Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Wild, Far-Out Idea

From my journal, November 1st, 2001 (I was 14)

I just got this way cool, WILD, FAR-OUT, FANTASTIC totally unbelievable idea.

It's a literary magazine that's Krishna Conscious and you get kids from all over the world to write in it... all talking of Krishna consciousness. It would be a sister publication of Back to Godhead, and they would help out with the publishing, reality-checks, lay-out, etc.

And then there would be ambassador "kids" from each country! Of course, the kids would have to be over 15 or 16, but there would be ambassadors from the major countries, and in America, even states! We would print it in several languages and there would be a summit meeting every year or so.

SO COOL!

I just invented a career for myself.

Karmi (worldly) adults would see how philosophical even a teen can be, devotee kids would get interested in Krishna Consciousness again, and regular devotees would pay attention to what we're saying.

I would get to travel around the world to all the temples, meet new people, and preach!

Hmmm... I just had a very funny feeling about that previous sentence... like it wasn't "good". It wasn't a good feeling.

Anyway, I've got to start soon! With my life goal, you see.

HARIBOL!!

P.S. I know why I felt funny: I was being selfish!

Carry Me

Exactly one year ago, I was in the holy land of Mayapur in India. I was snuggled in my bed, and while my roommate was sleeping, I was reading the Bhagavad Gita by flashlight.

I write this now in a dark car in Hawaii, waiting to go inside a temple for a ceremony. The light shines from my phone a bit like a flashlight.

It's strange to realize that two moments in time are so far apart yet so close. So much has transpired since that night long ago in India - images of the past year seem to whirl through my mind. Images of India, New York, Brazil, now Hawaii. Moments of dancing in kirtan, waiting in airports, listening to my spiritual master speak, weeping beside a river, gazing up at the golden forms of Pancha Tattva, laughing until my sides ache with my mother, whispering confessions of my heart to Sri Radha Murlidhara.

So much has happened, so much. I am humbled by the way the river of life carries me to my next destination. I am learning to stop fighting the current. Go with the flow.

So here's to the next year filled with many adventures of soul. May I stay in the river and may these waters carry me to unchartered shores of love.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Upside Down


On my way to Hawaii, I get a window seat. For over 5 hours I mostly stare out the window while we fly over the Pacific Ocean. There's something strange and surreal to be hurtling through the air at 500 miles per hour and the landscape never changes. The ocean is a constant, neverending blue.

Hour after hour, I gaze out at the clouds, sky, ocean. Suddenly, my vision seems to flip upside down. I seem not so much to be staring down at the ocean but up at the sky.



If we're willing to look at something or someone long enough, maybe we'll be surprised by how our world flips upside down.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wonder

When I was 17, for several months I lived at this quiet retreat center / temple in Hawaii, doing some accounting service. Some days would go by when I would not see or talk to another soul. I lived in a deep, otherworldly silence.

I would go on long japa meditation walks in the morning. I saw God at every step, I felt Him with every breath. I saw God in the vast reflections of the sky in giant puddles. Or when I would take off my eyeglasses, the sun would shine through the canopies of leaves in millions of pentagons of light, like waterfalls of glitter, and I would marvel at God's engineering. Or I would kneel down and stare at the way rain would create patterns in the soil. There was this one plant that, when its leaves were gently stroked, would react by folding in on itself like a shy child.

Sometimes on my walks I would put aside my chanting beads and sing songs at the top of my lungs. The cows and horses would turn to look at me curiously, even stop chewing their cud. I befriended a horse - I named him Hayagriva.

At night, I was teaching myself how to play harmonium on this old, beat-up instrument. I would sit on a picnic bench outside and sing sacred songs and the holy name for hours. My mind would wander the windswept hills and the clear blue line of the ocean's horizon. When night fell, billions of diamond stars would emerge against the blue-black velvet sky.

The line between this world and the next would blur. When I was living there and also in the many years since, I have acknowledged that this was one of the most beautiful, profound times of my life. I seemed to be discovering something and someone so much greater than myself. It was a time when I thought that if this was what it was like to devote my life to loving God exclusively, then I would gladly become a nun.

In the years since, I have developed my desire to be married and one day have my own children. I pray that I may approach marriage with this same sense of love and wonder. And maybe one day, when my child is a teenager, I'll let him or her go spend some time at a quiet retreat center in Hawaii.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

No Other Way

I write this in the midst if the 12 Hour Kirtan in Atlanta. The mridanga beats surround me in waves and pulse with the rhythm of my heart. I can feel the vibration in my chest. The kartals ring through the night. The singer's voice twirls and dances through the air and carries me down the river of the holy name. The holy name has swirled all around me all day; hour after hour after hour. Now that night has fallen I can feel the holy name in my veins. I'm surrounded by others whose veins also flow with the holy name.

I have danced all night - we ladies would put a disco to shame! Our skirts swirled, our feet moved in blurs, our grins shone.

Now the kirtan is drawing to a close, voices ring out from wall to wall, and the final note is hit. Applause arises. Quiet moments follow. Then someone calls out the sacred verse and we all join him: "harer nama harer nama harer nama eva kevalam, kalau nastyeva nastyeva nastyeva gatir anyatah."

In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy the only means of deliverance is chanting the holy name of the Lord. There is no other way. There is no other way. There is no other way.

Then, the lights turn on and we start to mingle. I sit here and write this on my phone, and all I want is to feel the vibration of the mridanga within my chest, in my heart.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Sound of Silence

I walk through the cold and dark streets, the city night so quiet to me. I enter the park and walk past sludgy snow piled up against empty benches. Round street lamps bob in the night like so many candle flames. The almost full-moon hangs in the sky, surrounded by one or two glittering stars. The trees are all bare.

I gingerly sit on a cold bench before the Prabhupad Tree. I glance up at bare branches which seem to reach for the sky. Almost 50 years ago, Prabhupad came to sit under these branches to sing the holy name.Through his kirtan, he transformed hearts, he transformed the world.

Now, the word is silence - I seem to be surrounded by so much silence.

Every time I come here I feel this silence, and in that silence the emotion of gratitude always emerges. I feel grateful to Prabhupad for giving me a reason to live. I feel grateful that he persevered. I feel grateful to be breathing and to be on the path of love, true love.

I close my journal and rise to my feet, gazing at the Tree. I then kneel to the ground and touch my forehead to the cold concrete bricks in obeisance. When I stand again, I whisper, "Thank you Srila Prabhupad," and turn around to leave.

Walking away, I can still hear the silence.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Art of Invitation

Love is the art of invitation. We can't force invitations - that's why the experience of lack of invitations in our life can hurt so badly. It's a lack of love. But, we are surrounded by invitations every day, all day, like beautiful cards flying around us in whirlwinds. We need only open those envelopes and RSVP to the conversation, the party, the walk in the park, the wedding, to lead a kirtan, to accept a proposal. We need only be willing to write a couple invitations ourselves and send them off to the people we're most afraid of welcoming in to sit down next to the fireplace of our heart. Never underestimate the power of an invitation - to give one, to receive one. It is love in jeans and a t-shirt.

(photo by femiology.com)


Friday, December 13, 2013

Humble Service

"One's greatest weaknesses have the potential to become one's greatest strengths." I coined this phrase when I was in a phase of my life when I was deeply struggling with emotional eating. I was experiencing so much mental, emotional, and physical pain; I felt that surely this pain could fuel great realizations to not only uplift myself but the world.

On that note, this morning I was really accepting that in this lifetime I have a perplexed mind. I have struggled with many heavy issues in my mind that deal with my bodily features, weight, or how I have had issues with leaders, men, family, friends. I've been embracing that these perplexities aren't good or bad. When I dovetail these perplexities for Krishna, my condition can actually be sublime. So many powerful realizations come when I surrender to the pain. I grow.

Then, when I share these realizations with others, they can relate with my struggles. Yes, I'm not alone. Then they can experience some hope and strength to overcome and transcend those struggles, too. If I can share my heart and offer this small service, then truly my weaknesses have become my strengths.  

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter Bus Tour Photo Essay


A big silver bus outfitted with bunkbeds and filled with youth will head out to Mexico tomorrow for the 2013 Winter Bus Tour. Two years ago I had the honor of going on the Tour to perform bharatanatyam dance, sing kirtan with Madhava Prabhu, and connect with the amazing people on and off the bus.

In tribute of the Bus Tour, here's a photo essay of some of the pictures I took two years ago. 


waiting for prasadam




I often escaped to visit cathedrals

The Gita play

kirtan programs almost every evening






Agua Azul



kirtan with Madhava Prabhu





the ruins of Palenque


panoramic shot of a city wall 



Our Bus Tour Gaura Nitai and Haridas Thakur deities. They're the ultimate adventurers.   

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Moments with the Moon

Moments of beauty flash before my eyes like someone spinning the Rolodex of my life. Choose one, Bhakti. Choose a moment. I close my eyes and the images speed up and whirl. 

Choose one.

There. 

My mind has landed upon one evening in the holy land of Mayapur in India. I'm wearing a light purple sari, and my bansuri flute is slung over my shoulder in its black case. Twilight has set in. I'm on the outskirts of Mayapur village, meandering my way home after a long day. I'm about to turn down my walkway when I halt in my tracks.

The moon. The moon hangs over a field of swaying green grasses; it seems to fill the horizon, full and golden. If I reached out my hand, maybe I could touch it. I've never seen such a moon.   

I slip off my shoes and walk out onto the dirt path that leads into the field. The dirt is soft powder between my toes. I walk out a ways and settle right to the ground. I pull out my flute. 

I play. I play to the moon. In my purple sari in the twilight surrounded by an ocean of grass, the moon is my giant companion. 

(photo by deityworship.tribe.net)


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Choose Beauty

I used to hate my hairline. It creeps forward where my temples are and then tapers back out for my forehead. I used to think that it made my face look narrow and imbalanced.

For years and years, ever since I was in elementary school, I wore my hair parted to the side to cover my hairline. It didn't really do anything, but still it was a mental crutch. I thought that somehow I could never really look beautiful if I wore my hair any other way.

As an adult, I seriously considered laser hair removal to remove the hair on my temples. I would go in front of the mirror and place my fingers on my temples, trying to envision what my face would look like with a broad, round hairline. Surely then my face would look more balanced.

Then, about two years ago, I dived into an emotional educational course called the Satvatove Advanced Course, which is based upon the spiritual principles of the Bhagavad Gita. In the course, I deeply got in touch with living a life at choice.

On the last day of the course, my "graduation" day, I woke up, looked in the mirror...

... and pulled my hair back.

All the way.

My scalp tingled. The line where I had parted my hair for most of my life pulsed as if it had been seared upon my head.

I was astonished to find, upon looking in the mirror, that I looked beautiful. No, more than that, I felt beautiful. My eyes shone. Beauty became something that nothing and no one could determine for me, not even the mirror. Beauty is a quality of the soul.

For me, that was a day of liberation.

A year later, I took the next step - I parted my hair down the middle. My scalp tingled all over again.



And then there are some days when I still choose to wear my hair parted to the side.

After all, when the soul is shining through, who cares about your hairline?!?



Monday, December 2, 2013

Marathon

Imagine - your name is Phillipides and you're a soldier and professional runner in the Greek army. One fateful morning, the general of the army summons you: You must deliver the news that we were victorious over the Persians, but they are fast approaching Athens and plan to surprise attack. The only way to deliver this news is to run.

The distance is 24 miles.

You are exhausted. Battle-worn. But you firm your resolve and nod to your general, accept the mission.

You run. From the plains of Marathon to the city of Athens, you run the distance in 3 hours. Upon arrival, you cry the word, "Niki!" (Victory!) and fall to the ground and breathe your last.

Sorry you had to die, man. But what's the tale of one of the most famous battles in history without a little drama?

This is the tale of the marathon race. It's a story of urgency, sacrifice, bravery.

And this is kind of where I'm at with Seed of Devotion. I made a vow to publish 40 blog posts for the year 2013. I still have 12 to write, and there are only 29 days left.

This means I need to publish a post about every 2 or 3 days, which is pretty unprecedented in the history of Seed of Devotion.

As a woman of my word, it's time to nod to my general, accept the challenge. Time to run from

here

to

there.

I'm not quite sure how I'll do it. Not quite sure what I'll share or what will come out. All I know is that now is the time. Time to open up, be brave.

Write!

I may not die when I reach my 40th post, but for sure I shall cry out, "Niki!"


Sunday, December 1, 2013

Vyasa Puja Offering 2013

Dear Radhanath Swami,

Please accept my respects. All glories to our beloved Srila Prabhupad.

When my mother sits down to play the harp, she brings out her electric tuner and tuning fork. She plucks each and every string and checks the sound against her tuner. A needle swings right or left to gauge when a note is on or off key. My mother then twists each and every knob with her tuning fork, carefully making sure that all of the strings shine as on-key on her tuner.

When all 48 strings have been tuned, my mother then strums her graceful hands across the strings in a waterfall of notes. She can now play and sing all kinds of music - from classical and jazz pieces to my personal favorite, her heartaching rendition of Bhajahu Re Mana.

In a similar way, Radhanath Swami, I get you as such an expert musician of the soul. Each time you sit down to speak, you fold your palms, close your eyes, and crease your brows in prayer. With the tuning fork of your prayers, you adjust your heart to the unshakeable and eternal values and instructions of your beloved spiritual master, Srila Prabhupad.

Then, when you are tuned, you open your eyes and speak. I have seen you move thousands of people to laughter as well as to tears. You respond to the most cutting questions and challenges with grace. You transform hearts. You transform mine.

I pray that I may follow your example. I pray that I may tune in to your and Srila Prabhupad's values and instructions. I want to be your instrument. Please.

Yet once I am tuned, there is an even higher destiny than being played on my own. In this regard, I once went to a classical music concert. For a full half an hour, my mom and I just listened to the orchestra tune in with each other. It was actually part of the concert! Frankly, I was getting rather bored.

But it was worth it. When at last the concert began, the music created was awe-inspiring.

Similarly, we devotees of Krishna and your disciples are all different instruments. But if we can tune in to each other - even if it's a long or boring or painful process - we can create something so much more powerful than we could ever create on our own. We can create a symphony of love and compassion for God and for the world. This is our highest destiny.

Thank you for being in my life, Radhanath Swami. Thank you for showing by example how to tune in and be a part of this divine symphony.

Sincerely,

In service,

Bhakti lata dasi

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Open Secret

Today over lunch, my friend Amal Kirtan asked me how I'm finding his home country of Brazil.

"I am feeling so deeply fortunate." I replied. "Amazed. The devotees here seem to live with their hearts on their sleeves. They give their whole hearts in service. No walls."

"Indeed, Brazilians have very open hearts," Amal Kirtan agreed.

"Yes! But I am wondering, Prabhu - if their hearts are so open, don't their hearts also get hurt much more easily?"

Amal Kirtan shook his head, "Brazilians have very strong hearts. It's very hard to break a Brazilian heart,"

My eyes widened and I leaned forward in my seat. "But why? How come??"

"Brazilians give and love with all their hearts, and if it gets hurt they also let it go. They know how to let go."

I leaned back in my seat. "Wow. They don't get so bitter or angry,"

"No, that's American!" Amal Kirtan laughed, and I laughed, too.

Brazilians seem to live the open secret: let love flow.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Letter to Srila Prabhupad

Note: For the holy month of Kartik, I have vowed to write a letter every day to Srila Prabhupad.

Dear Srila Prabhupad,

Once again I'm experiencing stuckness in my writing for Seed of Devotion. I know, I know, I just need to sit down and write. Argh, why do I go through this, these intense spells of resistance to writing?

How did you do it? How? Every single day you wrote the most empowered and heart-transforming words on the planet.  Just by reading one of your books once, people discover meaning to breathing and being alive. They transform how they live their lives and devote their hearts to love of God. 

Prabhupad, you were such a clean, beautiful instrument. So clean.

I aspire to be like you. But I experience the instrument of my heart as clogged up and rusty with pride, ulterior motives, selfishness, and laziness.

So I pray that you at least allow me to stay in the fire of purification to clean my heart. I want to become a truly clean instrument for your and Krishna's will. I want to become your pen. 

This is the only way my soul shall fully blossom. 

Thank you,

Bhakti lata dasi 


Monday, November 4, 2013

Why We're Alive

Here at the Bhakti Center, we have a community meeting every two weeks to simply connect and cultivate relationships. Last Friday we gathered. 

With each person who spoke into the open space of the circle, I could feel something special build. Then Ghanashyam shared his reflections on living here for the past decade - that the building was nothing without the people. Nothing. Even though people may come and go, relationships formed here in the fire of service to God are somehow different, special, eternal.

After he finished sharing, a long silence fell. His words seemed to hang in the air like spun glass. 

Later that evening I walked up to the rooftop to chant my japa meditation. Manhattan sprawled around me in every direction in all of its glittering, silent splendor. The cold air chilled my skin and I pulled my shawl tighter. I chanted the holy name and Ghanashyam's words circled through my mind in quiet spirals.  

The entire world looks to New York City for the next trend, the next wave. Srila Prabhupad knew this - that's why he came to Manhattan, and that is how the entire worldwide movement of Krishna Consciousness began.

When I reflect upon that night of walking on the roof of the Bhakti Center, I realize that although I was surrounded by the glory of buildings of the most powerful city in the world, they were nothing without the people inside of them. Nothing. They were just cement, steel, and glass.

It is so easy to get lost in the insanity of New York City. But within a certain building on First Avenue, I have found shelter within the people who have devoted themselves to God, to Krishna. I am coming to realize that there is nothing more of value in this world than these relationships.

Whether we're in Raxaul, Nepal or New York City, this is why we are all alive, this is what we're all searching for - purpose, service, love. 

(photo by mypostcardfrom.com)

(photo by dnainfo.com)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Worry Surgery

I lean in and place a bracelet around the wrist of Murlidhar, the deity of the Lord here in Manhattan. Trays filled with mirrored cloth and glittering jewelry surround me. The morning is quiet. Even the sounds from the street below are muted.

I reach for Radharani's garland and place it around Her neck. Too long. I take it off, tie it to make it a little shorter. Still too long. I take it off and tie it again.

Now I can barely fit it over Her head. When it finally goes over, the garland is so small that it looks like some strange flower necklace. Radharani looks a little miffed.

"Oh no," I mutter. My face flushes. I shimmy the garland back over Radharani's head, murmuring my apologies.

I rush back to the pujari room and get out a pair of scissors. Maybe I can cut the string, retie it at a longer length... but the flowers are delicate and keep slipping off, the garland is getting shorter and shorter. The thread is slippery and the knots are not staying.

I'm starting to sweat. I feel like I'm in the midst of a surgery gone awry.

My friend Ghanashyam, who is offering worship to the smaller deities this morning, comes into the altar room loaded down with several trays.

"Ghanashyam," I say with a note of panic. "Radharani's garland... I tied it too short, and now I don't know what to do,"

Ever equipoised, Ghanashyam puts down his trays and says, "Oh really?"

"Yes," I say. We both peer down at the garland and discuss a plan of action. "This is garland surgery," I say.

Ghanashyam is working on the garland and then says quietly, "Scissors,"

I get the scissors and hand them to him, grinning, "Scalpel,"

We both laugh.

But even with Ghanashyam's attempts, the garland still seems to not be working right.

"Go do what you need to do," Ghanashyam says. "I'll handle this,"

"Okay," I say, relieved. Radha Murlidhar still need so much more in Their dressing today.

I rush back to the altar. Only fifteen minutes left to make Murlidhar's turban and finish dressing. The clock is ticking. At this point, I realize that Radha Murlidhar are dressing Themselves. There is no way that I could be doing this.

I head back to the altar room, where Ghanashyam holds up the garland, "It's okay now,"

"Really?" my eyes widen. The garland is perfect. "How?"

"I called in the reinforcements - Murali Gopal. He fixed it. Don't know how, but here it is,"

Relief rushes through me. "Thank you," I say reverentially. We both head to the altar, and Ghanashyam hands the garland to me to place around Radharani's neck.

"I'm nervous, why don't you do it," I say.

"Go ahead, it'll be fine."

I gingerly take the garland and gently place it around Radharani.

"Great," Ghanshyam says.

"Thank you," I say again. I continue with dressing. My hands seem to move on their own accord, tying Krishna's turban, placing Radharani's crown, tying up sashes and veils. Ghanashyam and I clean up everything and when I look at the clock to blow the conch shell, it's 8:30 - smack on time. I am in shock.

I blow the conch. Open the curtains.

When I offer the small arati to Radha Murlidhar, I observe how They're dressed from an artistic stance. Although I see so many areas that could be improved, for some reason They simply look perfect. I surrender to how the imperfection is Their perfection.

Back in the pujari room, Ghanashyam remarks to me, "That was a close call with that garland,"

"My God, I know," I reply.

"You were totally in anxiety," He laughs. "Even I began to get in anxiety."

"Amazing." I say. "You know, I've been experiencing so much worry lately about my life, it's almost ghostly. Just constantly plagued with anxiety about where I'm going to live, what I'm going to do. But this... this was worry for Krishna. Strangely enough, I found it almost almost liberating. Like, whew, I can breathe now. I feel clean. Does that make sense?"

"Yes," Ghanashyam replies. "Actually, a pujari is in the parental mood, to take care of Krishna and to worry for Him. Our worry for Him can actually be purifying,"

Ever since that morning of dressing Radha Murlidhar and worrying about God, the worry about my own life seems to have dissolved away. Trust remains.

Seems like Krishna did surgery on my worry.






Saturday, October 12, 2013

Visions

I had a chronic illness when I was 13 that lasted for five years. I went to many doctors but none could figure it out. I faced many possibilities - invasive surgery, death, but nothing was certain.

So for five years I saw through the vision of death. Not every day, but many days. Even when my illness went away, this vision persisted. I often had this sense that my life would be over in mere seconds, everyone and everything around me would be devoured by time. It was a terrible vision; a gift and a burden.

I remember many years ago how I left my house in Alachua carrying my suitcase at night. I was on my way to join the Winter Bus Tour to Mexico, which would last for 3 adventurous weeks.

I walked down the faded blue front steps and the vision fell over me - all too soon I would be returning to these blue front steps with my bags in hand, the Winter Bus Tour but a memory. Gone. Like sand through my fingers. Just gone.

This happened countless times - carrying my suitcase down those blue front steps, off to my next destination, and then returning. From being gone a couple days to being gone an entire year - it didn't matter.

Time passed.

During that time, I would see my friends and parents through the lens of death - soon they would all be gone. And who knows - tomorrow God may take me. God takes thousands of people every day - every moment - without any warning.

When I was about 14, I read a verse in the Bhagavad Gita where Krishna says, "I am Time, the great destroyer of the worlds." Krishna gave divine eyes to Arjuna so that His friend could witness Krishna's universal form. Arjuna witnessed armies and worlds being devoured, the cosmos spinning, everything whirling and whirling and whirling... at last Arjuna cried out, "Stop, please, stop."

He continued, "Please... show me Your form as Krishna, my friend, the one who plays the flute. The one whom I can offer my love to."

So Krishna showed His form as Krishna. Just Krishna.

Timeless Krishna.

That is the vision I want. I just want Krishna. I want Krishna when He plays His flute, someone I can cook for, put to bed and read to Him at night, someone I can bathe and dress and murmur to, "How are you today?"

I hope one day that I can feel Krishna put His arms around me and hold me. That is all I want.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Within and Without

(me at 14)

January 28th, 2002

Sometimes I feel like 14, other times I feel like 3 1/2, other times I feel like 75. So many things to make me feel young and child-like... so many things to make me feel old and withered. Some things I wish I had never seen or never been exposed to. There other things that I want to be experiencing. 

No matter how much I swing around in feelings, I'm still me. I want to try and accept that. It's hard, but I'll try.

My life is going to be a huge adventure, a path that is uncertain. At the same time it is very certain because Krishna is in my life, and there IS a path. At least I'm on a path, not stumbling through the forest.

***

I was a pretty existential kid, huh?

I guess I'm still an existential kid.

When I read the above journal entry, I realize that my life has been a huge adventure. In the past 12 years, I have tirelessly ventured outward to explore the world with its languages and cultures and foods and expressions of love. I have rafted raging rivers and climbed glaciers; I have prayed in cathedrals and temples and mosques and literally circled the world.  

Yet I have experienced boredom in my life, sometimes while doing those very same adventurous activities. So painful. Why? Why?

So even more powerfully, year after year I have relentlessly ventured inward. Questions drive me to seek the essence, seek the experience of the soul. In this sense, the journal entry above when I was 14 is my adventure.

I experience boredom to the extent that I am disconnected from my journey towards my self and God.

Every day is a new day to stay in the fire. To wake up each morning to an adventure within and without.

This blog post included. 

"Adventure is not outside man; it is within." - George Eliot 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

God is Here

Looking at the photos below, I'm sitting in my chair in front of my computer and I can hear my heart pound. My mind is wiped of all thoughts and my world has become a quiet lake. 

Everything's going to be all right. God is here. 

I pray that one day Their Lordships Gaura Nitai, Radha Shyamasundar, and Krishna Balaram will allow me to come before Them and be Their servant. 

(photo credits Damodar Rati Dasa)







Thursday, September 26, 2013

Secret


I'll tell you a secret: I have absolutely no idea what is going on in my life.

Maybe I seem like I have it all together; my career, family life, spiritual life. All my life I've been a "conviction" type of girl - deciding on a path and walking that path with one-pointed zeal.

But now?

Not really.

If you could peek inside my mind, you'd find a whirling tornado like in the Wizard of Oz, with houses, bicycles and people flying through the air. For the past nine months or so, half-baked plans and half-hearted convictions whirl through my mind and make me dizzy. And sad.

And lost.

All I can do is put one foot in front of the other - offer worship to Radha Murlidhar, go to work, host a program, engage in this beautiful adventure of living at the Bhakti Center. Just keep going. But when I look up - what's your plan for your career, Bhakti? what's your plan for college, Bhakti? what's your plan for making money, Bhakti? what's your plan for community, Bhakti? what's your plan for service, Bhakti?

I don't know I don't know I don't know.

I don't know.

So there you are, that's my secret.

What's yours? Ha ha!!




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

An Honor


Today I got to dress Sri Radha Murlidhar for the first time.

What an honor. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Story

Last night in a circle of people, Tukuram Prabhu asked me, "So what's your story?"

I drew a blank. "My story? Uh, what do you mean?"

"Your story. Whatever that means to you."

My mind flew with images of which tack I could take. Being born and raised a Hare Krishna? No. My path to finding a guru? No. My professional career path? Nah. How I have come to the Bhakti Center here in New York City?

None of them seemed to tell MY story completely.

The conversation within the group of people kept pivoting and shifting, and Tukuram must have asked me 3 or 4 times, "What's your story?"

I was vague. I changed the topic. I kept asking him to clarify.

Finally he said, "Okay, look, I'm going to tell your story."

"Whoah, whoah, I didn't even say anything!"

"But how you've spoken already is enough,"

"But, but - "

"Hey, I might be wrong. But hear me out, it's like getting your fortune told."

I felt dubious. "Ooookay..."

The whole circle of people went utterly quiet and listened to what Tukuram told me what my story was. He described me as affable and easy to get along with, but actually a very private person who doesn't open up much. "When I ask people this question, most people are ready to simply tell me a story, but you? You kept avoiding the question,"

Okay then.

You wanna know my story?

I'll tell you my story of love.

As a child, I always felt this loneliness, this hole in my heart. God was my friend - familiar but not too serious. I had a difficult time growing up with parents that I experienced as not very present in my life. When I was 13, I developed a chronic illness and began to search for a spiritual path that I could own. I began the journey of finding a spiritual master and of healing my relationship with my parents. I have had several romantic experiences that have challenged me to go to the core of my heart to be a woman of honor and integrity. Most of all, I have learned to embrace who I am, just as I am, and to let myself laugh when I trip and fall.

As time goes on, I am finding that nothing of this world fills the hole in my heart. Nothing, no one. Only God, only Krishna, only His devotees.

That's my story.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Journal Roulette

72 volumes. 72 volumes of putting my soul on paper. My journals now take up several shelves of a bookcase in my room, silently containing the history of my life since I was 11 years old.

I'm going to conduct a little experiment.

I'm going to open up several random journals and open to a random page. I'll then copy down a paragraph or two from those pages. Let's call it Journal Roulette, shall we?

You ready?

August 1st, 2011 (age 24)
Baja, Mexico [summer Bus Tour]
I write this late at night in the front seats of the bus. We're parked on the cliff, and the ocean waves crash far below in whispers. Everyone's sleeping.

December 24th, 2005 (age 18)
Oaxaca, Mexico [winter Bus Tour]
I pull plants out of the bag... and pull out the ugliest coconut head I have EVER laid eyes on. It's carved and painted to the likeness of a pirate with an eye-patch and an ugly grin.

I fight the urge to drop it and scream through the numbness. Hoots and raucous laughter erupt around the bus...

Why couldn't I have gotten a pair of earrings???

December ?, 2008 (age 21)
Tirupati, India
I stormed off to Brindavan, the mystical garden of Anantalvar, the place where his soul resides. There, I found my solace at the lake. A sadhu was chanting his gayatri on the ghat steps, and his presence soothed me. Otherwise the entire garden and ghat was empty in the cool evening.

November 1st, 2011 (age 24)
Gainesville, Florida
I'm sitting here in the eveningtime writing this on the Plaza of the Americas, and a young man just walked by me with a wave and a smile. [Puzzled], I called out to him, "Do I know you?"

He turned around and smiled. "No. You just look happy and peaceful. That's all."

I beamed. "Why, thank you!"

He waved again, turned around, and kept walking.

May 1st, 2013 (age 26)
Mayapur, India
Last night I spent time with Jahnavi at her place. We shared such deep secrets and realizations with each other. Shame, guilt... I feel so deeply grateful to have shared with someone this secret of shame that has been in my heart for many months now. We actually discussed it - not that I just said it and it was over. Wow. I feel like I was cleaning out and letting go of a burden. Last night I slept very peacefully; I had simple and peaceful dreams.

July 26th, 2001 (age 14)
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
I have been through major ups and major downs, but you - a journal that reflects my own thoughts - are a patient friend who is always there to help me see the light. It is almost as if Krishna himself was guiding me. I could not have found anyone more dependable than a piece of paper, a pen, and my own soul.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

When The Time Comes...

In June, three of us young women were seated around a dinner table in Mumbai. One woman in particular was sharing her woes and thoughts on love and marriage.

Then she turned the tables and asked me, "Do you want to get married?"

"Of course I want to get married," I replied. "My desire to be in a relationship and get married has been one of the biggest meditations of my life. Many heart whirlwinds, quite a bit of pain."

"Really?" another young woman put in. "But, I mean, you seem so peaceful about it."

I smiled. "Thank you. You know, I feel peaceful."

"How? Why?"

I paused for a moment, then grinned and leaned forward. "Okay ladies, let me break it down. Here's the reality check: I'm not in a relationship. Just a fact. Now, is there anything I'm willing to do about it? Yes or no? No. I'm not going to go figure something out.

"So I'm not in a relationship, there's nothing I'm willing to DO about it, voila: peace."

The two young women looked at me with wide eyes.

"It's that simple?"

"Yes. Bhakti Vidya Purna Maharaj once told me, 'When the time comes, the time comes.'"

The woman who had been sharing her woes grinned and said, "Wow. Perfect."

So if you're reading this and you're searching for or waiting for your life partner, just trust me, trust God: when the time comes, the time comes.

;)

"Real love is a pilgrimage. It happens when there is no strategy, but it is very rare because most people are strategists." - Anita Brookner

Monday, September 2, 2013

Inspection

My room here at the Bhakti Center was a tornado zone for quite a long time. So much moving had my life in a whirlwind. Boxes, luggage, piles of clothes and bags lay everywhere.

When I had a day off work, immediately I scheduled a trip out of town to buy organizational stuff at a Wal-Mart.

After many hours I came back, holding a long box and laden down with all of my organizational stuff in my suitcase. I stepped out of the elevator onto the sixth floor. In the hallway I encountered a huge crowd of residents.

"Hey guys, is there a party going down?" I called out, jolly.

Virabhadra grinned at me. "We're here to greet you, Bhakti lata!"

"Ha ha, nice. No seriously, what's up?"

Just then, all heads turned to the apartment door 6W and everyone fell a little quiet - Radhanath Swami emerged.

"Oh, haribol Maharaj," I said.

"Bhakti lata, where have you been?" he asked.

"I was at Wal-Mart. I bought a lot of organizational stuff for my room."

His eyes went wide. "Can I come see your room?"

"God no, Maharaj," I replied with a little laugh. "It's a tornado zone."

"No really, I'd like to come see your room,"

I laughed again, still thinking that he was joking. "Ah, sorry my dear gurumaharaj, but my room is a mess."

Radhanath Swami took up the handle of my rolling luggage. My eyes went wide.

"Let's go," he said.

I walked forward towards my apartment, my feet becoming heavy with each step. Maharaj rolled my luggage behind me. My mind raced - my room, my room, God forbid was there anything embarrassing lying around, like underwear? Sure, I could've firmly said no, but this seemed to be very important to Maharaj. He had been inquiring about my living situation from the moment he had reached the Bhakti Center.

We entered apartment 6E and I walked towards my room. My friend Nanda joined us. "Maharaj, I just bought all this organizational stuff, I swear!"

He just smiled, maneuvering my luggage over some shoes on the floor. Then with a pounding heart, I slowly opened the door to my little room. He came over and peeked inside. Nanda also came and we exchanged nervous looks. My room was a madhouse. My stomach dropped.

Maharaj turned to me and lifted his brows, then stepped inside to turn on the lamp. He peered around and then stepped even deeper into my room, standing in the very center of the chaos. "Hm, no windows..."

I held bated breath. Then he came around and peered into other crevices of the tiny room, leaving no spot unobserved. I felt like I was getting X-rayed.

He emerged.

"Calling this room a mess is like calling the ocean a puddle," he remarked, then laughed, his eyes twinkling.

Only Radhanath Swami could make a poetic analogy out of this. I laughed too.

Maharaj then systematically went through the rest of the apartment, observing the piles of bags in the hallway, the unswept floors. He seemed to be catching us off-guard - who we were when no one was looking. There was something stinging and yet also relieving about him being there, like hydrogen peroxide cleaning a cut.

At the end of his inspection, he turned to me and said, "Bhakti lata, I would do anything for you,"

I fell silent, and my heart echoed with the unspoken words, Please just let me be near Radha Murlidhar. Please let me be here or nearby.

Then Maharaj turned around and said, "Well, we had our pastimes," then he chuckled and left apartment 6E.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bring It On

(photo by flickr.com)


On my way to Whole Foods the other day, as always I passed by the street basketball court. The guys who play games on this court are like, NBA material. But they usually just wear their casual shorts and old T-shirts.

But this time was different. I could hear the whistle calls of a referee ring out down the street, and I could see that there were uniform red jerseys all over the court. Intrigued, I walked up into the park. Crowds had gathered.

I watched in awe. These casual street players had suddenly transformed into athletes with one-pointed focus and intensity. The orange basketball zigzagged up and down the court, between hands, between players, the teams migrating up and down the court in swift and stunning speed.

Just watching the game I felt that nothing else mattered in the world but that orange ball and getting it to swish through the net. I laughed, groaned, cheered.

When at last I pulled away, I walked on and meditated on how I want to live my life with the intensity of that basketball game. I want to absorb my mind utterly and completely, where nothing else matters but serving God.

Well, today was my day to cook lunch for the deities here, Radha Murlidhar, as well as the devotees. Today also so happened to be Srila Prabhupad's appearance day. So I plotted and planned to cook a lovely feast.

Beginning at 7:30am, nothing else mattered but chopping vegetables, baking muffins, spicing dals... time was ticking, ticking down until the offering would be made at 11:30am.

Cooking became my basketball game.

Only minutes were left when I discovered that I hadn't even made the rice. My friend Gauranga saved the day and began to make almond rice.

When Keshava Krishna arrived with the offering plate, I was still dashing around the kitchen.

But the plate got made. Everything was offered to Srila Prabhupad and Radha Murlidhar.

Swish! She scores!

Bring it on... for life.

I'm game.

(photo by iwallpaper.com)

To write is to dare the soul. So write.