Friday, September 26, 2014

Chant the Holy Name

*name has been changed in this post for privacy

"May I help you in some way?" I asked the customer who had just walked into La Maison du Chocolat.

"Sure," she replied, "I'm looking for a gift for a friend,"

"Okay, sure, what would you be looking for? Your budget?"

"Well, she is very sick,"

I was taken aback for a moment, then I laughed, "I see, and chocolate is the medication,"

"I mean, she is very... very sick,"

I grew sober, "Ah, I see." I continued to guide the customer to a collection of chocolates that was beautiful and was in her budget. I wrapped the gift and asked, "Would you like a blank message card?"

"Oh no, I have a big card here," and she pointed to a giant card in its envelope. "You see, my friend, she's sick... yes, the "C" word,"

I continued to listen with my eyes while I packed up the gift. She handed me a collection of bills of different amounts.

"She's only in her 30s, and last year she was diagnosed with breast cancer and she has been in treatment. Last month, though, they found some cancer in her brain. Stage 4."

"Oh wow,"

"Yes, so everyone at work has all pitched in to pay for a personal chef for the next month for her and her husband, and also to get these chocolates. Everyone signed this card. We just want her to take care of herself,"

"I see. I shall pray for your friend, may I ask her name?"


"I will pray for Diana, that she moves through this with grace,"

"Thank you so much Carmen [my legal name]," the woman responded. I handed her the beautiful gift bag of chocolates and we exchanged smiles. Then she left.

I was shaken.

Here was a woman on a crash course with death. There were so many people who loved her, but they had no idea what to do for someone about to die. They just wanted to comfort her, make her path a little smoother, a little more enjoyable.

But who cares about a personal chef and gourmet chocolate when you're about to die? From what I've heard and experienced for myself, when faced with death food tastes like cardboard.

When faced with death, I want solace. I want meaning to this life that seems so meaningless. I want truth. I want to know who I am and where the hell I'm going (hopefully not hell!).

Diana's coworkers meant well. They love her, they want to express that love. Nevertheless, all I can think is that if I was faced with Stage 4 brain cancer, I would just want people to chant the holy name for me, chant the holy name for me, chant the holy name for me. Pray that I take shelter's in Krishna's holy name.

If you are reading this, please chant the holy name for Diana, pray that the Lord protects her heart from all fear and carries her beyond this world of pain and death. May she go with God. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Room Without A Roof

Images from yesterday's wedding play through my mind in snippets of magic.

The mysticism of the ceremony,
the tears of those present,
Jai's sober expression as he vowed to protect Syama,
the grins of pure joy of everyone (yes, everyone) dancing in kirtan,
Syama's effulgent smile and flaring skirt as she twirled,
the rooftop bedecked with white tents
and white globes
and golden lights,
the undulating skyscape of New York City glittering below us,
laughing so hard I can't breathe,
the couple's first dance,
everyone dancing slow,
then fast, to "Ain't No Mountain High Enough,"
the delicious lemon poppyseed and chocolate cakes,
helping clean up,
dancing to "Happy."

Although it's popular, I heard the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams for the first time last night. The lyrics sent chills down my spine.

Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I'm happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

It was a reminder that the soul's nature is to be happy. There's no hard work to it. It's just about being alive, feeling like a "room without a roof." All day, I felt as though that day was about being happy. Let the couple be happy, let the guests be happy, let God be happy.

Let go.

Let happiness in.

It's so easy.

Just BE.

That's the truth.

When I danced to the song "Happy" at the end of the night, the part of the song that kept coming, "Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof," was so perfect, as I and everyone else was on the rooftop of the Bhakti Center and only a thin tent separated us from a limitless sky.
(to view the video below on YouTube, click or copy and paste this link: )

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Live on Purpose

I read the above sign on the train when I sat down. The message registered as barely a blip, like all other advertising in New York City. Then I opened my book and began to read; the train picked up speed, heading to the next stop.

Suddenly, two uniformed police officers strode through the train, guided by an older man. I looked up from my book. The man pointed at a backpack that was on the ground right across from me.

"Is this anyone's bag?" The officer's voice rang out in the train.

Everyone fell quiet, shaking their heads. The women who were sitting on the seat nearby the abandoned backpack scooted away.

The officers looked around, confirming that no one owned the bag. I watched the scene unfold, my heart pounding a bit. It's true, the bag had just been sitting there. It was some cutesy backpack, a leopard print I believe. But the two officers surrounded it now, their energy taut like wires. Definitely not cutesy now.

I resisted the urge to scramble away, walk away, run away. But what could I do? I was on this moving train. In those few moments when the officers examined the bag, I had this realization that maybe there was a bomb in there, about to explode at any moment.

There was nothing I could do about it. Although I experienced fear, I also experienced this eerie calm, that somehow if this is my fate, it is what it is.

When the train slowed to a stop, one officer stepped out of the train and the other cautiously unzipped the bag, as if touching a wild tiger. I could feel all the passengers watching, holding their breaths.

The officer unzipped the bag with one final tug.


Everyone let out a collective breath. The officer carried the bag out of the train, joining her comrade. Then the train boarded more passengers and we moved on.

It was not a laughing matter about this leopard-print backpack - after all, there have been numerous incidents of such episodes that involved an abandoned bag which were deadly.

There is a verse in the scripture Srimad Bhagavatam that describes how in this material world there is danger at every step. I had no idea that when I got onto the train that day that maybe that day was my last. I am sure that anyone who has ever been involved in a lethal terrorist attack, or a plane accident, or even a car accident had no idea that that day was the last day of their lives.

Sometimes it takes danger or an accident to stop living on accident and start living on purpose. Every day, may I and may we live on purpose.

And may the owner of that bag and those sneakers get her stuff back. It was a cute bag. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Krishna-shaped Hole

For as long as I can remember, ever since I was a little girl, I have always had this longing for something or someone. Something or someone is missing from my life. It's either new clothes, a temple, a community, adventurous travels, friends, a husband, an education, a house, a car, money, spiritual initiation, a guru.



And when I finally get what I want, I long for something else, I long for someone else. This longing has been a curse and a blessing. A curse when I long for material things, because I get consumed with a fire that burns me up. A blessing when I long for spiritual things, because I get consumed with a fire that lights my soul. 

Lately I have been consumed with a longing for furniture. Sounds silly, but it's true. I have this intense desire to really just get settled into where I live - I've been wandering the world for so very long and now I just want to live in. one. place. One. Place. Getting the perfect bed and curtains is a product of this longing for home. But it's a feverish search, my ideas keep shifting and changing, I feel consumed and burnt out. 

Lately I have also been missing Radha Shyamasundar from New Raman Reti. There's an ache in my chest of longing. I miss singing for Them, putting away Their clothes, dancing for Them, and just being within Their glowing glance. It's this ache that gets more painful and also sweeter. I want to forget the ache, distract myself, but at the same time I know that it's sweet. I feel that it's sweet.

My spiritual master Radhanath Swami once told me, "There's a Krishna-shaped hole in your heart and no one will be able to fill that hole - not your parents, not a husband, not me. Only Krishna."  

For the past several months, whenever I have found it hard to get to sleep, I call into my mind's eye the faces of Radhe Shyam. I meditate upon Their forms and soon enough my heart and mind are at ease and I find myself drifting off to sleep. Radhe Shyam fill that custom-made hole in my heart. And for that window of time, my longing for someone or something is quieted and my soul rests.

To write is to dare the soul. So write.