Chaya Sarah and the Universe
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
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.
“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.”
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?
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!
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.