  She modestly claims that we “co-created” this project.  Not so sure that’s how I would describe the long hours we spent with me blanking out in front of the camera and her coaching me to talk about why I’m so great. (aargh)  There were definitely edgy parts for me about being the subject matter of all of this – a website about Me, starring Me, all about Me!  Kirsten was just the right mix of support and heckler; reflecting my gifts and believing in them, and also helping me laugh at myself.

Kirsten put many hours into this project and I think the videos are amazing.  When I die, you can play them at my memorial as a tribute – they’re that good!  When I watch the “Spirit” one, I always cry and I have to remember that I’m still alive.

I really do feel like Kirsten saw a better ‘me’ – and captured it on film.  The Me that I want to be – that I’m striving to be.  She raised the bar and I want to be that person that I see in her photos.  I’m becoming…evolving…into a brighter self.  I am forever grateful that she was part of this unveiling in me.  It feels alchemical.

I wish I could gift everyone I know with a session with Kirsten.  She’ll take photos that will make you feel beautiful, she will put you at ease and you will get to banter with a fine, saucy wit.  I hope there are things in her life that make her feel as beautiful and radiant as she is.

Today, in The Morning Blessings, I read:  Life here is precious, for we are love and light evolving as beauty and joy each and every moment. Today you can begin to feel this divine Selfhood by being who you really are. Each time you look into the mirror, go beyond your personality and see the divinity that is within. Make it a point to see yourself as Spirit in all you think, say and do.

I feel divine

Change, Loss and Radical Forgiveness

First day of Spring today and even though I am looking out on a brown landscape and the air is chill, I can feel the pulse within.  My pale dry skin that covers me isn’t matching my steamy, pressure-cooker insides.  I want something (anything) to happen – NOW!  I see my teenagers’ (yes, plural) restless angst, dying for 8th grade to be OVER already, mirroring my own.  I wish it were summer…wish I were in a car driving West…or in a gyspy caravan on my way to Mother India.  Anywhere but here.  Blah.

Because ‘here’ is feeling a little uncomfortable to tell the truth.  We’ve got one girl wanting to spend more time at our house and one wanting to spend more time at her other parent’s house.  Both girls want to be with their mamas.  There’s something that feels natural and right about this but that doens’t mean there aren’t pangs for everyone – especially the dads.  The girls are growing up.  It happens.  Right before our eyes, these babies we have clothed and fed and loved and band-aided have grown into young women whose needs are communicated more through subtle smoke signals and hormonal energy fields than through direct contact.  These days  I keep a wary eye on my porcupine and wait for invitations to come closer – grateful when they happen.  Yes, I’m mourning the loss of my little girl.  But to be truthful, she’s had one hand on the door knob her whole life.  Guess who that reminds me of?  I’m crazy about that kid.  I know that the next 4 years are going to go by in a blur, I miss her already.

Baby Gilrl on the Go
Baby Gilrl on the Go

A random purchase has turned into a profound learning opportunity for me.  On a whim, I bought “Radical Forgiveness” by Colin Tipping.  The title grabbed me and I was curious. Basically the theory is that each interaction we have with others is created on a soul level for our growth.  Situations that we may experience as hurtful or painful are actually gifts and we can have gratitude for the people that stir this up in us beceause, on a soul level, they have agreed to come in and give us that leg up on the evolutionary ladder.  For example, if I have a belief (fear/story) that people abandon me, then I am going to attract relationships in to my life where people leave me, because on a soul level I am wanting (needing) to heal that wound.   If I can forgive the person that “abandons” me and understand that this is an opportunity for me to heal, the theory is that I won’t attract that in my life anymore, because I have healed that wound or story.  And not just forgive the person either, I need to love that person and be grateful that their soul is willing to show up for me.  Radical, right?

There are some people that it’s easy for me to apply this principle to and there are others that are harder for me, but I’m noticing that and playing with it.  I love the concept and I think it only works if I’m willing to apply it to ALL relationships.  It’s juicy material for sure.

Nature is my Temple

lotusDoor

Recently I sat with somebody who shared that she began her spiritual journey in her 40‘s.  When I heard her say that, I felt confused.  “Wha?” Something didn’t resonate…I couldn’t even put it into words until hours later.  There’s no age or moment I can pinpoint as the start of my spiritual journey – I’ve been on a spiritual path my whole life…as long as I can remember.

As a young girl, sitting in church, I was uncomfortable reciting things like: “we are not worthy to eat the crumbs off thy table.”  We were taught that God was love and that didn’t resonate for me.  It wasn’t adding up for me and I rebelled.  As only a Preacher’s Kid can.  (Actually, I rebelled because I was rebellious and an acting-out kid.)  My dad was pretty cool and new-agey as a Minister of Divine Science – I swear it’s not a cult, but it sure sounded like one.  My mom was, and is, a devout Episcopalian and I reluctantly spent most Sundays of my childhood in church.

I have always had deep respect for earth-based wisdom teachings and was drawn to Native American culture as a teen.  My father lived in New Mexico and  I would spend hours on my own in the museums of Albuquerque studying the history of the different tribes in the Southwest.  My father opened my eyes to the mystical realm, speaking to me of past lives, and third eyes, crown chakras…  He taught me the iChing and how to meditate.  I took it all in, feeling the truth in all of it, even as my mind struggled to make “sense” of it.  I know that my father recognized the seeker in me, just as I see it in my children now.

Later in life, I married my first husband and converted to Judaism.  I was attracted to Jewish culture;  the warmth (and fun!) of holidays celebrated with family, and the food.  Towards the end of our often turbulent marriage, I discovered kirtan – which is a type of call-and-response devotional chanting.  It was then that I discovered the power of mantra – even though I didn’t know or understand the words, through hours (and hours) of listening to kirtan music, the sanskrit words of devotion worked their medicine on me and I began taking my baby-step journey on the path to self-love.  I credit this time in my life as the beginning of consciously opening my heart.   (Always a seeker, but with a very protected heart…until the birth of my children and the discovery of mantra.)

Eventually, I got divorced and left Judaism behind and gravitated more towards Eastern philosophy; aspects of both Buddhism and Hinduism deeply resonated for me.  During my Kundalini Yoga teacher training, I was introduced to Sikhism which spoke to me as well.

Today, I call myself a Mystic.  And a Priestess when I’m not being shy.

All these terms say to me – “There is mystery and potency in the spirit realm and we don’t have to see it, touch it, understand it in order to feel it and know it’s powerful.”  Love is my religion.  Corny but true.  And…spirit belongs to everyone (not just special people who recite special prayers or pay special money to special priests, etc.)  Spirit is.  Spirit is in all of us…I am spirit (love,) you are spirit (love,) we are spirit (love.)  Make sense?

Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything, and love is all there is.

– Gary Zukav

Life and Death

LABuddha

I’m thinking about Life.  How I was in LA for a week – lala land – literally and figuratively, taking a break from Boulder.  Just got back on Monday night and by yesterday I was climbing the walls wishing for more ‘meaning’, missing my death work really and truly.

I shared with a few people how out-of-the loop I was feeling being away for the past week,  and soon afterwards, emails started rolling in about the newly bereaved group that starts next week that I will co-facilitate.  Then I made a deciscion to offer a grief/loss meditation group at my house for the month of March (more on that later) and not long afterward, I got a call from the volunteer coordinator at a local hospice that a vigil was starting for a woman who was dying and could I be there from 5-7 tonight?  No hesitation in my mind and heart as I said “Yes!”

So there I was last night, sitting beside a woman in transition, a woman I’ve never met but a woman I am sharing one of the most intimate times with.  All the petty b.s. I am consumed with falling away as I hold her hand.   An exercise in presence.  I can go about 5 minutes before I get distracted.  There’s a guy moaning loudly out in the hall.  My daughter’s calling my cell phone.  The woman’s roommate is shuffling her wheelchair to the bathroom to brush her teeth.  I look around.  On the hospital tray are signs of a former life, garlic salt and reading glasses sit patiently, never to be used again.  But I always come back to her, this woman who seems to be peacefully laboring.  Each breath is an effort.  An aide stops in to say goodbye “It’s time Mama.”  she says as she strokes her forehead.

In this moment, I am lost – anonymous – one tiny grain of sand.  Death is happening whether I took a shower or not.  In this moment, I am found – a spark of the divine, heart pumping, alive.  Open.  Grateful.

Varanasi – second stop on our India trip

Varanasi, as seen from the Ganges
Varanasi, as seen from the Ganges

“Brace yourself.  You’re about to enter one of the most blindingly colorful, unrelentingly chaotic and unapologetically indiscreet places on earth.  Varanasi takes no prisoners.  But if you’re ready for it, this may just turn out to be your favorite stop of all.”

-Lonely Planet  INDIA

Also known as the City of Life, this is one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities and is regarded as one of Hinduism’s seven holy cities.  Pilgrims come to the ghats (steps leading down into the water) lining the River Ganges to wash away a lifetime of sins and to cremate their loved ones.  To die here, in Varanasi, offers moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death) and it is said that when ashes of ancestors are offered into the Ganges, you are erasing 7 generations of karma from the past and 7 generations of karma in the future.  Powerful stuff.  Before I go to Varanasi, I hope to obtain some ashes of my father’s and release them into the swirling waters of the Ganges.

Lonely Planet goes on to say:  “Most visitors agree it’s a magical place, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.  Here the most intimate rituals of life and death take place in public and the sights, sounds and smells in and around the ghats can be overwhelming.  Persevere.  Varanasi is unique, and a walk along the ghats or a boat ride on the river will live long in memory.”

We have such great events planned for Varanasi, including an evening boat ride along the Ganges as well as a sunrise boat ride the following day.  We will be attending a temple aarti (ceremony with song and lamps) and receive a private concert.  My pulse quickens with excitement to visit this holy city.  I know first-hand how surreal India can seem and yet, in the completely unfamiliar and unknown, spirit resides and the veils are thin.  There is absolute potency for amazing experiences in this space of suspended belief.  Can you feel it?

Journey to India – a view behind the veil

Krishna - embodiment of love

I am so excited to announce that Nancy West McGuire and I have planned a women’s retreat to India.  There are many incredible events planned as we visit New Delhi, Varanasi and Rishikesh as well as daily yoga and meditation classes.  We’ve organized this event in collaboration with a known and trusted, professional Indian guide who brings us access to many experiences the average traveler wouldn’t be privy to.  Click here for a detailed itinerary.

The trip dates are:  October 12 – 22, 2013.  For more information, please go to our Journey to India website.  We would love to have you join us!

Namaste

coming soon

bathers at the ganges

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.