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Untethered

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There was only one thin thread holding me there – love. Love of a man that was not in love with me and was not right for me. I knew it in my bones but I persisted anyway. He was my last attempt, or maybe my last excuse to stay in a place that was not ideal for me and hadn’t been for a very long time. When that thin thread disintegrated, the anchor that was already near the surface of my ocean, broke and there was no sinking down again.

I shudder when I look back on the years of wasted time, trying so hard to make it work. Grasping. Pulling myself up a steep hill and never reaching the summit. Barely even making it far enough for a decent view. Constantly walking through the desert that was California. A valley of tears, that sucked me dry.

It was always love that had led me away or to something. Usually the love for a man, sometimes a job, or simply the freedom to escape, to travel – a new discovery in a foreign land. That, after all, was my first love. Finding myself in an airport was natural and just seemed to happen throughout my life from the moment I went on my first journey. Always at certain junctures in my life. Endings, beginnings, times for expansion. Space to untether myself from heartbreak or confusion. To get lost on purpose in an unknown land. To embrace myself and the warrior in me. My free spirit gleefully flying across the skies. I never once regretted spending money on a plane ticket. If it’s all I ever spent my money on, I was content.

So there I was, at another juncture, that I had created, looking back at all the doors that had slammed shut – collaborations, love affairs, homes, projects and attempts at creating something that resembled my version of a good life. A life I could be proud of. But it had all failed. One thing, after the next, until I believed I was a failure. The pathways in my mind, forging a deeper and deeper sense of shame with each passing year. I had to save myself. I had to pack it in, pack up and ship out.

They say that wherever you go, there you are and there’s a great deal of truth in that – whatever your inner state, so is your outer reality. I say, also, that your environment carries an aura that feeds into you, like osmosis, and affects your inner being.

I’ve always been sensitive to my surroundings – the weather, the aesthetics of the environment and the people. Plant me in a place with authentic souls, art, beauty and nature and I’ll grow like I was programmed to. Like a plant that needs air, light and warmth to survive. It’s simple. Why be so dedicated to the struggle when there are so many other options available? So many other gorgeous places to live on this earth. As we get older we realize that time is of the essence. Someday, one day in the future becomes now. Not a moment too soon.

Here it was. The final hour. I was just about to cross the finish line and birth myself into another reality. The decision was made and it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other. Waking up each day to assess what was most precious and purging the rest. Waking up to the reality of the shift I was about to make. My life in the United States, unraveling behind me. Coming to terms with the lifetimes I’d lived in the last 23 years – exactly half my life thus far. I had to keep a steady focus on what was in front of me, leaving behind the what-if’s and the if-only’s. It was too late for those. I didn’t have any more time to waste. The task was clear and each moment was filled with hitting the target: October 3rd. A flight out of San Francisco, at 6:20 pm.

All my belongings had to be packed, sold, stored or donated. I had to be ruthless in moments when I could have been nostalgic. I had to press on, placing one foot in front of the other. Making multiple trips to my storage unit and wading through, what seemed to be an endless exercise of figuring out what was staying and what was going. Most of it had to go. My precious chairs I had bought at a little antique store in San Diego eight years before, when the wide-eyed wonder of living in my 1920’s apartment overtook me with enthusiasm and hope. My rare jazz cd’s and my sketchbooks. Artwork I had created and not sold. Trinkets from travel adventures I’d had for years. Things that ex-lovers had gifted me. In the donation pile they went. Things that evoked sadness, things that were old, things that seemed to belong to another lifetime, attached to memories I’d rather not take with me.

Four boxes – keep, throw away, donate, sell. I made gift packages for people, gave things away, arranged garage sales, listed things online. My days were consumed with organizational tasks. Listing Jamima – my 30-year-old Volvo – to be sold, and due to some miracle, she was. Working here and there when I could to make some extra cash. Making dates with people I would see one more time before departing. Packing my suitcases – one for summer, one for winter – for a journey that would take me to the southern hemisphere for 3 months and the northern for…who knew. Books, essential oils, sage, a couple of precious gemstones, my camera, a deck of Oracle cards and my favorite clothes.

The time drew more and more near until finally, I was standing in my friends living room four hours before my flight, surrounded by things that hadn’t yet been taken care of. Bless that woman for letting me leave with things undone. My vision board on her living room floor, my last donation items in a random box, a pair of shoes I didn’t know what to do with, abandoned in the corner, soaked from running back and forth in the rain. My emotions undone from exhaustion and from this moment finally arriving.

I had pushed and pushed for months on end, intending to tie it all up in a neat little bow, not wanting to burden anyone with any loose ends. But here I was and I had to give myself permission to leave these few things undone and accept my friend’s loving recognition of what this moment entailed. Knowing I had tried my absolute best. Knowing this was a huge deal. It was OK not to be a perfectionist in this particular moment.

And then, as in a weary dream – sanctuary – sitting on the plane. The few keep boxes stored in my friend’s basement and me, in the air with two suitcases. No more storage units, no more fitting all the puzzle pieces together or taking them apart. There were still going to be decisions that needed to be made but not for these next few hours. I could breathe, watch movies, write and dream.

Six months later, as I write this, sitting at a desk in a farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside, there is one suitcase in London and one with me. So many logistical decisions have had to be made since my departure. More diversions before I finally decided on a place to land. South Africa, England, Scotland, supposedly places I’d work and study and make the proper decision about where to be. Lugging those suitcases more times than I care to mention, up and down stairs, into airports onto trains and buses. Accepting people’s help when it was offered, otherwise making it work the best I could. An enormous amount of energy to merely sidestep the right decision, any decision, about where I wanted to ultimately land up.

Sometimes a decision just has to be made and any inkling of inspiration followed. A dreamer I may be. An idealist, most of the time. Free as a bird, only encumbered by my own perceptions of the vision ahead. I realize that sometimes freedom can have one more confused but having gratitude for that freedom and diving into one of those things that have passed through your dreams, things only someone who has this freedom can entertain for real, is a wide open blessing. Choosing one of those one-day visions. Because if you don’t you would wonder ten or twenty years from now, “what if, I had…?”

Now, after the intense heat of South Africa, the cold rain of England and the snow of Scotland, I wait in anticipation for warmer weather again when I can wear my summer clothes that I so carefully packed. To shed a layer and really be here. Here in the land that I’ve envisioned living for so long. Here now, with another list of to-do’s. Things that seem like massive hurdles at this juncture:

Learn Italian

Make new friends

Search for a job

Find somewhere to live

Even amidst the doubt and the worry and the, “what if this fails too”, maybe I could start by congratulating myself for my courage and strength in making it this far, as I walk down cobblestone streets, marveling at the grace and beauty that surrounds me.

 

 

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Aliveness


Chefchaouen, Morocco.

I wake up and open my bedroom window to reveal blue walls and blue sky and sparrows singing and men singing in the mosque. Hearing Arabic brings a smile to my lips and I remember my grandmother and my heritage. I hear her saying prayers in Arabic before we eat and her accent. Her sweetness, her innocent outlook, despite all the hardships life had presented. 
The passion in the language of these people, the presence with which they talk, their kindness, the way they walk.
Their skin, their eyes, their hand gestures. Where do I come from, where am I going and where will I stay? These questions I ponder as the crucial time for deciding grows ever so near. Will I return to the mother land. Is this my destiny? Will I align with the cultures that are rich with passion, with sound, with design, with music, with a spirituality engrained in their veins. 

The way the footsteps of running children echo down the narrow alleyways and the voices of traders as they argue with each other. It’s all in good spirit though. It’s part of the culture. Passion, authenticity, being heard. They explode with strong emotion then return to a mischievous smile and relax into the moment. 

I giggle. I appreciate what I am hearing. There is an aliveness outside of my window, that spills over into my room and it fills me with gratitude, just for this simple moment of being here and hearing this life that is going on for me to witness, for me to hear, for me to be a part of if I wish. 

This land I love

Bangalore, India 

I’ve been tossed and tumbled in this place like a pebble on the river floor. 
I’ve been pulled with 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 



Varanasi, India


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 and lift the 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.

Now

Varanasi, India  


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 that distant street 
Where once we were lost 
And one day might find.
Look down right where you stand.
A rich and cultivated 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.

Fairy tales 

Rishikesh, India 


Slow working Ayurvedic medicine.

Mantras resounding across the river.

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

An anxiety and unsureness 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 fairy tales

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, India 


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 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

Tiruvanamalai, Tamil Nadu, India.

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 shape shift 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 has spent 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 shoeless most of the day. Here you even take your shoes off before walking into the supermarket. 

After the puja I walk bare foot 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. Half way 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 in 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 behavior from 12 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 has such sincerity and gentleness, a sweet smile and 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 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 which Ramana Maharshi spent 17 years in. 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 a releasing of whatever is arising in myself. 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 and every person I encounter greets me in the sweetest way. Almost like they can see right through me 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. 

Rose tea and sea


Pondicherry, India 

Rose tea and ocean
Sink into my bones,
Heal the brittle parts of me 
Take me away in the sea.
I see me now all wrapped in white
Rose tea and ocean 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.

 sivitri 2016

To thyself, be kind

Tamil Nadu, India

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