Tuesday, December 24, 2013


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.

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