An eclectic spiritual & inspirational place to heal, learn, feel & expand. Heart & soul first. Miraculous experiences from India as well as the life & times of a spiritual healer/teacher in the U.S. Miracles, saints, sages, gurus, healing, life & death... and more...!

Thursday, October 28, 2004

untitled poem

a leaf blows by,

still luminous from its contact

with the tree

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

rattling the bars of this spiritual cage

okay, so over the last week or two, I've been getting the weirdest emails from friends, people I've known and loved and goofed off with and confided in, for years and years....

& who're recently writing stuff to me like "oh, I'd love to tell you about Burning Man this year but I think it's too frenetic for you, you won't want to hear about it..." or that maybe I hadn't seen such and such a movie because of its violence.

(somehow the implication is that I don't have normal tastes and enjoyment of stuff in the world, because I've been holed up in an ashram studying spirituality for five years.... like I've fallen out of the human race entirely, or off the edge of the world or something.)

it's kind of stunning -- the judgments and ideas people toss my way because of this spirituality thing.

like I've suddenly gone bizarrely self-righteous, sanctimonious, anhedonic, and rigid in my attitudes -- and -- worst accusation of all! -- that I've maybe LOST my sense of humor...!!!!

(when in my view and experience, deep spirituality creates exactly the OPPOSITE effect in people who're serious about it....)

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the strangest one was someone today writing me that they don't forward political jokes and other internet chatter about the American elections to me because I probably am not interested in such 'mundane' considerations, what with my spiritual path and all.


so, to get this straight once and for all -- I'm terribly interested in American (and international) politics -- you can take the girl out of the political junkie arena, but you can't take the political junkie out of the girl, it seems.... (in fact, I just submitted my absentee ballot to my local county clerk in California, so my vote will count in the up-coming presidential election in the U.S.)

I watched all three presidential debates (and the VP one) on the internet, start to finish, and read the related commentaries.

I follow the NY Times online, the Washington Post, and -- and Newsweek online & The Nation, for fun.

one of my favorite political touchstones is, a fantastic blog written by David Corn, Washington Editor for The Nation, author of Bush Lies, and long-standing acquaintance of mine.

I'm really pissed that Fahrenheit 9/11 is available on DVD and I don't have a copy of it -- haven't even seen it, yet.

Christ's famous instruction to his disciples, 'be in this world, but not of it,' is a brilliant summation of the spiritual destiny in life -- okay, I don't take all of it as seriously as I once did, I DO perceive the illusion-nature in the political frays, etc., BUT at the same time, I do live in this world and, so far as I can reasonably ascertain, I will BE living in this world for quite a while to come -- so I still need to be conversant with what's going on in it, how the pieces fit together, and what that pesky zeitgeist is doing next.

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I'm a HOPELESS movie addict.

in fact, it's probably safe to say (I don't think I'm violating any initiate vows or international treaties by revealing this,) most of us at this ashram are. we buy DVDs and VCDs (the cheap Asian equivalent) and we trade them around like baseball cards or lending libraries, watching them on our laptops.

even Kaleshwara, my spiritual master, used to send us off, in the old days (a few years ago) to hotels to just chill out, eat room service food, and watch movies for a few days. our specific instructions were to watch movies as much as possible, and to do no meditation, no spiritual work of any kind.

we used to call it The Movie Diksha. (diksha=spiritual process rules)

90% of spiritual success depends on relaxation, and anything a person can do, especially in these high spiritual channels, to relax and take it easy (despite illness, burning hot flashes, emotional melt-downs, physical aches & pains, life traumas like running out of money or being rejected by family and friends) -- anything one can do to relax is valid. and even NECESSARY.

these days, I'm watching on average one full-length feature film a day.

to date, I've ploughed through:

* 5 seasons of Sex & The City
* 3 seasons of The West Wing television series
* 2 seasons of Sports Night
* the HBO production of Angels & America
* most of the great movies made in the last few years.

it's been REALLY exciting to discover sources in the US (two good friends, but I can't tell you their names, though, or otherwise....) who're willing to copy, onto DVD, films of all kinds and genres, and send them to us in India!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've been working my way through Woody Allen movies, as well as old black & white classics such as High Noon, Hepburn & Tracy comedies, of joys - Bugs Bunny cartoons!

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an embarrassing highlight of my relentlessly pop-culture life: getting the latest copy of Vanity Fair magazine. I always pick one up in Singapore when I go there. now that students of mine and Jonathan's are starting to come from Singapore to visit the ashram, THEY'RE bringing Vanity Fair copies for us!


contrary to all expectations....
I still DO have a sense of humor.... somewhere.....

wait, lemme see where I PUT that sucker................

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Maha Durga

durga statue
Originally uploaded by alxindia.
Jai Ma!

so this is the 1200 or 1400-year-old statue I saw in Hampi, described in the post entitled "Durga in Hampi Letter."

She is only a few feet high, but She is majestic.

you can see some of Her many weapons, held in Her many arms, poking out from behind the sari cloth the priests drape around Her.

this photo was taken after the puja, or ceremony, described in the letter -- I somehow didn't think it was respectful to take a photograph of the Divine Mother when She's nude.

so I waited for the priest to put Her sandal paste, turmeric and bright red kum-kum powder back on, as well as the sari cloth, before snapping.

durga's lion

durga's lion
Originally uploaded by alxindia.
this is a photo of the Durga temple, described in the lengthy post entitled "Durga in Hampi Letter," below.

the lion is covered in kum-kum (red vermillion powder), old juice from coconuts being broken on and around it, and remnants of sandal paste.

this lion was a wonderful friend to lean on, as we meditated just outside the door to Her little temple (the door and the Durga statue behind it are in the shadows just in back of this welcoming statue).

more Hampi variations

jonathan on the rocks
Originally uploaded by alxindia.
more pieces of the Hampi puzzle -- here's my partner, Jonathan, on the rocks... we were looking for a place to meditate all afternoon. the shade of these rocks was so inviting...

all the ruined temples of Hampi, by the way, are scattered in and around and sometimes even built ON these monumental and intriguing rock formations...

Durga in Hampi Letter


so Jonathan and I spent a lot of time discovering little nooks and crannies where the Mother was represented, and found some magical spots. in particular, we found a 12-or-1400 year-old statue of Durga (the "Inaccessible"!!?), the fierce female aspect of Ma who is seen riding a tiger, with many many arms -- each arm carrying a weapon. she comes from that fine tradition of warrior goddesses, not unlike Athena in the Greek mythos.

I first discovered Durga in a book of Tibetan deities, many years ago while helping to design a computer game based in Tibetan Buddhist traditions and locations.

Durga, who's a hair's-breath away from Kali, the dark bloody mother who wears a necklace of skulls around her neck and drips blood from her fangs, is, according to the Tibetan book, armed to the teeth because she is destroying duality, and the ignorance that accompanies it. I was immediately enraptured with her, her many arms, her belligerent stance, the noble tiger she's mounted on, and the fact that she's slicing dualism with every weapon -- I always knew, instinctively, that the conventions of  'good and bad, right and wrong, life and death,' etc., were a total crock.  that human beings split reality into black and white because it feels safer that way, because living in the grey seems too ambiguous and frightening...

anyway, after I first saw that drawing of Durga, I was hooked on her. totally identified with her, loved her presence and what she stands for.

seeing, then, in Hampi, this 1200-year-old or so stone statue of Durga, was a powerful experience. meditating in front of her door (she's kept behind a locked door, with a small metal-barred grill in front so you can peep in and see her through the bars) was wild, there's an ancient lion, also carved in stone, right in front -- about as large as a St. Bernard -- that we hung out near. (lions, tigers, it's all the same here; the point is that a Big Cat of Some Kind is her official mount, so they always make a statue of a god or goddess accompanied, nearby, by its mount.)

they do a special puja (ceremony) for her every morning, we met the lovely Brahmin priest who does the puja, one day, an old man with a wizened and brightly-lit-from-within face named Acharya, "The Non-Moving." Acharya is commonly translated to mean, 'master.'

so the puja happens at, gulp, 6am, and a priest opens the locked door, strips the ornamental sari and flowers and so on from the statue, washes the statue while chanting all kinds of vedic mantras, and then offers flame to her. and then to us, so that her light can be ours.

okay, so, we actually got up at 5 am, got into the delightful auto-rickshaw (luxury golf cart, the vehicle of choice along the Hospet-Hampi road, you really get to know every bump and ditch in the road after a few days of THAT) and went out to Hampi in the dark. the jolting journey takes about a half-hour.

we piled in front of the Durga temple ("temple" in this case is an exaggeration, the whole area is about 500 square feet, if that, including the statue area, front entrance with the lion, etc.) and waited for the priest to show up. a young guy from the main Shiva temple complex came along around 6:15, and opened the doors. wow.  seeing the full statue directly, unobstructed by the padlocked doors, was an experience in itself.

it stands about four feet hight, dark dark black stone. her facial features are accentuated with a sandal paste, bright yellow, -- like her eyes, the lines of her jawbone, and her forehead. so they really jump out at you. also, she had a huge solid circle of fire-engine red kum-kum powder stuck on her third eye, and on other parts of her face, neck, multiple hands and weapons, etc. her expression is at once completely stern and forbidding (almost repulsive), and also that of an infinitely gentle, loving mother. the genius of whoever carved it, all those centuries ago, the ability to capture such a complex expression and emotional range in a piece of stylized rock, left me speechless.

it's also a part of the secret of Divine Mother, and of Nature, which she represents -- almost all of the Durga and Kali statues are rendered with a forbidding, if not completely grotesque, facial structure. folks who're only operating on the surface take a glance and wince, and go away, oblivious to the deeper significance of this apparent ugliness.

if you look at any of these "hideous" statues long enough, you begin to see the gentle, flowing, sublime beauty behind the grotesquerie. after a certain period of time, you don't even register that the statue's face was repugnant in the first place -- it's just beautiful.  the message is that Nature is like that -- potentially ugly and disturbing on the surface, but celestially beautiful underneath -- no duality. both elements, ugliness and beauty, are present and accounted for, blended together and molded into the same coin -- not even the proverbial two distinct sides are perceptible, if you really look.

then he went through the ritual, tenderly taking the sari off of the statue, (they have this whole order of how they fold it, arrange it, etc., quite precise and yet the whole activity flows, like a choreographed dance with some room for improvising) and the flowers from the day before, etc.  underneath, she is a surprisingly supple and almost ridiculously voluptuous woman, huge breasts carved without clothes of any kind, and the black stone suggesting a sort of skirt, clinging to her shapely hips. wow, whoda guessed that under the garish sari is this total sex symbol???   also, this particular statue is a standing Durga, not sitting on her tiger, though the tiger (or lion or whatever it was, the carving was a bit vague on this point ) was also represented, smaller than she, behind her. this would seem to indicate how ancient the statue is, mentioned the priest in broken English. she's rarely shown standing.

a few stray Indian women and men, from Hampi village, straggled over in the semi-dark, carrying baskets, or plastic bags, containing flowers and fruits as offerings during the little puja. they made their pranams (full bows, forehead pressed reverently to the ground), gave their offerings, murmured some prayers under their breath....

then he started the abishek, or the washing of the statue. usually they chant, pour lots of cuploads of water over statues, (I've seen a lot of abisheks, have also participated in them), and the chanting and the washing and the statue and the energy and this surreality factor in the air all combine and somehow energy starts increasing, flowing outwards, free for the taking. like a huge blessing, spreading butterfly wings out in front of you, inviting you to partake and enjoy and feel touched by feathery love.

the priest started the washing, and it happened that this particular statue is decorated every day in a ton of kum-kum, the bright blood-red powder that Hindus often wear between their eyebrows, signifying the 3rd, or psychically aware, eye.  Durga, and her sister in essence, Kali, are known for eating the blood of their demonic enemies, drinking it down so as to save creation from Ignorance. in many places, even today, the ancient tradition of offering animal sacrifices to this particular form of the Divine Mother is still observed, because it's thought that she needs blood. (they used to do human sacrifices, as well. yikes.)

and, you know, we cannot be born without the blood of our mothers accompanying the experience....   the significance of blood, in the Hindu mystic tradition, is intense and powerful, and is considered a huge blessing -- since blood is the essential liquid of a creature, they think it also contains the essence OF a creature, ie, the soul.

I mention this because the first little jug of water the priest poured over the head of this Durga was enough to loosen up ALL the kum-kum powder on her head and torso, so the startling result was a TON of thick, bright red water that looked like blood cascading down the dark stone body of the Mother. it was so unexpected, and so visceral, like a literal blood-bath, that I almost fell over. it was like a mild blast of wind, just out of nowhere.

I DID make a shouting sound, half-surprise, and half-roar...    I'm sure the priest thought I was nuts.

it may not sound like much, a priest in a rural temple pouring a cup of water over a naked female statue carved from black rock, and the water appearing like blood whooshing down over the whole form of the woman....   at dawn,  the sky beginning to lighten, full of the promise of a new day...

but it WAS much.  really much.

we were so full of that red much, Jonathan and I, that once the half-hour ceremony was done, Durga re-clothed in a fresh sari and re-made-up with new red powder and bright yellow sandal paste, new flowers strung around her neck and fruit offered at her feet, that we sank into a deep deep meditation that lasted until mid-morning.

we were so satiated with it that the sun's rays rising on us, so hot so early it's usually cause to duck and cover, rolled right off our backs..........

prelude & fugue on Durga

this is a longer story (sorry!) but since today is the Dassara, or Vijaya Dashini, the Victory Day of Mother Divine in a fierce form defeating the demons, I thought I'd post it here in this wonderful and auspicious time.

Hampi, as I mentioned before, is an ancient ruined city that is home to literally thousands of abandoned temples, on an incredible river called the Tungabhadra. the river is like a small version of the Ganga (Ganges), is it Mother Divine flowing there. In its hey-day in the mid-1500s, in the Vijayanagara Empire, Hampi was the center of the South Indian empire, the capitol of what was the WEALTHIEST empire in the world at that time. there are unbelievable accounts, written by Portuguese traders at the time, about the phenomenal wealth and majesty of Hampi -- they described cart traffic (traders in spices, gold, gems, silks, etc.) literally being bumped to bumper along the road from Goa to Hampi (Goa is on the coast, Hampi is considerably inland), and how the market streets of Hampi were filled with vendors selling PILES of high-quality emeralds, rubies, diamonds, etc.

the king of Hampi at the absolute height of its wealth, a 20-year period in the mid-1500s -- and at the time of its utter destruction by the Delhi sultanate, the Muslim fighters literally spent 6 MONTHS sacking and pillaging Hampi -- was a extraordinary character named Krishna Devaraya. he was as much a saint as he was a king, and surrounded himself with the greatest saints and spiritual masters of his day -- from every tradition, Hindu, Jain, Muslim, etc. interestingly enough, Krishna Devaraya's stronghold, another fort, was a little village called Penukonda.

Penukonda just 'happens' to be where Swami Kaleshwara built his ashram. I live in Penukonda.

some people in the ashram here speculate that Kaleshwara WAS Devaraya, in that lifetime. I think the jury's still out on that. but there's a definite connection between Devaraya and Kaleshwara, and between the knowledge and teachings that Kaleshwara is now bringing into the world.

anyway, just to give you an introduction to the ancient quality and the former history and the current power of Hampi.

in April of 2001, Jonathan and I spent more than a month in Hampi, meditating by the river every day, long hours, and exploring the powerful temples scattered all around the landscape there.

the following excerpt from a letter is from that time.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

angels & nature meditation

Originally uploaded by alxindia.
here's a lovely yogic technique you might try in meditation:

Meditating with the Angels

the idea is that you go into nature, where you can meditate quietly and uninterrupted by human beings. it helps to take a blanket or towel or something to sit/lie on (-- it's never a good idea to meditate on the bare earth, you reap no benefit from it at all, since the earth's nature is so magnetic it's autmatically sucking your meditation power out of you WHILE you're trying to charge your soul through meditation).

anyway, be in nature, doing whatever meditation you do, until you go deep (start to feel drowsy, for example, or physically heavy, or some energy running). in that state, then, you ask the 4 great questions, internally, of Nature:

1) who am I?

2) where did I come from? (where was I before I was born?)

3) what is my real soul mission (dharma) in this life?

4) where will I go after I die?

if you are in a deep meditative state and you ask these questions of Nature from that state, Nature has to respond to you.

the angels (agents of Nature) are automatically attracted to such a state, and to such questions.

Ramana Maharshi recommended dwelling on these 4 questions.

my teacher Kaleshwara agrees wholeheartedly & recommended doing them in nature. he was also kind enough to explain part of the mechanism of WHY it's important to ask them in Nature, in trance (the angels are attracted).

it's a POWERFUL process.


Sunday, October 10, 2004

Top Ten Myths About Meditation

Mitra Devi
Originally uploaded by alxindia.
Top Ten Myths About Meditation I've Learned in India

1. thoughts are not okay in meditation -- the mind must be perfectly free from all other activity.

2. the position of the physical body is important, one must sit absolutely still while meditating, no shifting, fidgeting, no lying down or slouching.

3. it's not okay to fall asleep (or snore!) during meditation....... zzzzzzzzzz.................

4. meditators can only do their important spiritual business, ie, meditating, in a perfectly serene, quiet location.

5. meditation goes against the nature of 'real life,' and as such, is like algebra in high school -- for 90% of people it has no practical applications in the 'real world.'

6. sitting on the bare ground makes for a good meditation session, closer to nature.

7. meditators are automatically more spiritually aware, calmer, and well-balanced emotionally compared to non-meditators.

8. all meditation techniques are more or less the same in terms of effectiveness.

9. meditation is a religious activity.

10. meditation is for wimps.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

the real question: why?

it occurs to me as I'm blogging that any sensible person would wonder, why on earth would a nice American girl want to drop her existing life, travel to India (a place she never ever wanted to visit), and dedicate herself to spirituality?

my only good response (and of course, I have a million of 'em!) is this:

when I was four years old, I was walking in the woods in Missouri, USA, with my parents. we lived in the foothills of the Ozark mountains, surrounded by oak trees and flowering dogwood and maples... it was sublimely peaceful. there was a lake nearby.

anyway, I was walking with my parents & out popped my question, "if we're just puppets on god's strings, then WHO is pulling god's strings?"

my parents were stunned.

I still have the same question.

I came to India to discover its answer.

I'm finding what I came looking for.

it's taken a long time.

aftermath of the first trip to India -- exhaustion.

well -- so. my adventures over Christmas 1999 and the changing of the millenium, in India, were full of the exotic, the unexpected, and the miraculous. in total, I spent about one month in Penukonda, and I knew that it was a month like no other: it had changed my life, irrevocably.

it wasn't just learning about (by being thrown into) a new culture. it wasn't just about wearing foreign clothing (we had to wear only traditional, conservative Indian clothing at the ashram, meaning saris and punjabi suits for the women) although the daily costume effect was kind of fun in a theatrical way. it wasn't about being exposed to an intoxicating degree of divine energy, and recognizing that I was more interested in spirituality than in just about anything else...

the sum total of that month (before I really even recognized it) was that a huge shift, internally, in me had transpired, through being exposed to the miraculous in such a hands-on way. through those miracles, a lot of healing had occurred in my heart -- only I didn't really know it in the moment.

I went back to California, somehow thinking that I could pick up the familiar threads of my life before that first visit to India -- and to the contrary, I was completely, utterly, totally, fully, impossibly exhausted.

upon returning to my little cottage in the redwood forest of the Santa Cruz mountains, I found that instead of having a habitually unlimited energy to maintain the rigors of my social life, my music project (in a recording studio), my professional life, and so on... I could eat, sleep, work (doing healing) and sleep. physically, I was shaky, almost feeble, and spent.

something in me then faintly understood that this was a result of having been at the ashram in Penukonda for a month, having received a lot of personal attention from Kaleshwara himself, and thus a lot of deep, deep healing.

it was like the rest that the body needs to take after, say, surgery -- a period of adjustment and integration.

a normal person in normal circumstances might have easily assumed they were suffering some mysterious condition like Barr-Epstein or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

fortunately, by then I was anything but normal and recognized it as something else, and just went with it. something like enjoying the calm after the storm.

these days, in India, it's such a common experience that my colleagues and I jokingly refer to it as 'supernatural fatigue.'

that first bout lasted for about four months, totally. going through that period of forced rest, although a little frustrating on one hand, was a kind of relief: I hadn't fully realized how frantic and frenzied my life was, until I took a break from it.