Posts Tagged ‘thoughts

28
Nov
08

thanks-giving.

For the past two days Sam and I have been glued to the TV, watching the news of the hostage drama unfolding in south Bombay.  We have been so moved by the incredible suffering being experienced there- the hostages and their families, families mourning the loss of loved ones, and families that will learn of their losses in the coming hours.  But I must also remind myself of the suffering experienced by the hostage-takers and their families.  To dehumanize them is to perpetuate the isolation and ignorance that spawned their actions.  To advocate further violence against them does not fundamentally change what has occurred nor prevent similar activity in the future.  Violent retribution may provide a temporary release for our collective fear, vulnerability, powerlessness, insecurity, or sense of injustice.  But is does not relieve the true suffering.

So, what do we do?   

I say we because I do believe the solution lies in our collective efforts.  The world needs activists as well as scholars.  We need teachers and doctors, selfless service and financial commitment.  We need spiritual leaders who stand up and denounce terrorism and violence in its many forms.   

More than ever, we need compassion.

Yesterday Sam and I celebrated a non-traditional Thanksgiving with a quiet sushi dinner for two at a  local restaurant.  We needed a break from the constant news coverage, but sitting at  the dinner table we found we could think of nothing else.  We remembered everyone directly affected by the tragedy.  We speculated about a resolution to the stand-off.  We were grateful beyond words for the blessings in our own lives that are too numerous to count.  Our reflection certainly was a true Thanks-Giving.  

We also wondered aloud about our social responsibility.  What can we do to promote tolerance?  How can we work for social justice?  How can society be transformed?  Right now I have only questions, not answers.  I welcome your comments and suggestions.  How do you work for social justice?  What do you think needs to be changed?

 What is your vision for a better world?

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24
Sep
08

housewife.

I still cringe when people describe me as a housewife.  I suppose managing the house is one thing I do, but I hesitate to list “housewife” as my occupation.   I entered India on a tourist visa with the intention of adjusting my status to Person of Indian Origin (PIO) through my marriage.  Long story short, it didn’t happen.  We ended up completing the paperwork on our visit to the US in June, but the PIO card did not arrive in time for me to bring it back to India.  So for the last year I haven’t earned a salary, maintained a bank account, or basically been recognized on any financial or legal documents.  In these ways I’ve been a very typical “housewife”. 

This change in status is something that has haunted me.  At first I felt I was living in an existential vacuum and grasped frantically at threads of identity.  I busied myself with unpacking boxes and arranging the life we transported across the oceans.  I was dismayed when I realized that my attempt to resuscitate my previous life was unsuccessful.

I found myself at ladies’ luncheons and coffee mornings, often feeling awkward and out of place.  I had to ask Sam for money when my wallet emptied.  I watched with discomfort as the maid who came daily washed my dishes and scrubbed the floors.  For many months I felt guilty about all my free time and leisure; I denied myself any activities that might be pleasurable.  

I wish I could say there is a neat and tiny resolution to this inner dialogue, but there isn’t one.  I began volunteering at a local orphanage and found fulfillment in being with the children there.  I also met some terrific women who have been really kind and supportive friends.  I found some peace in meditation.  I often walk along the sea face, watching the tide roll in and out along the rocky shore.  I imagine in those moments that each step brings me closer to understanding and accepting myself, no matter my job description.    

16
Sep
08

pisces fish.

For the last few days I’ve been totally stuck on what to write about in this space.  About a dozen times a day I sit down with my laptop and write a few lines that I save as a draft until I delete them an hour later.   (or, in the case of this post, a minute later).  My sun sign is Pisces, which is commonly depicted as two fish swimming in opposite directions.  Two fish struggling to get away from the center but stuck together, unable to move.  That’s me, right now.  

It probably isn’t a coincidence that I also feel physically stuck right now.  There are a list of reasons why I feel physically dependent or confined.  None of them is really a sufficient reason for not getting out (except the heat, which is ungodly in the afternoon).  Every day I think of places to go, but then I usually end up choosing to stay in and read.

Living as part of an Indian family has made me much more aware of my American ways.  And living with a family I didn’t grow up with leaves me feeling out of sync most of the time.  I find it challenging to just relax and simply “be”.  I feel like everyone around me understands something that I just don’t get.

In so many ways I feel I’m neither here nor there.  Sam and I have been traveling between Bombay and Ahmedabad since his mom was diagnosed with cancer six weeks ago.  Our travel plans and career plans are on hold until we learn more about her prognosis.  Life is planned in pencil.

As I write this post, I imagine some of my friends telling me to breathe and be in the “stuckness”.  But I don’t like it here.  I feel lonely and confused and really really awkward.  I’m sure there’s some sort of lesson here that I don’t understand yet.  Maybe it’s because my two pisces fish are looking in different directions.  But at this moment that’s all I can see.

07
Aug
08

beginning.

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.

04
Aug
08

kuan.

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.

26
Jul
08

baptism.


from a taxi., originally uploaded by mbdoctor19.

The monsoon has started again. After nearly a week without much more than a light shower, the rains are back in earnest. I was shopping in town yesterday when the skies opened up. I waved in vain as one taxi after another floated past me. My arms were getting soaked. I was sure that my shopping bag would disintegrate at any moment. At some point I came to terms with my situation and accepted the inevitability of walking to my next destination. I retreated to the sidewalk, where I huddled under a store overhang. I rolled up my jeans, pulled on my windbreaker, and unfurled my new blue paisley umbrella. I stepped off the sidewalk and instantly felt the water rise above my ankles. I paused for a moment; something came over me as I felt myself surrender to the circumstances. I laughed silently at my earlier attempts to minimize my discomfort when I realized it was those very actions that were the true source of my agitation. It wasn’t the rain or the damp clothes that bothered me. It was my avoidance of them that was the root of my suffering. Once I embraced the truth of my experience as it was— releasing what I’d hoped it would be– I continued on my path.

21
Jul
08

home.

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.