Sunday, March 15, 2015

Jaded

One morning when I was 21, I was in Mumbai, India, listening to Radhanath Swami give a spiritual discourse to several hundred people all packed tightly into a temple. At the end of the discourse, he asked if there were any questions. Being me, I shot my hand up, and when Radhanath Swami called upon me, I stumbled through a rather complicated question.

Radhanath Swami then asked, "Do you all know Bhakti devi?" Several hundred pairs of eyes swiveled to look at me. Heads shook. He proceeded to glorify me in a rather sweet and embarrassing way, and one thing he said kind of shot to my heart. He pronounced that I was the most enthusiastic second generation devotee he had ever known. 

Finally he said, "Could you repeat the question? I was too busy glorifying you." 

This morning I was reflecting on how my enthusiasm has waned. Over the past seven years or so I feel that I have put my heart out, put my heart out, put my heart out. I've allowed myself to get excited, to make plans, to venture forth, venture forth! Time and again, because I've opened up my heart so wide, I have experienced pain that has gone straight into the heart. 

Today at 28, I find myself sore and somewhat jaded. I find myself disconnected from that enthusiasm for spiritual life and for life, especially in relationships. I am blessed and grateful for a significant other in my life, Ghanashyam, who is a deep, compassionate, loving man who keeps me connected to Krishna. At the same time, I am realizing how the hurt I have felt in so many relationships in life has lead to a point of deadness and sadness. An apathy. A continual asking of, "What's the point?"

Maybe that's the next question to ask Radhanath Swami. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Weathering the Weather

Serenity Series: February

Ice falls from the sky. The road and the sidewalks are smothered in ice, puddles, and blackish snow. All is dark, and headlights from oncoming cars rush towards me in big SWISH SWISHes.

I'm on my way to work at 6:30am. I tightly grip my umbrella. If I don't hurry, I'll be late. Walking through the sidewalks is near impossible, as they are nearly impassable with ice and water. So I walk on the road, but it's frightening to be sharing space with cars in the near-dark.

When I reach the subway station at last, I hurry down the steps, holding to the rails. But there it is - just as I'm descending I hear the giant rumbling of my train speed away.

I wait and wait in the subway station cave, checking my phone every several minutes. Come on, come on...

Finally, a train arrives in a roar, screeching to a stop. When I get out at my stop, the nightmare of walking through the streets replays all over again. I step into a sheet of ice that disguises a pool of icy water beneath.

When I get to work, I feel harrowed. Exhausted.

This is my reality. What can I do about it?

Well, nothing. I can't control the weather. I can't. I never will.

The thought and realization runs through my head: "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." The weather is definitely one of those things. I immediately feel reconciled with the strange ways of the universe. There's no need to even talk about the crazy journey to work. It is what it is.

Maybe I can't change the weather but I can get get rain boots. A better coat. That's my responsibility. Otherwise, if I'm caught out in the dark and the rain again, who am I to complain? I might as well start singing and stomping in the puddles. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Getting Tested

Serenity Series 1: Getting Tested (January) 

It was my second day of work at University Prep High. I had rehearsed over and over in my head my duties and responsibilities in regards to administering 9th and 10th grade midterm exams. I was nervous but willing to embrace the challenge. I double-checked my schedule - okay, 15 more minutes until I needed to be in a certain classroom. 15 minutes? Nice.

I headed to the teacher workroom and made myself a cup of tea. Several other teachers were gathering there, talking and laughing. I joined the conversation.

Suddenly, an exam coordinator was at the door. "Bhakti? Are you administering the midterm exam?"

My blood froze. "Yes,"

"Students are waiting for you."

I had misread the schedule. In silence the two of us walked swiftly down the hall. We came upon the room I was meant to be administering - students were milling about, talking, chatting, and the academic dean was there about to get the students settled. My stomach dropped.

The dean issued some commands, and the students began to settle. I immediately jumped into passing out exams and working other tools. I didn't explain myself or give excuses. The dean, exam coordinator, and I all calmly organized beginning the exam. We were running late. I had been late.

When the exam finally did get rolling and all students were absorbed in silently filling in test sheets, I surveyed the classroom and felt humiliation and fear roll over me.

My second day at work. Second day. I had failed to show up for such an important moment. How could I be trusted again? Would they still want me here? I'm worthless.

Painful thoughts kept whirling around and around in my head in the quiet space of test-taking students.

I thought of the Serenity Prayer. God grant me the courage to change the things I can. Is there anything I can do about this situation? Well, later on I can own up and apologize to those involved. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Other than taking responsibility for what happened, there's not much else I can do. Even if I'm fired, what can I do? I had done my best.

As for the painful self-talk, nothing would quiet those words, so I silently began to chant the holy name, applying the Name like a cool compress upon my feverish heart. My heart cooled.

By the time the students had finished the exam, I had come to peace. I felt as though I had just taken my own exam.

Later on I owned up to my mistake with first the exam coordinator and then the academic dean. Each appreciated the apology and within one minute we had come to resolution and moved on.

Bam. Life moves on.

(To read more about the Serenity Series, click here.) 



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Serenity Series Intro

"To the extent that I'm disconnected from conscious living, to that extent I get absorbed in drama." - David Wolf / Dhira Govinda dasa 

I'm tired of drama. The last several months of 2014 there were many bouts of times when I was swimming in drama, exemplified by lots of crying with hot, sticky tears. Drama, to me, comes when I am harsh with myself, harsh with others, and let myself drown and wallow in painful tapes that no one loves me and I'm all alone in this world.

This Christmas Eve I attended midnight mass with Ghanashyam. Standing in the pews along with several hundred people in solemn quiet, I formulated a prayer from deep within: My Lord, free me of drama. I'm tired of drama.

I want peace. I want to be enlivened. All the energy I siphon into my own sad stories may I please offer this to You.

I prayed that this new year I would live and breathe the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

After that midnight mass, I decided that for the year 2015 I would write a blog post every month with the theme of this prayer.

I thought I'd begin with first diving a little into the nature of drama.















Welcome to the Serenity Series.

May this year the drama be confined to Broadway.

May this year be lived with serenity, courage, and wisdom.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Little Pot to Big Pot

On our third day of the Radha Krishna Camp in Brazil, I asked the group of 19 teenage girls, "So what quality do you all want to develop as a group today?"

We broke up into two smaller groups to discuss. In the group I was in, one girl mentioned how everyone seems to be in their own little groups. She formed her hands into a circle, "A panelinha," she said.

"Panelinha?"

"It means 'clique,'" said the girl who was translating.

"Oh really?" I lifted my brows.

"Yes, it means 'little pot,'"

I laughed. Then all the girls laughed to see that I got it. Oh yes, I thought to myself, there were many little pots simmering on the stove of this Camp. 

"Let's be more open," the first girl explained in Portuguese, and other girls nodded in assent. Ultimately, all of the girls agreed to explore being open today.

The analogy became a running joke - any time there were little groups of girls, some would yell out, "panelinha, panelinha!!" and either break it up or say, "Hey, wanna join my panelinha?"

With each day, the fire became hotter and hotter in this camp. What can one expect when you get 19 girls all living in the same house day after day? We were serving each other prasad every day, getting up early for morning programs, we rode horses, hiked, offered a performance at a senior home, we had a dance party... Let's just say that many tears were shed - from pain in the body, pain in the heart, from gratitude, and from joy.

The final morning of the camp, we each offered appreciation for one other person. When the meeting concluded, spontaneously everyone moved throughout the room, embracing each other, tears flowing and flowing. From my years of saying goodbye on Bus Tours, I knew that never again would we all be in the same room again.

I didn't say anything, only looked each girl in the eyes and felt my heart overflow. What an insane adventure.

We had transformed from a bunch of panelinhas to one panelón - little pot to big pot. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Night

I went from the concrete world of New York City to the emerald world of New Gokula. I'm breathing in jasmine, cow dung, the river, and now the rain. I can feel it all on my skin, in my lungs. The day was hot and sweet, and now the night and rain is falling and it's cool and sweet.

Here in my room, I can hear sashes of kirtan from the temple wind down the hill and tickle my ear. My life has boiled down to one directive: chant the holy name. For someone who has been religiously tending to her agenda, juggling a dozen duties every day, I find myself unarmed.

My only agenda is to chant. Eat, sleep, then chant more. And dance.

When I'm in kirtan, I just want to stay, stay, stay. I am discovering an addictive peace. I have to tear myself away to eat. Life literally melts way and I am right here, right now.

A couple hours remain in 2014. Dear reader, I'm glad we got to spend the year together. I pray that wherever life takes you, life takes you to love.

The ticklings in my ear are getting so insistent!! Oh my God. I must run up the hill and dash into the templeroom because I know some crazy dancing is going down.

Gotta go party with God.

Happy New Year ;)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

That´s a Wrap!

2014, what a year! Only one day left. What's gone down in the past 364 days? 

Flew into Hawaii to spend time with my parents


my parent's deities, Sri Radha Raman



 Honolulu Rathayatra!


Ghanashyam came to Hawaii in February to seek blessings from my parents

I moved to upstate New York with the wonderful Mother Kaulini while I did my Yoga Teacher Training with Raghunath and Sondra


from beaches to snow!


Yoga Teacher Training

I got to live next door to Satsvarupa Maharaj for several months

dressing Satsvarupa Maharaj´s Gaura Nitai deities

visits to New York City and Sri Radha Murlidhara

spring is in the air 


moved to Brooklyn New York

Got accepted into the Master´s in Education program at Brooklyn College


a bridesmaid at the wedding of my dear friend Syama (photo by Sharon)



Kartik in New York (photo by Francesca)

taught an 8-week course in kirtan with 14 sincere students

Christmas spirit in New York

One year of being together


 I write this now in Sao Paulo Brazil, as I am here for Kirtan Fest. I am realizing that this year has been challenging and blessed in a thousand ways. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, in every way.

May the holy name ring in a rockin´ 2015!   

To write is to dare the soul. So write.