The Trespass



The white soccer ball crashed against the long resident’s hall of the ashram. We were sweaty and breathless, running back and forth, up and down, overflowing with happiness.

“It’s mine,” I screamed. “No, No!” Isabella roared, elbowing me out of the way.  I have it; it’s mine, mine, mine!”

I had forgotten I could run like that or laugh so hard.

My daughter, Kristen, lives in an ashram, a quiet contemplative place for meditation, yoga and inward looking. My eleven-year-old granddaughter, Isabella, lives there as well, and had just gotten a new soccer ball. The large meditation hall was upstairs in another building. It was seven o’clock in the evening, the hour when all good residents put dinner dishes away and leave in pursuit of dynamic stillness, being guided by a spiritually-awakened teacher in lessons of devotion and service to humanity.

I thought Bella and I were safe. Of course, I knew that playing soccer in the ashram was a trespass, not unlike starting a game in the halls of the Vatican, but could not resist. Isabella was my heart and saying no to an innocent demonstration seemed silly.

The area was clearly defined. The pair of potted palms near the east wing would be one goal, the residents’ kitchen in the west, another. Kick. The ball bounced off the walls near the brocade thangka of the Green Goddess Tara. Kick. It neared the ceiling and bounced down by a vase of stargazer lilies. Oops, too out of control. “We don’t want to get in trouble,” I warned. “Keep it low, keep it down.” Ah, a sneaky corner kick from Bella careened against a resident’s door. A head peered out. It was Sam. “Join us,” I said, continuing to run. He declined, retracting his head with a quick, “No thanks.”

A sideswipe and steal from me pushed Isabella’s speed into high gear. Shoes were not allowed in the ashram so kicking had to be done on the inside of the foot. There were no off-sides, no points, just running and panting in uncontrolled merriment. Kick. The ball flew against the wall near a painting of the Buddha, safe within a circle of lotus petals. Kick. It hit the ceiling again, bouncing against a door. Wally stuck his head out this time, grumbled and went back in.

“Wait, wait, I need a minute!” I was bent over, my hands on my knees, hot breath pounding my lungs. “No mercy,” Bella shouted, grabbing the ball and lurching toward the goal. I rallied, determined not to be defeated, bursting into a sprint by the mandala of Mahamaya, blocking the finish. We both crashed on the rug, bodies twisted and sore. We giggled, screamed, ran and kick- kick-kicked full throttle. The ball came to rest near a series of madras as residents begin trickling on to the playing field.

We’d been competitive for a full hour. We both knew we should stop but couldn’t give it up. I invited returning residents to join the team. All declined until the guilt of our trespass pushed us back to normality and a sad letting-go of athletic bliss. Kid-sitting was over.  We shared a strenuous salty embrace and parted ways. I walked past exotic guardians and deities, slipped into my shoes beneath a photograph of a temple in Katmandu and made my way home.

The next day Kristen was counseled about the wayward actions of her mother and asked to prevent such behavior from ever happening again. She obeyed and so did we, but neither I nor Isabella would regret one second, nor could we ever think of that hallway in the same peaceful light again.

Ram Dass


monksI first saw Ram Dass in the late 70’s, when he came to Ohio State University to speak about his trip to India and the ways it transformed his consciousness and character. He spoke about his time as a Harvard Professor, his friendship with Timothy Leary and finding his Hindu teacher.

Everyone is a manisfestation of God, he said, and every moment is of infinite significance.

I had no idea who Ram Dass was and had no expectations. He walked to the center of the stage in flowing robes, closed his eyes and sat quietly for a very long time. It amazed me. How could anyone begin a presentation by sitting down and being quiet?

I was at Ohio State studying dance, theater and women’s literature. I had just finished touring with Hello Dolly and had been well-schooled. Being on stage was about dynamic presentation, articulation, entertainment and projection. How could this guy sit center stage, take a long drink of water and willfully exclude his audience? I was baffled.

He began to talk about consciousness and the freedom in allowing yourself simply to be without doing.

We are human beings, he said, not human doings.

Wow, what would that be like? I was a single mom and the pressures of it made me feel like jumping off the nearest bridge. I got up early each morning; put my son in the child seat on my bike and my daughter on the grown-up seat, while I pedaled standing up. I stopped first at the day care center and later the university. We came home the same way. I worked as a waitress from three until nine, gave all my tips to the babysitter and stayed up past midnight finishing assignments. The next day I did it all again. Easy for him to talk about being and not doing, I thought.

But there was something wonderfully appealing about his gentle spirit, colorful robes and the tranquil glow in his eyes that made me pay attention and want to read his books. A few years later I moved from Ohio to Oregon and decided to try a ten day meditation. I had never done a formal meditation in my life – starting with ten days was not enlightenment, it was pure hell. But I was curious to know who I was beneath my story, history and ingrained beliefs, so I began searching for another way, a way that made sense to me.

What I settled on was sending my kids to their father’s house, while I closed the door to the world and imposed a kind of solitary confinement. I sat and noticed and observed.

When I wanted to bust out of the room, I noticed the feelings, thoughts and sensations around the desire but remained still.

When I wanted to eat food I was not hungry for, I stopped and noticed the desire for comfort, my need to fill my emotional emptiness and soothe the frightened child within.

I spent nearly a month peeling back the layers of my identity, sitting, laughing, crying and writing, looking for and finding the me that was capable of being and not doing. I wanted the personality to ease its fearful grip and allow a glimpse of the divine. I wanted access to the wise woman at my center and was not disappointed.

I saw Ram Dass last night in a documentary called Fierce Grace. He looked vulnerable, frail and broken. He talked about his stroke and what a worthy teacher it was. He cried openly and laughed the same way. The ability to mask his emotions had dissolved; the flow of his language was restricted and withheld. My husband wondered if it hurt his credibility to weep without restraint, but I saw it as one more protective human wall that had collapsed, to further reveal the compassionate spirit within.

Life is a strange and unyielding teacher. Willing or unwilling, we are all her pupils.


texas-rainbowHow does one heal, prosper and thrive? 

How does one enter the core of themselves to discover the light within?

The essential thing is to find the part of you that is already well, always has been and always will be. To do this you need to rise above the personality and the physical to find the wise woman or wise man that lives within, the one who is just visiting this place, and remains unaffected by external events. Find the part of you that is the child of divine energies, and not human ones. That part has the answers you are looking for. Here is an exercise that might help.

Quiet yourself, relax your body, and imagine sending your energy deep into the center of the earth where it can be held. Rest there, release and allow your spirit to be cradled and safe. Next imagine a light that comes from above, a divine light that knows no boundaries. Allow it to penetrate your physical body, moving through and around, allow it to merge with the energy of the earth. Breathe into the place where heaven and earth meet, breathe into the place that knows that your life is sacred and you have everything you need. This is a physical place in your body. Once you find it, you can go back. This is your place of peace, guidance and power. The most important thing is finding it and knowing it is there. 

The first step in healing for my clients is to feel seen, to have another person view the truth of their essence and hold it with respect and appreciation. The next is to understand the place their soul resides and to know how to access it by themselves.  When you have engaged this place, reality shifts and you stop giving power to people and things outside yourself. You know your inner truth to be greater than anything that exists externally, which allows more peace and gratitude. Learning to trust your inner voice is a formidable task because we have a lifetime of conditioning that directs us to do otherwise. I call this listening to the voice of spirit. If you listen, you will hear, maybe not right away, but eventually.

The logical mind is jealous. It says, no way buddy. I’ve been running this show a long time and don’t want to yield. I’ll do everything I can to get you back if you stop listening to me. This part feels threatened by the shift, so an internal dialogue is necessary. The logical mind needs to be reassured that it will not be out the door, it will just be given a supporting role instead of being the ruler on the throne. The voice of logic will come from the personality, your fears, society, and well-intended friends. It takes tremendous faith, courage and trust to wait patiently when guidance tells you one thing and the voices of logic are yelling, Are you out of your mind? It is a process but the pay-off is tremendous.

The planet is demanding we abandon old structures to make room for new growth, however uncomfortable, a new beginning is about to occur. Stay awake and aware. Don’t get locked in distress or focus on endings. Remain fluid. This time may not be easy, but it will be rewarding. Let go of old ways, it is time to allow change.