It was a thrill to be interviewed on Melanie Scott’s podcast: “Intentional Conversations” about the transformational potency of traveling in India. Click HERE to hear the full conversation. In our 48 minutes together, we share our love of India and travel as well as reminisce about our two trips to India together and some of our favorite experiences in this magical country.
In India, one can experience the gamut: giddy laughter, loving kindness from strangers, heart connection, unexpected friendships, communion with cows, encounters with monkeys, blaring horns, sublime sunsets.
And for those of you who can’t listen to the whole interview, the take away is that India has a way of showing us who we are, deep inside, and bringing us home to our selves. It is a heart-opening experience to travel to India. I hope you will join me this November for Enlightened Tours’ Journey to India, 2019.
Enlightened Tours has curated an experience that delivers daily opportunities to connect deeply to your Self and others; giving you plenty of time to nurture and restore with yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. Group activities as well as time on the Ganges, swimming in waterfalls, hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Satsang with living saints. Stillness.
“The best work is done with either the heart broken or overflowing.” Mignon McGlaughlin
A favorite quote of mine. Sometimes the heart can be both broken and overflowing.
This past weekend was beautiful in California. All the winter rain has brought spring flowers, blossoming trees and the most life-affirming color of green everywhere! In the grasses, the leaves, the hillsides.
This past weekend was also my daughter’s 20th birthday. On April 20th. Which also happens to be the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shootings. I remember calling my father in Denver to tell him he had a granddaughter (his first grandchild) and he said “Thank God something good happened today.” He then told me the tragic news that had happened in Colorado. In the United States. Right on this phone call, our hearts breaking and overflowing.
15 years later, living in Boulder, the baby now a teenager. She was cutting her body. Depressed. Questioning life. 5 years ago today, I woke my daughter up at 5:30am and told her that we were getting on a plane. We flew to Durango and 2 wholesome looking strangers walked up to us and took my daughter away. (Staff from the Wilderness program her father and I had chosen.) I never exited the airport, just got on the next flight back to Denver.
Yesterday I got a text from a friend: “Call me when you can.” My first thoughts were ‘who died?’ and ‘who has cancer?’. The news: A friend’s son had taken his life. A howling black hole of wordlessness. Tears.
All I could do is cry and play this Mantra. Chattr Chakkr Vartee by Aykanna. It is a mantra used to remove fear, anxiety and phobias. It is a mantra to lift one out of despair. “Chattr Chakkr Vartee is the mantra for the heart center, it gives direct energy to it. When you are sinking, if you know this mantra and can sing it, you can totally recuperate yourself.” — Yogi Bhajan
Meditation class last night – I’m leading a group for some of the parents of the preschool I work at. Sweet, young parents of sweet, young children. It’s all about being in the now, practicing presence. I wondered how much to share at check-in. I decided to tell the group what I was sitting with – talking about heart ache. About child loss and parent grief. Appreciating the ‘ALL’ of life. Celebrating that both of my kids have bumped along in adolescence and for right now, just for today, they are both in such sweet places in their lives. Heart overflowing with love for both of them. It was a beautiful group, with tears, kindness and connection. Heart overflowing with love for these sweet, earnest parents, and their worries and their struggles.
I taught them a Buddhist meditation, that my dear friend Sue taught me many years ago. It’s my ‘go-to’ when there are no words. When I don’t know what to do, or say.
“Tonglen is one of the richest and bravest practices that we can do.This is one of the great meditation jewels that offers a way us to cultivate our natural mercy.”–Joan Halifax
The practice of Tonglen, or Giving and Receiving, is done to develop our compassion and our ability to be present for our own suffering and the suffering of others. Pema Chodron teaches that Tonglen is a practice of “sending and taking,” an ancient Buddhist practice to awaken compassion. With each in-breath, we take in others’ pain. With each exhale, we send them relief. I like to think of myself as a being of light, composting the darkness. Breathing in the sorrow, transforming it and exhaling out love.
Get still, close your eyes, feel free to place your hands on your heart.Inhale through the nose and breathe in any painful emotion that may be coming up for you (shame, anger, rage, fear, anxiety, frustration, judgement).Stay neutral to the emotions, just breathe them in and allow them to be.On the exhale through the nose, release these emotions and cultivate acceptance and compassion for yourself.Allow the emotions to release through you and surround yourself with an energy of unconditional love.
Note: My daughter gave me permission to write and post this.
In India, I experience the gamut: giddy laughter, loving kindness from strangers, heart connection, unexpected friendships, communion with cows, encounters with monkeys, blaring horns, sublime sunsets.
What I don’t think I have conveyed is the journey within to deep stillness – the Gift of Presence – that has been my India.
Words really don’t do India justice, and I have a hard time putting some of my deepest emotions to words, so I have attached a short 90 second video of some very sacred moments that are forever dear to me.
The soundtrack is me “tuning in” with the Adi Mantra. Something we do at the beginning of every kundalini yoga class and meditation. I was chanting this mantra in the early hours of morning, when it’s still dark and the winds come roaring down the foothills of the Himalayas. I was tucked into a blanket and let the familiar chant ground me and connect me to the Golden Chain of my teachers, and connect me to my yoga mat. To my heart beat. If you listen carefully you can hear thumps and bumps in the background. They are monkeys having a morning romp before the warm midday sun makes them heavy lidded and lethargic.
I’ll be traveling back to this country, to this yoga hall, to one of my soul homes, in just a few short months. There are spots for 2 more people if you would like to join me.
We have curated a tour that delivers daily opportunities to connect deeply to your Self, to nurture and restore with yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. Time on the Ganges, swimming in waterfalls, hiking in the foothills of the Himalayas. Satsang with living saints. Stillness.
If you feel the call, contact me. I’m here to walk you through the details. Step by step.
Every day I wake up and read the New York Times on my phone. I read the California edition. Almost every day there are stories about the housing crisis in this state; the rising cost of homes and people living on the streets. Today the news has stories of fires burning and evacuations. And I am reading with a broken heart about the families that are separated at our border – the children in cages, the mom’s in jail, fleeing violence in their countries, hoping for a better life. Taking that chance. It is almost more than my brain and heart can process.
I see friends on Facebook imploring others not to go to sleep. Stay outraged! I agree. Let us not turn our backs on humanity and go numb. At the same time, let us not beat ourselves up if we cannot be on the front lines. Look into your heart and ask yourself what can you do right now? Are you able to write a check? Can you make phone calls to your senators? Are you able to sit in meditation and offer positive energy to those that suffer? Can you be extra loving and kind to the people in your life? Can you take impeccable care of yourself so that you have energy and resources when you get called to action? I donate. I pray. I sign petitions. I teach preschool. I try to facilitate and support concepts of love and kindness.
This conversation is taken verbatim from an interaction I witnessed last week. It happened between 2 boys, one age 4 and one age 5, after feelings were hurt and they were having a conversation using the “Peace Flower” which is kind of like a talking stick, only it’s a talking . It went like this:
Boy age 4: (while holding the peace flower) I wish I could wun as fast as you. (hands peace flower to other boy)
Boy age 5: Well, I run fast because I practice at home. Maybe if you practice you can get faster. (hands peace flower back to 4 year old)
Boy age 4: But, but, but…I wun and fall and you keep going. I want to be fast like you.
Me: Does it hurt your feelings when your friend runs fast and you can’t catch up?
Boy age 4: Yes. (hands peace flower to other boy)
Boy age 5: I bet you will get faster when you practice. I have a good idea! Let’s be on the same team and run together at the same time! (holds out peace flower and they both hold the stem and say in unison: Friends. And run off to play. Except Boy age 4 says “Fwends”) Peace on the playground has been restored.
I was relaying this story to a friend yesterday and we were laughing at how sweetly transparent children can be. They have all the emotions that adults have but the feelings move transparently across their faces like clouds blowing across a wide open sky. No place to hide. Every day there are tears, laughter, shouts of glee, angry scowls, hugs.
When I have hurt feelings, I do my best to hide it and stew for a few weeks – er…awhile and then become full of dread and eventually have a conversation with the person. Usually the conversation goes well and we are both relieved afterwards. Wouldn’t it be great if I could handle it immediately and we could both hold the peace flower for a few moments and then skip off happily?
Every day I go to work wondering what the day will bring. The work is so dynamic! There is no template for an “average” day. Working with children is a constant invitation to stay present – to keep my heart open, not look at my phone (which is tucked away in a cabinet for the entire day), literally get on my knees, make eye contact, speak kindly, be of service, be loving and gentle, hold boundaries, rub backs, give hugs. It’s like spiritual boot camp 😉 Truly. These little gurus are ninjas at testing limits/boundaries. If I take it personally, I’m a goner. They are also human love bombs who offer affection and acceptance freely and often. You’d think a rock star was arriving some days when I arrive – all the faces and arms waving at the window “Roxanna! Roxanna!” Sometimes I have to use the back door so I don’t start a riot and disrupt the class. Haha.
I am grateful to the Universe for bringing me to this present moment, this job, this life, these kids. Being a preschool teacher stretches me in myriad ways while simultaneously nourishing me and feeding my heart. As GuruGanesha Band sings in their song, Troubled Times:
In this troubled time we look to find the way. To heal our world, heal our hearts. In our confusion when we don’t know what to do, can we live for each other? Come Together For Each Other.
I know many people are feeling overwhelmed with everything they are reading and hearing about in the news. Whether I am discussing the natural disasters, or the latest events in the United States, every conversation I have with friends revolves around what we can do, how we can help. I had tea with a friend of mine, a retired attorney and fellow yogi, who said “I didn’t used to believe in evil.” and paused for a moment, calmly picking up croissant crumbs with his fingers, “Now I do.” Things are feeling pretty dire – more than usual. Is this just me? I wonder… I am deeply saddened by recent happenings in the world (both natural and human) and I also believe that we are greater than this and that LOVE conquers all.
I have written before about Yogi Bhajan‘s prophecy that the world’s hectic pace will only continue to increase and many people will be overwhelmed – on all levels – and not know how to keep up with the chaotic energies. He went on to say that a third of the world’s population would die, a third would go nuts and the last third would be left to hold it all together. There are times when this prophecy feels like it has come true and it’s my choice to decide which third of the population I want to be a part of.
The day this picture (above) was taken, I had just driven 500+ miles in very challenging driving conditions: high winds, forest fires and driving rain for several hours. I was driving a 22 feet van that I was not wholly comfortable with and even hydroplaned a few times. When I finally pulled into the RV park, my legs were shaking. I then proceeded to get into a huge argument with my daughter who left to stay with a friend for the evening. I called a friend and sobbed. After the cry, I felt…so much better. Lighter. Less alone. Normally, I like to cry in private and talk to friends after I’ve had my breakdown. I made a conscious decision to let myself be seen in my tenderness and it was a personal stretch. I am grateful I made the decision to be vulnerable and reach out vs. keep it all to myself. Thank god for loving friends that are lifelines!
When the darkness befalls me (whether because of what’s happening out in the world, or because of whatever is going inside of my own psyche) it’s time for me to reach into my Self Care tool box and use whatever is appropriate for the situation at hand. I don’t intend to be Pollyanna or to sound naive, but don’t underestimate the power of Self Care! When the world feels overwhelming, I turn inwards and listen closely. “What do I need right now?” I ask myself. Usually an answer pops right in. Othertimes, I have to just use trial and error to see what helps. Getting out in nature is always a great place to start for me.
Spending the last month on the road, in a van, living with a 15 year old boy, has challenged my self care routines. There is very little alone time (something that I normally rely on heavily for self-sourcing), there is limited wifi (connecting with friends/lifelines is almost nil), the weather was initially very challenging (exercise was not happening for days.) I wasn’t meditating, I wasn’t practicing yoga, I was feeling isolated from adults and totally catering to another human 24/7. Thankfully, I am remembering my own teachings on Self Care and Self Love from LOVELUTION! and putting my oxygen mask on first again. Phew!
What does that look like? Have you heard that expression “If Mama Aint Happy, Aint Nobody Happy”? I’ve started making sure that I am doing something for myself each day that fills up my tank. Whether that’s a solo run, a tea date with a friend, making time to write at a wifi cafe or bringing back my meditation practice (why oh why do I ever let this go?) The expression “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” is my simple prayer and intention. I want to shine as brightly as I can so I can add my light to all the other brilliant lights in the world and we can shine light in all corners, dispelling the darkness and love it up so that it doesn’t need to spread.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the LIGHT that is you. -L.R. Knost
“When we are heavy with the world’s sadness, call to us through Hawk’s cry, reminding us to look up and beyond, trusting in Spirit’s great design.” Tiphaine Bonetti
For years I have related to the hawk and have felt that hawk was one of my special animals. I would have dreams of hawks and sightings – close encounters. There is a connection between Hawk and Kundalini energy, some say hawk comes into your life only after Kundalini energy is activated.
Four years ago, my friend, Lance Gentry, was diagnosed with a stage 4 brain tumor. During the last year of his life, he saw many hawks and started to feel that they were messengers. We had some email conversations about hawk medicine and that’s when I started calling him “Brother Hawk”.
Around this time, Nancy and I would go for hikes and have heart-to-heart discussions about our life. I prayed for my life to have meaning and wished there was something I could do for Lance and his family. Nancy prayed for Lance.
“This powerful bird [hawk] can awaken visionary power and lead you to your life purpose. It is the messenger bird, and wherever is shows up, pay attention. There is a message coming.” from Animal Speak, by Ted Andrews.
In the Spring before Lance’s death, I got to spend more time with him, giving him Reiki and quietly sitting with him. I was able to let all the words I wanted to say to him, and all the love I felt for him flow through my hands, through my touch. His gift to me was that he received that love. We got to communicate without words…and share sacred time together…the biggest exchange of LOVE I had ever experienced with another human being that I wasn’t related to. It was a soul love, without form or expectation.
The day Lance died was a beautiful hot June day. He was at home, in his bed, made peaceful with morphine. A friend of Lance’s stopped by to see him and brought a hawk wing, not knowing that Lance had an affiliation with hawk, but feeling called to do it. Lance died 10 hours later, surrounded by dear friends and Nancy holding him in the bed and his mother by his side.
There was a beautiful ceremony for his life at the Shambala Center – a buddhist center here in town. His body lay in a cardboard casket. He wore his favorite hat and favorite T-shirt that said “Love More, Fear Less”. The hawk wing was placed on his chest. We kept Lance’s body on dry ice for 3 days and friends took turns staying with him so he was never alone, sleeping with him in shifts. It’s hard to describe the holy atmosphere of the place in the middle of the night, sitting in solitude with Lance, candles flickering, watching the room start to lighten with the morning sun.
After Lance died, so many people reported fantastic hawk sightings, myself included. Nancy had one experience with the kids where a hawk came flying right down the middle of the street towards them, at eye level, and flew right past them. They all felt that they had just had a visitation from Lance.
I am missing Lance and really missing that beautiful heart of his. It’s hard to lose something that feels that sweet. I had a dream about Lance the other day, and there he was in my dream, so loving and kind, smiling. It was good to feel him again. One thing I committed to, after Lance died, was to always let the people in my life know how much I love them…Lance taught me about being loving. He taught me that there is beauty and grace in openly loving people and not hiding it. After Reiki he would often say “I love you” and it felt so good to hear it from him. His face was open and radiant and all the love in his heart came pouring out of his eyes.