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Hope is Not a Thought; it’s an Action

Hope is not a thought; it’s an action.

I sit and wait and wonder. I ruminate. I ask a million questions. I have to be sure. I have to be safe. The risk is simply too much. I could never have all the answers. I must listen to the messages; read the signs. But still, there’s no avoiding the pain. The love and the fear lay down side-by-side.

Your soft manor turns into razor blades and I bleed out all too soon. I hope the blood will stop seeping through my blouse for all to see but I may as well be naked; I’ve never been good at hiding my heart.

I smile – there is hope only in rising up, holding my head up high and beginning again.

I stand like a priestess and walk my talk, freeing the butterflies, abandoning safety, risking it all for the grand experiment of the unknown.

I light a torch and enter the cave. I find them sitting there. The ones like me – with eyes and lips and tongues alight with truth and ancient tales. They speak of hope; there is no more waiting now. It’ll be too painful to ponder, too bitter to berate myself one. more. time.

The choice has been made. I’ve chosen the path. I will not walk around the mountain, I will climb its rocks. And there will be hope with each step as I sweat and breathe and settle with each word of fear and feel it, and feel it, and feel it, until the next step. Until the sky changes from blue to red and the birds migrate south, and the ice hardens on the rivers surface, and crocuses emerge through the snow. When the blisters on my feet have healed, and risk and hope and fear and pain turn into love and it is in them all and in my breath and it all becomes Holy.

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Jasmine flowers fall from the sky
A fragrant rain beyond compare
On the grass, in the water, they die
We touch and dance and stare
Your face ripples into a thousand incarnations
Guides join us in incantations
To now
To then
To us
To them
We rub the sand into our hands
And dance on the graves of the past
Talking, walking, circling
Our last chance to say goodbye
Under a jasmine sky

On a hill with sun and moon
We pray and swoon
It’s all too soon
To laugh, to cry, to say goodbye
It ends before it begins
The things we thought were sins
But we are just innocent
Reverent
Aching for more
Longing
Wanting
Remembering before
What we had
What we held
Yearning to meld
Into our hearts
Not to end
But to start
To intertwine the rose and the thorn
To sign with the blood
Of a new and sweet dawn
Fused with fragrance
And sweet summer song
The days of sun
light and long
Will you come to me then?
If not, then when?
I know your face
I’ll remember it well
Don’t make me forget
Your hands, your smell
Kneel here
Lay your head in my lap
Cry your tears of strength and years
I’ll hold you dear
You know I’ve always wanted you near.

Please stay.

Knowing

WILDERNESS, S o u t h A f r i c a

And in his beauty I saw hope in all that was good. In his presence, a space to dream of possibility, of what could be. A whirlwind of synchronicity swept me up in its arms just as he swept me up in his – an extension of his heart, his love, his nurturing nature.

But it was a heart that was wounded, not fully sure; vacillating; opening and closing in its vulnerability and fear, it’s unsureness and confusion. And I felt it as the doors to a potential dream that opened then closed and opened and finally closed.

And my soul told me, and I listened, at first. And then the longing in my heart, in my bones, in my hands that wanted to touch and to hold, to heal and to love overtook any sense of caution or warning from God and I wanted to dive into a river that couldn’t quite flow. It was filled with reeds and rocks and questions without answers.

And I realized my king was on another shore and if I am to get to him I must stay where I am on my own shore until he feels my breeze calling to him and he can smell the sweetness in my voice beckoning – not out of longing but from a peaceful knowing in my royal heart that is ready and worthy for depth and a divinely aligned new start.

Rain

WILDERNESS, S O U T H A F R I C A

The humid heat breaks
I run out into the rain – Open my mouth
Open my body
Open my feet to the wet earth
I open my throat and say a prayer
I feel the hush of spirit rush through me

Sand becomes mud, leaves tremble with the thud
Of huge falling droplets welcoming nourishment into their veins

My body cools, rejuvenates, revives
A flowering inside
Where thought and hope and heart reside

Soft earth between my toes
She sighs and holds and knows
She takes my pain
I feel it drain out of me and to the sea of alchemy

God Speaks


Wilderness, S o u t h A f r i c a

A solo adventure
Accompanied by spirit
I know I am guided within and without

God speaks and I take the first step; embarking on the barefoot path of rebirth:

A bird,
A breath,
Of sweet summer air
Singing with me
Like I do in my dreams
Crystal doors open to the subconscious mind
Ancient archways,
Portals to the Divine
I trace the symbols
With my fingertips, I see
Keys to my lineage
Handed down to me

I recognize the longing
It’s deep and wide
The light and the dark lay down side-by-side

Angels and lullabies
Sweet and low
They’ve always been here
This I know
They’re in my bones, my heart, my cells
Like ancient scripts
Carved like spells

A fresh blue haze
Scattered through days
Of journeys and rides
And turning tides
Rivers and seas
In blue and green dreams

Tears and laughter – expressions of my soul
An egg that’s painted white and gold

I birth my art
It’s delicate and deep
And dance on my way in order to speak
To you, to me, to God, to the One
My fear dissolves
I hold the sun

Alchemy

WILDERNESS, S o u t h A f r i c a

The alchemy of nature within and without. I grind the seeds of the past that have sprouted, bloomed, and perished – disintegrated into powdery dust. The composted remnants had shown new signs of life I wasn’t sure I wanted to nurture. A past that needed to be buried, taken by the earth.

I’ve washed the ashy remains of dust into my skin. It’s mingled with sweat; permeated the pores, seeped under layers of protection, creating patterns in my blood, in my bones, in my cells.

Breath expels the tiny flower shoots. I open my mouth to let them out. Tongue, lungs, heart, belly, womb, root release. Hold me as I disappear into dreams of black and white that churn and undulate in different dimensions of being.

Oversoul, carry all of me through the portal and into the cave of mortar and pestle to be stirred and transformed in the darkness.

Hold me through the integration of life and death and the deaths within a life that has been lived in all directions, dimensions, and seasons.

The grieving of leaving places and faces I’ve loved. The glee of traversing continents on trains and spontaneous meetings with souls I’ve met in other lives and realities.

The dust occasionally settles and time heals some wounds but the mortar and pestle are always there if you’re willing to lay on the altar and be consumed by the fire; to look deep into your own eyes and not look away. To remember how flowers are birthed and shells and butterflies. The natural order of remembering, of letting go, of courage, of allowing yourself to be washed down the river and far into a raging sea, allowing the current to take you and show you your vastness.

To Be Me

Tuscany, I t a l y

I saw an article this morning about vulnerability and how when we hide our feelings it’s usually because as children it was unacceptable to fully express ourselves. That was my experience.

Growing up I was always criticized for being sad, mad, loud…basically for being myself, for being vulnerable and letting it all show. I was told there was nothing to be sad about. No one helped me understand or wanted to understand why I was feeling a certain way.

I was always encouraged not to bother others, not to ask for help, to be perfect, say, do and be the right, quiet, acceptable, well behaved girl I was supposed to be.

God, what a fucking burden; completely exhausting and suffocating!

I shut down all the doorways inside myself that led to wholeness. I stuffed down my anger, sadness, uniqueness and my joy, even! I buried who I truly was! I denied my feelings because they were somehow unacceptable.
I fragmented my spirit to please society and those who birthed me.

I remember living with a feeling of inexplicable grief for so long. There was this internal void; a sadness I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

I know now I was grieving all those abandoned, ignored, suffocated parts of myself. I realized when I was reading that article that I’ve really come so far. I’ve worked so hard on peeling away the layers of imposed perfection. I’m so much better at expressing myself and articulating how I feel now. I’m also a much better listener. I never used to be. I would always interrupt and be nervous about the feedback I would be able to give. Feeling that it would never be adequate. Of course, that always boils down to self worth and not feeling like I’m enough. I had to be perfect to be loved, to receive compliments, to be accepted. Love was based on perfect behavior, a pretty smiling face, a nice outfit, clear skin, doing what I was told, etc.

My parents did the best they could, of course, loving me in the way they knew how, from their own rigid idea of what was right but I never knew who I truly was and I’m on a journey of rediscovering what that is.

I notice this gap in truly knowing myself when it comes to decision making, whether it’s moving countries, choosing what to order from the menu or which direction I’m going to go on a walk. I second-guess myself a lot. In the moments when I do choose quickly it always feels so damn good. I’m learning to tap into my heart, into my internal guidance system, to eliminate outside noise and illuminate inside knowing and just be me.

One of the amazing things about growing up in South Africa was that people are very real and raw and speak up much like New Yorkers. It was different when I moved to California. California was another planet where I dumbed myself down, watched my p’s and q’s and trained myself not to be negative. It was the place I began my spiritual journey but it was also the place that covertly advocated for spiritual bypassing. Such a dangerous and damaging thread runs through many so-called spiritual communities there. But I learned to see it; in others and myself and now I’m coming to the middle. Walking the middle path, looking on both sides of the street. And even though the lessons were many and painful I don’t regret the journey. I feel like I’ve had at least 7 different lifetimes this time around and I’m distinctly and suredly moving into the next.

As I head back to the mother land soon I know there will be more threads to heal, to weave into myself, to make my internal fabric stronger, to exercise my warrior sword, to do things I never thought I would. To leave old dreams behind (for now); to pick up the jewels from so many adventures, journeys, trials and triumphs and honor myself for moulding this crown in which to place them all.

Onward!

A Decision Needs To Be Made

Things fall over and I break another glass –

Decisions have to be made.

In the morning sun, I stand and stare out the window, listening to the church bells and the clanging of options in my head, whilst my tea boils over and the smell of fennel wafts through this ugly apartment.

Maybe it’ll drown out the smell of the old woman’s cigarette smoke downstairs.

Why did I move to a country where everyone smokes? It’s an insult to the senses.

I snarl and close the window.

If a decision is made – any decision – will there be relief or will there be more of the same insanity? More indecision to follow? Have I fallen so far from trusting myself, my path, of whats to come, or is this just a momentary misperception – a divine intervention of sorts? – A veil I cannot, right now, see beyond?

Still, a decision needs to be made.

The card readings, the writing, the pushing of it all aside to meditate and go on long walks, for whole days even, have not helped.

Procrastination remains the highlight of the day.

October will be less complicated they say. More clarity. More letting go. 

This month a decision needs to be made.

Another night – the window blind comes down to block out the street lamp. I need complete darkness but hazy restless dreams interject any hope of calm.

I wake with a start. 

Maybe today a decision will be made.

The salt water baths, the singing, the washing away of the day before, ashes of the burned paper buried under the pine tree, consecrated with rose water and prayers beneath the moon…they have not helped.

A decision must be made.

My hands are older, the lines around my mouth pulling downwards – I have aged 10 years in one month – the anxiety in my heart and my belly showing in my eyes and on my skin. 

The puzzle pieces of research have been put together and taken apart and put together again.

Paper is scattered on the floor with notes and poems, a glass of red wine I realize I cannot drink.

Messages from soulmates ease the resistance.

But everyone is on their own island and the decision is mine to make.

Monday

FLORENCE, I T A L Y

There was a cool crisp, breeze. A shaft of sunlight appeared above the terracotta roof tiles. It was Monday morning but it didn’t matter which morning it was as all the days had seamlessly rolled into each other.

I was happy to finally be up before 10 am. I stood in the only small sliver of warmth at my dresser in front of my bedroom window.

Out of the silence, the bark of a dog in the distance punctured the air as though it were dusk in the countryside somewhere. But this was the city. A city on lockdown, in the midst of crisis, in a country where thousands had died and continued to perish on a daily basis. Whilst we sat; obedient, uncertain, the spring sun shone down outside and our bodies yearned for a walk in the park, along the riverbank, down to the piazza for lunch.

I wished that I were near the ocean, beside a field, next to a trail, where I could disappear for a few hours. Where nobody would notice me or stop me. Where I didn’t have to fill out a form to say where I was going.

But I settle, accept, and appreciate almost, the fact that I am alone. No children to tug on me, no partner to distract me, no external opinion. Just me, in the quiet of my space, my thoughts, my being. Freedom in the stillness, to roam my inner landscape, to look under all the stones I had left unturned, all the flowers I hadn’t noticed that had bloomed, and seeing all the dead weeds I’d clung onto in the hope they’d one day turn into fruit trees.

Here lying bare in a field of dreams. Some hardly alive, some stillborn, some fighting for their lives upon barren soil that had been raked over far too many times. In a desert where the afternoon gust, had swiftly snatched the life force away from them, and there they lay, shaking, in shock and grief.

And now the breeze has turned into a strong wind but I don’t want to close the window. Not just yet, whilst the sun is there for just a few more minutes.

Day-By-Day

FLORENCE, I T A L Y

Friday, March 6th – I wake up to the sound of children playing in the courtyard of my apartment building. It’s Friday, I think. Oh, yes, I forgot, the schools are closed.

I go about my day stopping in at the grocery store, not expecting to wait in a line but here we are queuing one meter away from each other to enter. I buy only a few fresh food items and focus on lentils, beans, and other dried or canned foods that I can store in my tiny kitchen cupboard, just in case I don’t have the opportunity in the coming days. I only buy what I can fit in my backpack and put in my bicycle basket.

In the afternoon I cycle to an art school in Santo Spirito, where I model for a painting class. I notice along the way how quiet the streets of Florence are, almost deserted. At this point most learning institutions, gyms, churches, museums, and some businesses are closed. The tourists have vacated almost entirely.

Whilst I’m modeling for three artists in the silent studio I can hear conversations echoing down the street: “I should leave Florence now, I don’t want to be stranded here”, “I wonder if the trains to Germany are still running, I need to get home”.

When the art class is over I ride home with a cash payment in my pocket. Little do I know that this €30 will be the last income I’ll see for a while.

I cycle fast in the crisp air under a huge full moon that hangs over Florence in the early evening sky. I cross Ponte alle Grazie and into my neighborhood, passing some of the cute little restaurants, which are still open – holding on, holding out, for clientele. Tables set with newly laundered white tablecloths, candles alight and not a single person dining. Proprietors standing proudly at the door waiting for someone to come in.

My heart sinks.

Saturday, March 7th – I’m called into the Spa where I work as a massage therapist. I have four clients throughout the day. The first is a woman from Pakistan who has an awful cough. “I’m getting over bronchitis”, she says. I don’t think twice about it until a couple of days later but try not to dwell on it. We’ve sanitized everything between clients and been vigilant about disinfecting the facilities and ourselves. Another client is from Germany, one from Italy and one from the United States who lives in Florence. After her session, we talk about the situation at hand and how her workload has been rapidly declining over the last few weeks. Little do I know she is the last client I’ll work on until further notice.

Two days later the Spa closes its doors. Payment won’t be made until after we re-open. We are notified via our WhatsApp group of the closure and we send good wishes and strength to each other. For some of us, this job is a matter of making the rent or not.

Sunday, March 8th – I am officially let go from my Air BnB job, even though I’ve barely been there since the first coronavirus case was announced in Tuscany at the end of January. Up until this point, everyone in the tourism industry had been riding the winter wave when everything is slower, waiting for spring to pick up and tourists to flood back into the city, but instead, guests have been canceling one-by-one until entire building’s of clients are now empty.

Monday, March 9th – I read an article online about the surge in coronavirus cases in Italy and the grave situation the medical workers are finding themselves in. It states that doctors are having to implement a ‘Selection Protocol’ to choose who lives or dies as the equipment on hand is insufficient to assist all patients. Tears fill my eyes. I just can’t imagine having to be put in that position as a healthcare worker. Not only feeling exhausted from working long hours and at risk of contracting the virus themselves but now having to make this unfathomable choice.

Tuesday, March 10th – Guiseppe Conte, the Italian prime minister, announces further restrictions on public gatherings and advises people to only go out if it’s absolutely necessary. 

Later on that day I try and make a call and realize my phone service is down and decide I should brave the great outdoors and go to the cell phone store to solve the problem in case I need to make an emergency call. I get dressed and leave my building. I walk down my street and am dismayed to see that all the shops have closed – the café downstairs, the pizza place, the language school, and the sweet Indian man at the corner, selling bags and clothes is gone. I turn the corner into Piazza Santa Croce. It is empty except for one man walking his dog and a few military men standing at the steps of the Cathedral, its majestic facade casting long lonely shadows down onto the empty square. Will the men stop me? I wonder. They don’t.

I walk briskly under a cloudy dark sky and make my way across town. There is a chill in the air and the atmosphere in the streets is heavy and palpable. I only see a handful of people.

I pass by Piazza del Duomo, which is empty bar one woman sitting on a bench and a couple, wearing surgical facemasks, taking a photo – two miniature figures perched in front of the steps of the immense towering beauty of Cathedral di Santa Maria Fiore. It’s not the first time she’s seen desolation and it won’t be the last.

I reach the cell phone store, which is devoid of any customers. I explain my issue. I am told their system is down and they cannot help me at this particular moment. Unbeknownst to any of us, this would be the last moment as the next day they will be closed.

I start to make my way home and pass through Piazza della Repubblica which is the central point of Florence and is usually bustling with people – musicians play and a carousel whizzes around with smiling children throughout the day and into the night. Now the piazza is empty except for a few police and the carousel is shut down. I sit on a bench in the sun which has decided to make an appearance through the clouds for a few minutes. The only movement is a mother and daughter crossing the piazza with shopping bags and paninis in hand. 

On my way back home I decide to buy a tube of toothpaste as I’m running out, and I get a spray bottle for the bleach I purchased a couple of days before. They will be my last purchases for a while.

That evening the Prime minister announces that the whole of Italy is now a ‘protected zone’ and signs a decree that in order to safeguard the citizens of Italy and the healthcare system, it is mandatory for everyone to stay at home, except for emergencies or to walk your dog. The only stores that can stay open are supermarkets and pharmacies. Everything else must close. We are on lockdown. If you do go out, you must go by yourself and keep a distance of one meter from the other people you may pass. Buy what you need and go home. 

Being single and having a dog are now tickets to partial freedom!

The next day I wake up and notice something is different. The church bells are not sounding. It’s dead quiet except for a few birds chirping in the palm tree downstairs. I go online and see photographs of the completely emptied streets. Only police patrolling up and down, two by two, making sure everyone is obeying the rules. 

I start to feel a sore throat coming on and decide to use my credit card to purchase some extra immune-boosting supplements online, hoping that they will be delivered without any problems or delays. I know I am well. Worrying and staying up too late has affected my immune system but I’ll be fine in a couple of days.

Two days later the mailman rings the doorbell downstairs. I buzz him in expecting to go down and sign for the package as usual but in order to avoid any contact, he has placed my package in the foyer under the mailbox and left.

On my way back up the stairs to my apartment, I pass the elderly lady who lives next door. We nod and greet one another politely in the stairwell. She has a slight grin on her face as she makes her way out of the building. I wonder where she is going. Later, from my window, I see her walking up and down the deserted street to get some exercise.

That was four days ago.

We’ve all accepted that this is what needs to be done for the citizens, for the hospitals, for each other. Resto a casa, I stay home.

I have fallen in love with this country more since this all began – seeing how people have supported each other, been creative and resourceful, setting up times via social media to have music concerts from balconies to lift morale, online support groups established and notes being written to hang out of windows, saying tutto andrà bene, everything will be ok.

I’ve been trying to develop a routine in the last couple of days so that I not only feel productive but am also taking care of myself mentally, physically, and emotionally. The first few days of the lockdown I was somewhat aimless, not getting dressed, online a lot looking at updates, eating more than I needed to, and excessively concerned about not having any work.

There were certain people both near and far who I expected to hear from during a time of crisis: “Hi, how are you, I know we haven’t spoken in a while but I just wanted to check-in and see how you are”. It was the people that I least expected to contact me that did and I’m so grateful. It’s essential not to feel alone during a time like this. Especially in a new country with not much community around you.

As I reach out to my worldwide community and as the days go by we are realizing we are all in the same boat, some sides sinking more than others but nevertheless together. We connect the dots and support each other as the situation develops differently for each of us in our own countries. We stay level-headed and talk about the bigger picture. We see how necessary this situation ultimately is for humanity, although the implications in our immediate reality are real and from this standpoint uncertain. How will we all get back on our feet financially? How will I pay my rent next month? How long will this last? I feel for all the businesses here in Italy and worldwide, some of which will not be able to recover.

I’m quite content with staying at home. In general, I’m a loner and very capable of spending a lot of time by myself. I actually relish it, but when you’re not given the freedom to roam you tend to feel restricted because it’s not self-imposed but rather imposed upon you. This is only human. I miss going on a walk, even if it’s to the river a couple of blocks away from my apartment building to take a few breaths of fresh air and even if I don’t have many friends, just being around people in the street is nice. I know the first thing I’m going to do is go into the hills on a hike when this is over and be in the sun surrounded by nature. I keep that vision in my mind’s eye.

But for now, my days will include my morning tea, as usual, stretching, catching up on creative projects, learning Italian, sending love, light, and compassion to everyone on the planet at least three times a day, eating well, taking supplements to keep my immune system strong, dancing to good music turned up really loudly to release any trapped emotions, reaching out to people to see how they are and going inwards – just being quiet.

As my friend in Scotland said a couple of days ago during one of our lengthy check-in conversations, “Well, we have all the time in the world to do simple things such as laundry, cooking, and reading. If we want to take three hours to do the laundry, we can”. I washed my sheets yesterday, made gourmet mashed potatoes, and cleaned the tiles in my shower.

Because of the silence, I hear sounds in my surroundings that I don’t usually hear – the old man upstairs listening to the news on his radio, the lady downstairs playing classical music, the couple across from my window passionately arguing.

One thing I feel certain about is that this situation is showing us who we are, both individually and as a global community. How are we responding? Do we soften and prioritize generosity, kindness, and positivity or do we demonstrate greed, fear, and animosity? Do we waste time in panic and information overload or are we creative, resourceful and helpful?

Yes, the fear is real, the tragedy of it all is real but I feel now is a time to stay centered and not get carried away with despair and anxiety. As humans we’ve been so driven by the external world – what we are doing ‘out there’. Now it’s time to go inside.

This is a reset. An opportunity for change. It’s showing us what we need to prioritize. It’s showing us that we are together in this – all of us! We are being forced to be at home and that also means at home internally within our own beings. To be quiet and listen to each other and ourselves. To connect to what matters.

This virus is a change-maker and if we ride this wave with strength, trust and take the middle path with the right doses of information balanced with intuition and logic and come together to support each other, we will emerge on the other side of this with a renewed vitality.

I’m going now to sit in my doorway, as there is a shaft of sunlight coming in at just the right angle and I don’t want to miss it. Who knows what tomorrow will bring but for now I will turn my face towards the sun, take some long deep breaths and give thanks for my healthy lungs.

Surrendered

FLORENCE, I T A L Y

Strong – I’ve lived, I’m living, for the first time, for the millionth time.

Remembering, forgetting, letting go, calling in the treasure.

Opening, unfolding, dripping from the sky. Flowering from the earth if I stay close enough to her.

Closer

Not closed but opening, in her strength and her softness – my strength, my softness.

Allowing her to love me, to hold me.

I open my hands. I receive and I must give back.

I’m sorry to have held on so tightly. I’m sorry I haven’t let you give to me. I have overwhelmed myself with my own control, my own fear. I have closed my doors because of all the hurt. I have kept a box of steel in my belly. No room for the light to get in. No room for the seeds to germinate. Seeds that have turned to stone.

I think I have caught it just in time.

The sound of thunder wakes me up from the dream. The wetness of the rain, makes holes in the worn rusty exterior, causing cracks where the warmth can enter.

I remember now.

When the fire rises in the snow and melts into the heart of me. In between the beats that keep me here whilst you may slip away

And I hold my breath until I realize I’m here and my wings can unfurl and I am free as much as I am rooted and I take you with me no matter what.

Even though the melted snow may drown me, my tears will cleanse away the longing for anything different. The fighting, the pushing, the need for lightness.

So I sit in the heaviness, in the cave of darkness until it becomes comforting like a velvet blanket wrapped around me.

Perishing in the earth – I’ve seen these ashes before – life-giving for flowers to flourish, for life to return and take many forms.

            Triumphant, somber

                        Shade and ocean breeze

                                    Fireflies in the midnight sky

An ocean that breathes along with my inhale as I exhale the parts of me that resist.

Allowing tears to fall at my feet and sink into the roots that hold me up and allow the silver halo of my being to travel with me…

To you, to me, and back again.

I have surrendered.

New Moon

ABOYNE, S C O T L A N D

Bud of a new moon

Hands reach down

Into the sacred well

Cast liquid spells

Upon your cells

To rise

To quiver

To bloom in June

Align with codes of color and light

Rise with strength and heart and might

Delight in flight and freedom song

The days of summer fair and long

Take to the sea

And with love be

Trust and dance

With every chance

And hold her hand

Down tree-lined lanes

Through scenic land

Build castles in the balmy sand

Run to catch her in the rain

And don’t forget the full moon fades

To dark again

– Amen

Merging

ABOYNE, S C O T L A N D

And in the shallow water

The river turned to ice

The murmuring rocks

Beneath the frozen sheets

Awake – still

Alert – waiting

Patches of melting discs

Slow dance with each other

Gently touching

Changing partners

As they swirl and float downstream

Graceful in their rush

A powerful hush

Letting go

Becoming fluid

Giving way

Surrendering themselves

To their changing form

The reality of their nature

Whatever is miraculous and true

Evolving alchemy

Becoming what they were

Before the storm

Remembering their essence

Soulmate Dream

JOHANNESBURG, S o u t h A f r i c a

My spine was made of diamonds
Velvet for my skin
Silver shining through my eyes
Inhaling gold, exhaling stars
Touching silk at midnight
Dewdrops at first sun
Butterflies and dragonflies
Around my head, they spun
Drifting down the river
To a home, all made of glass
A fire burned within
And he was waiting there
Flowers at his feet
Singing in his soul
An offering in his hands:
A beating heart outstretched
He laid it at my feet
And there we stood aglow
In fires raging heat
With earth below and starry night
Our souls alight
In pure white light

Fierce Grace

CALIFORNIA, U S A

Our precious souls fumbling around in the dark
Looking for some sense of peace
Denying the process,
Pushing it away like it had no significance.
15 years – leading ourselves to believe all was lost
Still trying to find ourselves,
Thinking we still have this mountain to conquer

But look how far we’ve come
The blisters on our feet have healed and opened and healed and opened and healed.

And now, we’re open raw souls
Feet and heart and head OK with raw because we’ve seen the cycle.

We’ve seen it heal and we’ve seen it open
Thrusting towards the light as it pierces us to the core
Seeking out the dark cracks we’ve carried with us through the ages
Dragging them with us
Allowing dust to settle in the corners

And now we seek out every lost spec
Every last speck.
It’s time.
Reclaiming the Sparks that have never quite ignited
Adding fuel
Adding fans
Adding wind
Adding risk

Bare feet, open heart
Looking our ancestry straight in the eyes
Asking, begging, accepting, knowing
Wielding strength to take them on
Enjoying the fight as it’s the final frontier
For the next flight.

Watching us dive, tearing our chests open.
Kissing the mouths of the past, Which is now, which is coming, Which is all-encompassing.
Sweet mothers and fathers holding our hands, egging us on, pushing us forth
Holding their breath as we breathe for them.
Because we know now
Because we know how
Because we know

As trees
As clouds
As sky breathe
Connecting our feet deep into the core
Remembering our mother
Our strength Our softness
Our fiery bellies, relaxing into knowing the cycles that align
and surrender to steadfast harmony
With breath and lungs and feet on soft forest floors
Shafts of sun beaming through our heads
Our hearts melting us into the vastness of ourselves
Bowing to the grace of our fierceness.

Rewiring the Heart

CALIFORNIA, U S A

I have been studying the idea of rewiring the heart (my heart) and how it is different from rewiring the brain.

I am seeing that my heart has always been a certain way; deep, wide, sensitive, and big — literally and figuratively. I saw an X-ray of my heart years ago and was blown away by the actual size of it.

I love my heart. It does not tiptoe; it dives into the deepest deep without much ‘thought’. It feels so much. It feels everything simultaneously sometimes that I can’t discern where the beauty, excitement, and joy begin and the pain, loneliness, and sorrow end. It’s all in there together in this big swirling universe and it all just wants to gush out and be embraced by the rays of the sun.

Of course, I have realized that because of my empathic nature and my subconscious agreement with the universe to take on more than my fair share of the world’s pain and trying to transform it is one of the reasons for this simultaneous cacophony of emotion that filters through me. But that is another article entirely.

I’m thinking that perhaps what has worked for me in the realm of love and heart matters in the past is no longer fitting. That a rewiring of sorts needs to occur. That my heart must, in a sense, ‘grow up’.

Can we create new pathways in the heart as we can create new neural pathways in the brain?

Perhaps the diving isn’t working and this heart needs to take a step back and be more discerning. But when I think of this it makes me feel like I’m compromising who I am, how my heart really is and is meant to be. I’m almost ‘proud’ of my heart and its capacity to love and be hopelessly romantic and feel all this emotion. Sitting with it, feeling into it, and recognizing it for what it is may help in naturally transforming some of the nuances and depth of feelings.

My thoughts were that perhaps the mind and the heart need to work together more to create some sort of balance. That maybe I needed to go back and study the nature of all my relationships and how most of the time I have dived in it’s been a drowning almost? Though the drowning is a full immersion in unbridled devotion and adoration of the other, the brain needs to step in and be a bit more discerning and communicate that to the heart; learn the lesson.

I don’t like the phrase ‘be careful’ when it comes to my heart and love. I innocently just want to experience the whole thing. I want to extract all the juice out of it, get messy, and take a huge delicious bite. My heart has definitely won over my brain 99.9% of the time. But what about our wounds, our pasts that have influenced the way we love, how much we let in, and how much we turn away? Our hearts hurting, our brains constantly adjusting our thoughts and reactions to ‘protect’ us.

I don’t want a boundary set up around my heart. I want to see the other and be seen fully — blood, guts and all, down to the core. My heart doesn’t understand moderation, discernment, and logic. Does it need to grow up? Does it need to realize that this is what causes huge wounds if it engages too fully? No, I don’t believe that’s it. Perhaps I’ve just not been met. Where are the hearts out there like mine?

After all this questioning I then learned that scientists have actually discovered that the brain and heart do indeed influence each other and that there is a constant dialogue occurring between the two. Out of all the organs in the human body, the heart generates the largest electromagnetic frequency. Sixty times greater than the brain in fact. It is infinitely more intelligent than the brain. To be emotionally intelligent means to be heart-based, sensitive. Apparently, the heart communicates with the brain and body in a few different ways: neurologically via the nervous system, energetically, physically, and chemically via hormones. The different signals that the heart sends to the brain alter its functioning. So, there it is; they do help each other and work together. Focusing your attention on heart healing indeed creates a new pathway and communicates to the brain to create more positive thoughts. That is fascinating and encouraging.

Maybe I am delving into a huge analytical process at this juncture of my journey because I’m just plain old scared of being hurt…again. The pain of heartbreak has been so much. Way too familiar and maybe I’m just simply fearful now. It’s almost like I expect to go down this inevitable road of suffering every time my heart opens. But I’m sure that’s probably an old story cycling around in my subconscious.

As I acknowledge all the work I have done to release the old ingrained patterns and focus physically, mentally, and energetically on my heart and intend for its healing so will my thoughts transform?

In my attempt to take an honest look at this — learn, grow, I realize that it all just needs to be seen and not pushed away or denied in any way. That it’s all ok. I’m not special, my heart is not as fragile as I think it is. It’s just my ego that identifies with the stinging pain of loss, heartbreak, and pain. When I feel that twinge of longing, sorrow, loneliness, fear, or great unrequited love, to be fully with it, to honor it and not hold on to it, rejoice in it even! And then let it fly so my heart can expand and regrow its own wings and be ready to receive and embrace the true reflection of what it is; big, beautiful, deep, juicy, and alive! And then build a bridge to my brain affirming all this so I can function, even thrive!

What do you think? How does your heart operate? Has it evolved and changed the more experience you’ve had? Have you consciously considered how it would be to ‘rewire’ it? Does your heart win? Can you feel it communicating with your brain and your other organs?

Notes From the Other Side of the Bed

CALIFORNIA, U S A


I slept on the other side of the bed last night. Laying claim to it seemed appropriate, as you would not be returning.

I stirred every couple of hours. The stinging realization of losing you each time I rose to the surface of my consciousness.

An instant pang of anxiety. An emptiness in my belly. An ache in my heart.

In the morning when I awoke, the twinge in my side rudely reminded me of my aloneness. As I unwound from the fetal position I’d held all night. My eyes, teary once more, greeted me with a salty swollen silence.

Though something beckoned to me from beyond the emotion, beyond the tide of sadness, forbidding me to lose myself. Urging me to see through the sorrow, for out of it was to come an unfurling of vicissitude, a kaleidoscope of motion.

It was only in the memory of that which had passed did my heart feel weighted down.

With a breath, the wild undulation of joy and sorrow that was, softly rippled into a calm hush within and I could see myself as one with the glassy surface of a lake, with trees and clouds and birds reflected inward. The water seeping downward. Gently eroding. Smoothing out the prickly edges. Nature taking its course. Until it made its way to the core. Penetrating the shell that had been waiting for nourishment.

For eons, it had patiently endured. Unstirred by the hands of time. Sure of what would eventually come.

Codes awaken, one cell at a time. They turn to the light and blink with immaculate awareness. Wise in their innocence. Trusting that this time the fullness of love will find them.

My body uncurls. Slowly and gently I stretch. It’s a courageous move to extend my arms away from my heart, exposing it to the blinding luminescence of day.

Legs unfold. Feet find their way to the floor, from the other side of the bed which seems so far away – like you always felt – even as you lay there next to me.

I’d marvel at you; the indentation in your upper lip. The little grey hairs in your beard. Your dark eyelashes. Your profile. As you lay there, motionless on your island, like a corpse. And I would respect you in your sovereign stillness. Every last hair on your body. Even though I wanted to hold your hand, rest my head on your shoulder.

Your beautiful skin, like silk. You would say mine was like moonlight, and you were my sun. Then finally you would turn and smile and sometimes you would say you were glad to wake up next to me, but only sometimes. And sometimes it felt sweet. And sometimes it felt bitter. Feeling your denial. A veiled sadness you held beneath hour ribs. The stubborn anxiety you tried to conceal under your skin.

I sensed every last fragment; feigning detachment from the effect it had on me but it seeped into the cracks and lay there, carving a chasm between us.

And I would remain patient, hopeful, gracious, compassionate. In constant adoration of your endearing heart. Content to have you near enough but not as close as I desired. Not pushing. Not demanding more; time, sex, depth, surprise.

Accommodating your practicality, your sensibility, your schedule, your hesitation, and your realism which sometimes inspired and fascinated and at times frustrated. Whilst I dreamed of romance and enchantment and swimming deeper than your ocean would allow.

And often you would delight and amaze in your essence.

I remember chocolate ice cream and kisses on hills at sunset. Your sweet nakedness; moments of innocent willingness to dissolve your fear and just be. There I found an openness allowing closeness. Pure and real. And I treasured you as oftentimes I felt you treasured me.

I would ignite and delight in you, and your mention of the future; of us. I took it all to heart and I thought you did too.

And now I take it all apart and my life and my body are only mine once more, just like yours always only was, and the surrounding mood in my room and all around me is flat and still and dull and quiet.

The space behind my eyes holding memories and a twinge of longing. Recalling what I gave and wanted and waited for. The faith that you would come around and take my hand and tell me you were in; not in too deep or halfway in, but into me, us, together, as you were in our beginning.

And I softened, opened, after being closed for so long. Your sweetness and kindness, a welcome relief from the harsh neglect of times past.

But beginnings dissolve away. Vacillate. Open and close. Shift from light to dark. Fear and doubt preventing the truth of what could be. No way to see what we were without it. Leaving me alone, confused, resigned.

I hold my breath before the next wave. Anticipate my solitude once more, of which I am most accustomed; strong, self-sufficient. An expert like I’ve always been.

The moments that were filled with you and my excitement of holding you near, emptied, for me to consider anew.

And now it is night again.

I bow to our coming together and our falling away. And to you and all you were and wanted to be.

I beheld your efforts, your care and tenderness. Your steadfastness. Your willingness to help and support. To soothe and heal. It was heartwarming and kind. Rare and new.

My tears flow as much for our joy as they do for the longing of wanting more time: to deepen, learn and grow with you.

I am grateful for knowing your generous heart your brilliance, your essence.

Farewell, dear man, from the other side of my bed.

Roses Abound

KALAAT M’GOUNA, M O R O C C O

As we approach Kalaat M’Gouna (Valley of the Roses), I can smell the sweet scent of the Rosa Damascena wafting through the air. Little boys stand on the side of the road selling small rose garlands. Roses and beauty abound.

We arrive in the main square where our taxi awaits to take us to The Kasbah des Roses where we will stay at a small distillery with a Berber family and soak in the peace and dramatic beauty of this valley.

Everything is pink here, the taxis and the walls of buildings and there is a huge rose sculpture in the center of the town square.

We get whisked away to the Kasbah, about a 20-minute ride away, and arrive at the most gorgeous property.

The building itself is humble and simple with an old metal door leading into a main courtyard. We are shown to our room which is covered in roses: the bed, the bathroom sink and window ledge. We have a view of the mountains and the valley below.

We are given mint tea on arrival and introduced to the family who are thrilled that we are there. Mohammed beams a smile and proudly invites us to take a walk in the valley which is the most beautiful sight to behold. Roses bloom in the lush valley amongst pomegranate trees, figs and wheat. Birds sing as the sun sets behind red mountains. We are enthusiastically given handfuls of roses as we proceed on our walk. I’ve never seen so many roses in all my life. The high vibration of the scent in the air is beyond compare.

We have landed in paradise. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been with some of the sweetest people I’ve ever met.

I Miss Her

ABU DHABI, U A E

It’s been 6 days since I left India and it feels like an age. I feel like I’m in a void and not connecting to much.

After 5 months of travel and sleeping on mostly hard Indian beds with brick-like pillows and taking every mode of transport conceivable; from scooters and motorbikes to taxis and tuk-tuks, donkeys and trains, sleeper buses, bicycles and boats, my body, especially my neck was way out of alignment. Needless to say, I was in desperate need of a chiropractic adjustment as the 50 rupee trip to the barber in Varanasi for one didn’t quite do the trick.

I didn’t realize quite how much I missed India until I got in a taxi to go to the chiropractor in Abu Dhabi a few days ago and my driver was Indian. I was so excited to see him. He was so incredibly kind and we talked the entire way to my appointment. We shared our love for the Indian land, people and culture. He was so happy to hear that I had been to the town he had grown up in in Kerala.

I shared much of my trip and what I’d learned and found myself unexpectedly choking back tears as I spoke with him because I was missing it so much.

As we were saying our goodbyes I opened up my journal to write his name down and out fell a little blue flower I had picked up from the ground at the botanical garden in Bangalore on one of my last days there.

I gave it to him and he took it and cupped it carefully in his hands, noticing how incredibly delicate it was. With big eyes and a huge smile, he asked: “Is it from India?” I said yes and told him it was for him. He was so delighted and said he would keep it to remember me. It was such a touching interaction I felt so blessed to have had. Just as I feel so blessed that India welcomed me and cradled me in her arms and showed me so much of her and of me; through her perfect imperfection, through her chaos and her beauty, through her ritual and her rawness.

She is in me and has forged a deep and rich crevice in my heart that is filled with jewels and a longing to return.

This Land I Love

B A N G A L O R E, I N D I A

I’ve been tossed and tumbled in this place like a pebble on the river floor. 
I’ve been pulled by the flow of traffic on this dusty street.
I’ve been shown my resilience through these peoples eyes 
Their hardworking hands that give what they can 
My edges have been softened by these children’s beaming smiles
My wit has grown stronger with these crafty salesmen’s hooks 
My center has exploded with the burning fire of faith for all the questions answered and for those still wrapped in mystery 
Another day begins with more lightness and more grace 
With more trust in flow and pace
Floating with the current
Dancing down this street
Grateful for these feet
That have carried me so far
My eyes are wet with tears
As I try to contain my fears
And leave this land I love 
I love, I love, I love

A Holy Place

V A R A N A S I, I N D I A

I’m in the oldest city in the world. 
I walk passed Buffalo on the street who don’t want to know me
Thin and wounded dogs I pray will make it one more day
I feed a few but it’s not enough
I’m covered in dust from the streets and ash from burning bodies 
The smell of flesh and banyan wood 
A heavy fog creates reflections in mystical silver hues Beyond the faded grandeur of ancient architecture
Tablas, flutes, and sitars sound, lifting spirits beyond the veil 
An ancient place
A holy place
A filthy place
A place we come to cleanse
A place we come to bask in our shadow
While we light candles in prayer
I leave you soon, 
Grateful to have been
To have seen
To have heard
To have felt the denseness Of this uniquely contrasted beauty of a beast.

Varanasi

VARANASI, I N D I A

What an ancient beauty this city is

The light and the dark so tightly woven together

Where the scent of incense and burning bodies drift through the air side-by-side

Where the old and the young and the music and the smoke play together beside the holy river

These temples and castles have seen it all –

The opulence and the poverty

The songs and the prayers

The gypsies and the Gods

Flowers and burning candles float down the river towards dancing deities

Promising answers

Promising strength

Promising wishes fulfilled

Now

VARANASI, I N D I A

The sun greets us for another day
We sing these songs in praise
We pray
For illumination that is already here
before our eyes
And yet we set our sights out yonder
Beyond the horizon we cannot see.
Oh light of Surya beaming down on jewels right before our feet
But we prefer to wonder out on a distant street
Where once we were lost
And one day might find.
Look down right where you stand
A rich and uncultivated land
Untouched, disregarded, forgotten
The blooms trampled
The mood dampened
Ungrateful for the rain
That nourishes those plants you seeded once
It is all happening now and now and now
Get out your plow
And excavate this land right beneath your feet

Fairytales

RISHIKESH, I N D I A

Slow working Ayurvedic medicine

Mantras resounding across the river

Fortune tellers who want to tell me who I’ll marry

Anxiety that hasn’t left me for days

Love affairs that end before they begin

An aching deep down that’s been with me for eons

An innocent belief in true love and fairytales

An intent that’s still fresh and pure

A realization that fear sometimes rises over gratitude and grace

A recognition of my deepest heart

The gentle sound of cleansing waters

An acceptance of the peace of this place

A passion that has yet to be unleashed

Puzzle pieces showing the way

A knowing that it is all inside

A faith that grows with a love

for the essence of me.

Thoroughly Alive

RISHIKESH, I N D I A

There’s no method to this madness
Just a wild and courageous heart
I want life to squeeze me out – to use me
So by the end of my days, I can say that I’ve stretched – to the north and the south, the east, and the west 
So that the jewels within are polished and bright, and the lines on my face have stories to tell.

There is no method to this madness just a calling to the truth
An unveiling of the love that I am
A pull to be thoroughly satisfied
To hold the hands of those who want the same
To touch the hearts of those who need it most
To give it all
The depths, the heights, the grand, the small
To dance through lands and touch the sands
To feel it all
The sun, the rain
The pleasure the pain 
To arrive completely used
Thoroughly alive. 

Burning Into Peace

TIRUVANNAMALAI, TAMIL NADU, I N D I A

My bare feet walk upon cool marble floors.; making circles around the altar. It is 6:30am. I walk and ardently await the singing. Men and boys chanting in devotion. Ancient Sanskrit sweetness.

The moment they begin there is a stirring in my heart. Tears flow. They flow in remembrance. They flow in recognition of the Union of the divine masculine and feminine that I hear coming through their voices, their souls. Reverence, purity. The essence of the mother. Of the father; before the forgetting, before the upsetting of truth. Before the confusion. Before the misperceptions. Before time and space. From the emptiness. It is the frequency that births creation. The seed of love that blooms eternally. The holiest of hallowed sounds. 

I stop walking and stand at the southwest corner of the altar, facing their backs. A wave of heat washes over me. The fire of truth. Burning away old layers of everything that is not pure. I feel like a pillar that could shapeshift into arms cradling these men. I embrace my namesake. The divine mother overcoming darkness with light, death with love. Remembering the essence of my soul. The masculine in me. Acknowledging the feminine that has over-given, over compensated, turned away from myself. Dismissed the truth. Can I reclaim all the pieces of myself that I have thrown out of reach? I know they are not lost completely because I feel their essence, like fireflies flickering in the dark. 

There are moments when I feel I may never leave here; this town, this mountain. The sweet smiles of knowing. The tug of war inside myself – justifying staying, justifying leaving, in those moments when I can’t stand the stench of the drains, the cow shit, the sewage on the sidewalk, the noise, the neglected animals, the poverty. But then I get swept into a charming interaction with a sweet soul with light shining out of their eyes who can see who I truly am without me uttering a word or I’m lured in by the impeccably kept temple which is so peaceful and alive with prayers and offerings of love, or the old lady on the corner selling fragrant flowers. She spends hours and hours meticulously stringing them up only to sell them for 50 rupees; happily, religiously, every day. And all of this is life, revealed in everything, externally, internally.

All these souls; they come here to be with the mountain. To be with Shiva. To burn in the fire of truth. To burn through the layers of resistance to everything that is not love. To see clearly. To sink into the knowing of self.

There is a decidedly calmer energy within the walls of the ashram. I notice myself taking a breath as I walk through the gates. Taking my shoes off and feeling the sand under my feet feels good. My feet are always dirty here but I love being barefoot most of the day. Here you even take your shoes off before walking into the supermarket. 

After the puja, I walk barefoot up the mountain, despite having a couple of blisters. I need the rocks and the sand beneath my feet. I need to feel the earth, the mountain. I am later than I want to be walking up but I decided to be kind to myself and have a good breakfast first. I have a feeling my journey will take a while. Thankfully it is slightly cooler today and I am grateful to have eaten. The humidity is still stifling but I praise the clouds for covering the sun at least for a few minutes. Halfway up I run into Ananda – a beautiful, spiritual man, all dressed in white. He knows who I am – an ancient recognition. Of course, I realize at this moment that I am not late. This is divine timing. We exchange a few words, embrace and are on our way. He reminds me to be thankful for all the blessings in my life so that more will be bestowed.

Two minutes later, as I am contemplating my blessings, I run into a friend who I haven’t seen in 12 years. We met in Canada right after a decidedly deplorable time in my life. He tells me he is moving here and suggests that maybe we should meet later. He says it would be good to chat and that maybe he could make up for his terrible behavior twelve years ago. I draw a blank. I don’t even remember what happened between us. He seems relieved. We make no plan and leave it open to synchronicity.

As I continue walking, a memory of our time together is triggered and I realize why I have bumped into him. It is yet another layer of pain burning away. His immaturity and emotionality, his jealous ex-girlfriend. That’s all I remember. I don’t need to recall the situation exactly. Only to know that the mountain is supporting the burning away of every situation like this that has occurred in this life and beyond. All the agony, all the layers of misunderstanding. Everything that has torn at my innocence, disappointed and created deep sadness in my heart. 

I continue walking up to the cave and decide only to go to the small cave. I am followed by one of the young cave dwellers who offers to take me to the feet of the dancing shiva higher up in the mountain. He possesses such sincerity and gentleness, a sweet smile and an open face, so I agree to follow him. Not realizing the walk is going to be a bit steep and challenging. Something I am not too prepared for. Something that in the past I would not have batted an eyelid at but as we go further I am unsure. I brace myself with my hand as I step over a rock and lose my balance and bend my finger back. It hurts. It reminds me of all the joint pain I’m working with; an outward manifestation of all the stored up aggravation and suffering. Tears well up. I try to explain to the boy what is happening. He is so kind and compassionate and immediately starts chanting Om Namah Shivaya and rubbing puja ash on the affected finger. He explains that if I stay on the Shiva mountain I will be healed and I will become stronger. He gifts me a large sacred rudraksha bead and tells me the mountain has gifted it to me. I am blessed. I continue crying. I take his hand for a moment and he smiles. It’s all I can do to thank him as I have no words. He takes out 2 small packages of ash, wrapped in newspaper. One white and one purple, representing Shiva and Shakti, which he rubs on my forehead. He holds my hand and accompanies me down to where we started.

We part ways and I continue down to a lower cave where Ramana Maharshi spent seventeen years. On the way down I meet a sādhu sitting on the path who notices my tears. He wipes my face with his rough hands as I bow down to greet him. I open my eyes and look into his – his long white beard and orange robe blurry with all the tears. He says a prayer for me and I continue on. Arriving at the cave brings more crying. A mixture of sweat and tears saturate my entire body and I sit in the cave steeped in the release of what is arising within me. It is burning, cleansing, necessary. I feel fragile but peaceful. In full acceptance and gratitude. 

Upon leaving I decide to return to town a different way. Unbeknownst to me, the path takes me through a hillside village, which is so fascinating and quaint. Every soul I encounter greets me in the sweetest way. Almost like they can see right through me and straight into my heart, knowing the softness and rawness inside. There are tiny puppies; so skinny, stumbling as they walk because they’re so weak; men playing a game on the crumbling sidewalk with stones; women drawing mandalas with chalk on the street outside their doors. I feel like I’m in another time, another life. Softly, quietly, respectfully walking. Greeting these beautiful souls without words. Absorbing this holy, tender moment. 

Contentment Amidst the Chaos

PUSHKAR, RAJASTHAN, I N D I A

I briskly walked away from the lake, tired of fake Brahmin priests offering me a “blessing”.

I felt exasperated from being pulled, pushed and prodded by aggressive little girls in ostentatious gypsy costumes with painted white faces demanding, “money, money, money!” and aggressive henna artists who grabbed my hand without permission, expecting a handsome payment for an uninvited design.

I ran up the ghat stairs and disappeared down a littered alleyway, in an attempt to find refuge from the bustling marketplace. The smell of urine and incense overtook my senses. Amidst the maze of stalls and small streets, I missed the road to my guesthouse. I quickly side-stepped into a clothing stall to take a breath and re-orient myself.

“Looking for something?” a husky, warm voice inquired. I tried to find the face belonging to this friendly voice. There he was, smiling with sparkly eyes and full flushed cheeks, peering up from behind an old Singer sewing machine. Piles of colorful fabric surrounded him.

“Actually I’m not looking for anything. I just wanted to rest for a moment”. I started to explain how I came to be standing in his shop.

He motioned for me to sit. “Chai?”

That was the most welcome invitation I’d had all day.

By now I was familiar with the drill. I’d probably spend the next hour or so chatting and drinking sweet chai. I settled with content.

We talked for what seemed to be hours. Mukand was kind and charming with a wild streak but I detected that deep within the complexity of his being was a deep sadness that later he would reveal.

The following evening we sat on the rooftop of The Palace Hotel, sipping tea and telling stories, with a view of Pushkar Lake. Its still, glassy surface twinkled with the reflection of the city lights.

In the distance, the sound of wedding music coincided with the story of his arranged marriage. I was curious and troubled by this Indian tradition and listened intently as he shared. The sorrow that I’d sensed seeped out as he spoke.

“I was 24 when my mother introduced me to my wife. At first, I ran away. I partied and drank. For weeks I was gone. But I came back and married her to honor my mother.”

The wedding procession encroached down the street. The groom paraded around on a costumed horse. Horns and drums blared whilst family and friends danced and sang. The cacophony enveloped us, saturating the air with sound, almost completely drowning out our voices.

“Did you enjoy your wedding at all?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t, it was hard for me to smile. I don’t love her but I’m at peace. I have two healthy children and my life is full. I have perfect hands and feet and friends from all over the world. Savitri, life is good.”

A tear rolled down his cheek. “And for me, telling my story for the first time to you is a good feeling.”

I smiled and the sparkle returned to his eyes. We looked up at the starry sky as the parade started to recede.

We embraced and as the music became softer I felt a very distinct role at that moment. One of nurturance and understanding. Offering him the freedom to be himself. To let down his guard and share his pain. And I had found a connection in this town that had been alienating and harsh. I had found a softness and a warmth with a new friend who needed me just as much as I needed him.

Rose Tea and Sea

PONDICHERRY, I N D I A

Rose tea and sea
Sink into my bones,
Heal the brittle parts of me 
Take me away in your salty tears.
I see me now all wrapped in white
Rose tea and sea bring back my sight.

Following time upon the waves
I came from sitting in those caves
Where salty tears ran down my face
I melted into time and space.
Crackling fire that burned within
Soothed and calmed my heart and sin.

Rose tea and sea,
I see 
You see
The scattered drops
Like tiny dots,
Becoming one
Loves fiercest song,
Echoing through this flesh and bones 
In softest hues and violet tones.

May this last
Forget the past,
The fury, salt and prickly stem
So tightly woven 
Let out the hem
So I can move my legs
And dance 
With every chance.

Rose tea and sea
Take me now by my hand 
Onto the sand,
I’ll sway my hips 
And take 5 sips,
My favorite things
I’ll learn to sing
Rose tea and me
Sand and sea.

To Thyself Be Kind

TIRUVANNAMALAI, TAMIL NADU, I N D I A

No more struggle now sweet one
The time of toil and trouble done
Kindness is the word today
Resolve to treat yourself this way
Slowly, slowly unfold the now
For this becomes the sacred vow
The only way the work will come
Obsession with the presence – one
Assimilate the form of essence
Summon love’s incandescence
No need, no need for haste and frown
All the mantles of your rich crown
Appear as you have labored well
Though sometimes you could not quite tell
See it now in humble form
Quietly, quietly observe each storm
That tossed and shook your world apart
That scraped away the myth and mask
Pulled you far from loves great task
And now you see the brambled path
That tore and pricked
And pulled and kicked
Refined your eye
Designed the sky
And seeded stars
That healed the scars
From all those steps
Your precious feet
Once walked upon that stony street
That street called fear
Which now is clear
Hold dear, hold dear
Your worthy heart
Come now and start
To play your part
The music score awaits your voice
Of this you know the purest choice
With ease and grace
Upon your face
The notes come through
As sure and true
Crystal power
Nectars flower
Align with earth
Rebirth, rebirth

From the Jungle to the Mountain

First impressions of India during a taxi ride

KARALA, I n d i a

She’s beautiful and she’s ugly. Grand and grotesque. Lush and littered.

I looked through the car window like I was watching an 8-hour movie, as we traveled through poverty and richness, simplicity and chaos; avoiding at least 1000 accidents along the way. Coming face to face with buses, scooters, cows and roosters, dogs and humans.

And yet the navigation is peaceful and routine, as we squeeze between a truck piled 10 feet high with sacks of rice and monkeys eating on the side of the road. Whilst Kumar, our taxi driver, all dressed in white, eyes on the road, hand on the horn, makes sure we arrive unscathed. Here you must have eyes in the back of your head and the sides, with a 7th sense and amazing reflexes and be able to channel Brahma in every moment along the way. Thank God Ganesha lives on the dashboard of every taxi, bus and rickshaw.

We reach another small village with tiny street-front stores; a tailor, a grocer a shoeshine stand. Colorful jugs of water dance atop sareed women’s heads. Little boys and girls walk home from school. Home is a simple building, painted blue with a straw roof and right on the street, where a cow is tied to a tree and emaciated dogs scurry by in search of the next scrap of food. Ducks bath in sewage on the sidewalk.

We slam on breaks as an elderly man with white hair and a long beard is slowly making his way across the chaotic sea of traffic. He is not phased in the least and neither is the taxi driver. It just is. No one is uptight or anxious. We just navigate the best we can. We duck and dive and stay alive.

The fruit stalls side-by-side are stocked to the brim with bananas and papayas and a man on a bicycle carries at least 50 coconuts. How is that even possible? There’s another on a scooter carrying dozens of aluminum pots. He shimmers and rattles down the road in the setting sun.

My glance follows him as he disappears down the street and I notice a goat; insides spilling out onto the street. I think she’s giving birth but then I notice a swift slice to her neck. She’s being skinned alive right there; with passers-by, with traffic and flies and people selling their wares.

It’s all in the blink of an eye as we drive by.

Jungle Dreaming

KERALA, I N D I A

And it rained all night,
My dreams awash in jungle air
Crickets pausing
Silence speaks
Angels floating in to teach.

And you who wandered through my story
All those years beyond the now
Scatter forth like weary ghosts
Dissolve into luminescent dust

Free me now
For I am sovereign.

Flowers bloom around my head
Dripping nectar as I tread,
Upon a starlit path tonight
Rising up as I take flight.

And I Love Her

Kochin, I n d i a

I think I loved her before I even set foot on her soil.

I boarded the plane and took my seat. I was the only foreigner on the flight. Perhaps somewhere deep down inside I was not.

I traded my aisle seat for a window and settled in. As I departed Dubai I thought about my sister, and my cousin, who was more of a sister to me. She had treated me like a queen and always went above and beyond to be generous and kind. Never skipping a beat and always being thoughtful of what I may need.

The flight staff served my food. As I started eating I stepped outside of myself for a moment and observed myself going on this voyage – a voyage of self-love. I looked like a child on this journey. Eating my food on this plane. Having prepared myself for this mission. Sitting alone, as I had many times before on my way to a foreign land. Finding a moment of appreciation for myself, for my heart, for my courage to once more be going in search of the highest version of myself. To expand into the fullness of my being. To do and be something meaningful in the world. For my soul to fully inhabit my body and for me to listen deeply and completely.

I had journeyed around the world on various different missions – to dance, to discover, to start a new life. To follow what I thought would bring me peace and joy. And there were glimpses but the disconnect I had felt was like a chasm that had swallowed me up and made me invisible.

I put my hand on my heart and absorbed this moment of love. Of real acknowledgment for myself and my heart, whilst I sobbed over my food. Releasing; crying tears; knowing what was to come. The flight attendants came to me one by one with genuine concern in their deep brown eyes. With reverence and with care. They were true reflections of my destination.

And that’s when I fell in love with her. She knew I was coming and I could feel her kindness, her mystery, her arms around me – a gateway to the all-encompassing, messy reality that only India has the courage to reveal.

Quest

FLYING TO INDIA

I left California on the last day of summer – I designed it that way
I was in the air and far away
Not looking back
There was nothing to see
The west disappeared as I looked east
The setting sun had told me all there was to say
I flew passed the stars
Over the desert
And into the jungle
On the wings of a silver dragonfly
The clouds parted
And I arrived
The smell of incense
Deep brown eyes
Marble floors
Carved wooden doors
The scent in the air had stories to tell
We didn’t say much
But remembered them well
One inhale of her and I was home – under her spell