Archive for the 'spiritual' Category


holiday: buddhist monasteries.




prayer wheels.

Om Mane Padme Huum.  Spinning these prayer wheels accumulates the same merit as chanting the mantra.  


buddhist mural.

Buddhist mural paintings adorn the exterior walls of monasteries in the northern region.


on holy ground.

On Holy Ground.  Monks and visitors to the monastery remove their shoes as a sign of respect.



Candles and other offerings are laid in front of images of the Buddha.


young monks.

Young monks enjoy a simple breakfast of sweet potatoes, rice, and milk.



buddha image.

A statue of the Buddha is central inside the monastery meditation hall.



Diyas burn brightly in front of sacred images.






dharma wheels.




buddhist tablet.

Buddhist tablet outside Pemayangtse Monastery in Pelling, Sikkim.


the legend of diwali, festival of light.

Once upon a time, King Dasaratha ruled the prosperous kingdom of Ayodhya.  The King was blessed with four sons from his three wives: Rama, son of Kaushalya, was the eldest boy and heir to the throne of Ayodhya.  Bharat (son of second wife Kaikeyi), Lakshman and Shatrugan (twin sons of Sumitra) enjoyed the strong bonds of brotherhood.  Together the four boys mastered the mental and physical challenges presented by their teachers.

Eventually the King became too old and weak to rule the kingdom, so he named Rama as his successor.  All the citizens of Ayodhya were elated as they prepared for the coronation ceremony.  Second Queen Kaikeyi, however, was jealous that Rama would receive all the glory while her own son Bharat would have nothing.  Kaikeyi began scheming and plotting a way to have her own son crowned king. 

On the eve of Rama’s coronation Kaikeyi called King Dasaratha into her chambers.  She reminded him that he had vowed to grant her two wishes after she had saved his life many years ago.  The king remembered his vow, of course, and pledged once again to grant her wishes.  Kaikeyi then calmly told the King she wanted him to banish Rama for fourteen years and name her son Bharat as ruler of Ayodhya.  King Dasaratha was filled with sadness.  Although he did not want to rob Rama of his birthright, he was compelled to fulfill his promise to Kaikeyi.

Upon hearing his father’s decision Rama calmly accepted his fate and promised to fulfill his dharma (duty) by living out the term of his banishment.  Rama’s wife Sita and his brother Lakshman insisted on following Rama into exile, so the three began their journey south into the wild forest where they would live for fourteen years.

During their long exile Rama, Sita, and Lakshman fought many battles and performed countless heroic deeds.  They cemented alliances with the tribes and animals living in the forest.  Their reputation spread until nearly everyone had heard of their courage and fairness.

Fourteen years passed and finally the time arrived for the threesome to begin their journey back to Ayodhya.  But on the eve of their departure a great tragedy occurred.  Sita was captured by Ravana, the evil Lord of Lanka, and was taken to his lair in his kingdom south of India. 

When Rama and Lakshman discovered that Sita had been kidnapped, they appealed to their friends in the forest for help.  Legions of humans and animals came to their aid, building a great bridge across the sea to the land of Lanka.  In a bloody and violent battle that lasted more than ten days Rama and his army defeated Ravana, Lord of Lanka.

Finally Rama was reunited with his wife Sita.  Together with Lakshman they began their journey north to claim Rama’s rightful place as the King of Ayodhya.  Word of their glorious victory had spread and they were greeted by celebrations in every village and city they entered. 

 The kingdom of Ayodhya had planned an elaborate festival for the return of the King, his wife, and his brother.  The entire kingdom was ablaze with light as every building and home was decorated with lamps and candles.  There was a great feast that included dancing and fireworks.

During the festival of Diwali we remember Rama’s triumphant return to his kingdom.  We celebrate his faithfulness and courage.  As we light candles and hang lamps in our windows, we welcome the light of knowledge and virtue into our homes and hearts.


five pillars.


We are nearing the end of Islam’s sacred month of Ramadan, a time devoted to fasting and purification of the body and soul.  The Qur’an was revealed to the prophet Mohammed through the archangel Gabriel in the sixth century during a period of lawlessness and social chaos.  The Five Pillars of Islam are the foundation of Muslim life.  The testimony of faith professes that there is only one God (Allah) and Mohammed was his messenger.  Muslims pray facing the holy city of Mecca five times a day: dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset and night.  Islam teaches that material possessions are purified through sharing with the needy; therefore, charity is an essential practice of Islam.  Fasting during the month of Ramadan is a means of purifying the body and soul.  Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset, but also abstain from sexual relations, gossip, and slander.  Able Muslims are required to make the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, at least once in their lives.



How long does it take to get over a hurt?  A day, a month, years?  What if it’s a moment?  A choice between forgiveness and nursing the pain.  That’s what it comes down to, ultimately: a choice, a decision that says I’ve had enough.  I’m done being angry, punishing you, resenting you, blaming you for my feeling unworthy.  It’s a choice that says I’m worthy of loving or being loved.  I don’t need this barrier anymore.



There is a lesser-known version of the story of how we came to live in Bombay that has ripened into a fruit ready to be savored.

It was a humid June evening on the banks of the Hudson River. Fireflies danced out of the moist green earth. The retreat center was heavy with our silence. Ninety seminarians filed into the chapel prepared for our initiation.

Palms outstretched to receive the blessings of my teachers, I offered my heart’s desire to the universe, to spirit, to god, to humanity, to whomever was ready to respond. I vowed that my body would go wherever my spirit was needed. In a moment of complete surrender I asked for a sign that I could recognize.  The next morning my husband called to say his company had offered him a position in Bombay.

I thought my purpose would be obvious once we moved to India. Instead, I woke every morning to the question, “Why am I here?” And I slept every night with pain in my heart for the sense of failure I carried at not recognizing what I was here to do. I consoled myself with the encouragement of teachers and companions who reminded me just to “show up”, be fully present to my life, and be patient with the process.

Last week our family in India entered a challenging time that may be an invitation to understand my purpose in ways I hadn’t anticipated. The last few days have been heavy with dread and hope, as we’ve waited moment by moment for answers to questions that revealed some of our deep fears and wishes. Last night I realized my purpose in being here may have nothing at all to do with ME, and nothing to do with Doing. Living my vows of ministry with my family has been an unexpected joy. Being present to my own experience allowed me to invite others in the truth of their own experience, to watch as the boundaries between self and other disappeared, and to feel the Light of Love flow through me.



There are moments in life that are neither here nor there.  These are the spaces between; no words can be spoken and no action performed.  The I Ching tells us about the sacrificial ritual in China that began with an ablution and libation by which the Deity was invoked, after which the sacrifice was offered.  The moment between these two ceremonies was considered the most sacred of all, the moment of deepest inner concentration.

Our modern lives hardly teach us to notice these spaces.  We are woefully unprepared for how to navigate the nothingness.  We are taught to fill the silence, to distract ourselves from the feeling of being uncomfortable or vulnerable or insecure.  We must DO something, we must SAY something.   Impatience and desire for resolution pushes us prematurely around the discomfort.  The ancient Chinese oracle reminds us that in the sacred moment of liminality we realize the detour is in fact the cause of our discomfort.  It is only when we allow ourselves to simply BE in the silence, to hover in the moment of stillness, that we may grow into the truth of who we really are.



Where is “home”, really? My husband and I had a discussion about this the other day after he noticed I recently listed Bombay as my hometown. “Hometown means where you’re from,” he explained.

“Exactly,” I quickly replied. “I’m from Bombay. When I go somewhere the place I return to– my home– is Bombay.”
“No, I mean where you’re from originally,” he said, with not a little exasperation in his voice. He knows where these types of conversations go.
“But I haven’t lived there since high school. I don’t own property there, don’t have friends there, and just don’t see it as my home anymore.” We both got quiet for a minute as the deeper meaning of the question began to settle into our minds. Where is “home”, really?
Home has been many places at many moments. As a student my home home was my parents’ house. As a recent college graduate, eager to create my own life, home meant my new apartment. During times of transition home has also referred to hotel rooms, a neighbor’s house, or my friend’s living room floor. For many years home was my grandparents’ house, the one place in the world where I felt most loved, most accepted, and most cared for.
In my process of exploring what home means to me, I have often reflected on the classic film “The Wizard of Oz”. Dorothy sets out on the classic hero’s journey of Separation, Initiation, and Return after she is thrust into an unfamiliar and sometimes scary environment. Along the way she meets companions who are on their own journeys. Together they rally to bravely confront their deepest fears and meet the challenges posed by adversaries. In the end their wishes are granted not by the omnipotent (or impotent) Wizard of Oz, but through the realization of their personal transformation. The prizes they sought– Courage, Love, Intelligence, and Home– were in fact inside them all along.
What Dorothy learns through her epic adventure is what I have often recalled during my first year here in India. At the end of the film Dorothy discovers that she never really left her family home in Kansas. The grand transformation she experienced was the result not of an outward journey but an inward one. “Home”, she realizes, is not a place but a state of being.
As I approach my second year in Bombay, I keep in mind that “Home” is less where I am than who I am. I remember that sometimes the greatest adversaries or most challenging situations are actually the very things I need to grow more fully into who I am. And, like Dorothy and her companions, I remember that the Big Journey isn’t somewhere outside of me. It is in fact a journey to my Self, to the heart of who I am.