Somewhere over the rainbow...
The photo above is of me with my "Nanny", a Vincentian lady who worked in my family home in Trinidad- doing a bit of everything, including "minding" me (no easy task and I was the deserving recipient of many of her ass-whoopings!). This was taken in 2012 when I visited her at her home in St. Vincent.
I was born and lived into early adulthood in Trinidad. I am half Spanish (my father) and half East Indian (my mother), so my skin is fair. In the Caribbean, I was referred to as a ‘white indian’ (sometimes disparagingly), a Coolie (always a disparaging term) or as my friend’s Jamaican boyfriend labeled me (affectionately), ‘the white witch’.
School of Dentistry, University of the West Indies, Mount Hope, Trinidad
I spent my summers growing up in England with my aunt (who migrated there from Trinidad as a teenager), her husband of Dutch descent (who migrated there from Ceylon) and my two cousins who were British-born. In the mid-seventies, the ‘Skinhead’ times, certain white Britons were fond of hurling racial slurs like ‘wog’ and ‘Paki’ and we kids were called both (definitely not affectionately), at various times. There were older kids in the house opposite ours in Hayes, Middlesex, who used to lay in wait as we walked around the corner to the sweet shop or the fish and chips shop, to throw small things at us, pull our hair and taunt us. Matters escalated, and one day, they spray painted in red: ‘Get out of our country, you n*****s’ on the pavement in front of our house. That day, we three little kids (ages ranging probably 4-7 or 8) had eggs thrown at us. When my uncle got home from work and heard this, he marched across the road, banged on their front door and told the father to come out and settle it once and for all, man-to-man. Since there was only ONE man in that equation, he never dared show his face, so my uncle basically yelled through the door that if any of those kids ever communicated with or touched ‘his’ kids again, he’d catch them and give them a licking such as they’d never seen. Thereafter, they’d stick their tongues out at us but no more and that was such a commonplace thing for us on playgrounds and in parks from other white kids, that it hardly phased us.
A mid-seventies British "Skinhead"
I have been in the USA since the summer of 1995. I left Trinidad to attend graduate school in Kansas City, Missouri and ended up staying there for 5 years. During this time, I met my husband-to-be, who was a starkly white guy in contrast to my ‘high yella’, a term my future brother in law teasingly called me and the first time I had ever heard it. A new one to add to my personal palette of colour labels.
In my experience, Kansas City in the mid-nineties was a place generally divided into ‘good areas’ and ‘bad areas’, the former being predominantly white and west of Troost; the latter, predominantly black and east of Troost. UMKC was perched near Troost.
The initial 12 months of my course of study was a General Practice Residency so I spent most of it, my first year ever, away from home as a resident at Truman Medical Center East, where the dental clinic served a largely medicaid and welfare population, mostly white. Several of us residents that year were ‘foreign’ and we were all subjected to various degrees of racism. It was not uncommon that a patient (who incidentally may not have bathed for weeks, far less brushed a tooth in their head), would demand to be seen by an ‘American’ or ‘white’ doctor. My co-resident (a soft, gentle Pakistani) got to her car one evening after clinic was over to find that some kind of acid had been poured all over the hood, ruining the paint. The vandal was never found, she was never given any compensation for the damage to her car.
Troost Avenue- KC. A "Dividing line" at the time I lived there
After leaving Kansas City, with a specialty in Oral Medicine and a Masters in Oral Biology, I came to MCV in Richmond, VA to pursue another specialty, this time in Prosthodontics. The dental school was in the heart of downtown, and when I thought to live close by for cost and convenience....I was discouraged from doing so as it was a ‘bad’ area. I came to realize this was an euphemism for ‘predominantly black’. I was steered to the West End, and there (at that time), I hardly ever saw a black person.
In the dental school itself, lines were drawn between black and white, and as a ‘high yella’, I had to carefully navigate and dance between the two. Most of the faculty and lab personnel were white, many of the folks managing instruments and day-to-day administrative duties, were black. Either camp could make life so difficult, a student would not make it to graduation. I directly experienced racism, from both white people and black people, to varying degrees. In perhaps the worst of it there, a white faculty member used his power to discourage a potential employer from hiring me after graduation. I was aware that he disliked me from the day he set his eyes upon me and registered my ‘difference’. And actually, not being black worked against me with him, because he was unafraid of any ‘official’ institutional consequences for his bigotry.
City of Richmond, VA
Throughout my educational life in the US and to this day, I continue to deal with personal and professional discrimination because I am seen first and foremost as non-white foreigner. Discrimination is intensified because I am also female. I realized right away that I would have to work ten times harder to be even half as fairly treated. And if I ever were to voice in some small way, the unfairness of it, I would hear that it was either my imagination or that I needed to develop thicker skin. So mostly, I just learned to ‘suck it up, buttercup’, put my head down and try even harder. It has become habit.
I have been now living in Virginia for 16 1/2 years. I have a second specialty degree in Prosthodontics (Advanced Dentistry) and a second Masters’ degree in Dentistry. I have run my own dental practice for 15 1/2 of those years, which has provided employment for others and paid sizeable taxes. Yet still, I encounter a prospective patient now and then asking me ‘So where are your people from?’ or an edgy ‘What language do they speak where you are from?’. How I look and how I sound is primary. How much education I have and that I am able to execute their needed dentistry with a high standard of skill, is secondary to such folks, never mind that I am an actual PERSON with feelings. They usually decide to get their dental needs met elsewhere.
My dental practice: Shenandoah Smiles, Neff Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA
I have encountered a similar dismissiveness based on racism in the supposedly spiritual American yoga world also, which I have been involved with since 1992. In some ways, that has been even more difficult to swallow since the focus herein is purportedly on the soul, not the body.
I don’t want to make it seem, in recounting some difficult things, that my life has mostly been an unfair struggle. Quite the contrary. It has been a life filled with wonder and much joy and laughter. I have met, become friends with and been mentored by, some truly amazing beings who saw far beyond my material self. Thank god for them.
The beautiful Krishna Kaur, New Mexico
I have remained mostly silent on social media about the race-related issues we are facing in an intense way in the US currently. This has largely been because I have no desire to offend or cause more pain to anyone. But I also feel like I should be able to speak the truth as I see it currently. Particularly because I have ‘front line experience’ of racism and have been shaped by it in many ways.
I also want to say that I am willing to enter into discourse and hear and learn from all other perspectives....and then maybe I will see a new and different truth. Although I cannot literally stand in anyone else's shoes, I think my heart is capable of listening, and my mind open to changing, if I can understand why it should.
But right now, it seems that continuing to narrow focus on extremes of the spectrum, black and white, not only leaves a great many ‘in between people’ like myself out of the equation, but also perpetuates polarization and separation. How about if people living in America, citizens by birth or naturalization, could simply be referred to as "Americans"? Period.
I do not agree that by just being born white you should wear guilt on your sleeve and be motivated by it in your relationships with people of colour. This does not mean to say that a white person can continue to exist in ignorance of the privilege inherent in the colour of their skin. It means you have a responsibility to use that privilege wisely and be willing to give more, share more, do more and to allow the scales to approach balance.
I do not agree that just by being born black, you are bound to be damned by your past. This does not mean to say that you need to forget your history, nor water it down to insignificance but have hope in the possibility of triumph over it. That slavery was allowed to happen is a stain on all of humankind, a karma for which we all must atone, but must it continue to be a death sentence passed on black children today?
Police brutality and abuse of power inflicted on any citizen is totally unacceptable and must be rooted out. The unfair predominance of said abuses on black people is untenable and intolerable: systems MUST be put in place NOW to make this impossible any longer. I cried when I read George Floyd's words as he was pinned under a white officer's knee to his neck: he called out 'Mama' at one point and....‘I cannot breathe’. I did not know then that Eric Garner, Anton Black, Javier Ambler, Manuel Ellis, Derrick Scott and Byron Williams had also said these words in similar situations.
George Floyd at Jack Yates High School in Houston
We must all stand to protect any human who is weaker or disenfranchised in any way, through an ‘accident’ of birth into circumstances which led to social and economic inequality.
It seems to me education is key. This is where I want my taxpayer money to go. Not on funding war games and all their associated paraphernalia and paying fat salaries to policymakers and leaders who have only their own selfish interests at heart.
I pray for the dawn of a day when we will look at another human and see only the energy of the soul. A day when skin colour is simply a descriptor, like ‘tall’ or ‘wears specs’. A day when accented speech is embraced with joy and excitement because it means someone has come from a place you can now learn about and experience, if only vicariously. A day when each person is rewarded based only on merit and capability. A day when no one has to fight harder for respect and the opportunity to make an honest living merely because they are ‘different’ from the status quo. A day when children are not taught to hate.
love is the seventh wave
There has been so much swirling in my head over the past weeks since, what is in effect, the world shut down began. Like most humans living through this pandemic, I have had to deal with it on a very personal level. Concern for my loved ones', my patients' and my own health. Concern for what will become of my small business and my home the longer we have no income (as both Hubs' and my livelihood come out of the dental practice). How will I return safely to doing my job? Work which by its very nature, in most clinical situations, produces aerosol which would transmit Covid-19, if it is present in an infected but asymptomatic patient. These are overwhelming considerations enough. But I truly believe they are just the tip of the iceberg which is in danger of sinking the ship of humanity as a whole.
It struck me like a thunderbolt when I saw that Covid-19 is the seventh corona virus. That is when a lot began rumbling in the deepest layers of my consciousness. This is by no coincidence- and there are teachings and warnings here, if we will only listen deeply. This is a long read, and our attention spans have become so short in this era of texts and tweets. But I am asking you to bear with, and journey with, me awhile.
The number seven surfaces across many traditions and is associated with a deep mysticism. The very first one which came to me was from my Catholic background: the biblical story of Creation, in which the world was forged in 7 days. And next, the teaching of the Christ, when asked how many times one should forgive a person who wrongs you: “Seventy times seven”. There are countless others, from many other paths. However, what follows are a few which have presented for my deep consideration, that I am compelled to share.
The number seven in yogic wisdom represents the auric body, a protective electromagnetic field which surrounds all living things (to varied extents). It is associated with the archetype of “The Healer” and its vibration is one of upliftment of Self and others.
There is a beautiful Native American philosophy of “The Seven Generations”, which asks each human to consider the effect of every decision on seven generations hence. So, decisions which impact society and the earth's environment are taken with the good of not just the one person, but keeping the good of all “relations” (human and non-human), seven generations thereof, in mind.
This teaching has a reverberation in the yogic philosophies also, in that it is believed that the connections are so strong with seven generations back, and seven generations forward, that each of us, based on our choices and behaviours now, can heal or harm our ancestral line.
In Egyptian mythology, seven is held to be a feminine number, associated with The Mistress of Measure, Sheshat- whose gift to humanity was Time. It was governed by the female cycle and it was ovulation which began the process of rebirth of timespace in the cosmic womb.
There is an Anishinaabe prophecy which speaks of Seven Fires. As I read it (see below), I am convinced that it speaks of this time now, our time, on this planet. Please remember that this came as a vision to a people who were not 'light skinned' and so the wording is simply descriptive, not intended to be 'racist'. “It is this time that the light skinned race will be given a choice between two roads. One road will be green and lush, and very inviting. The other road will be black and charred, and walking it will cut their feet. In the prophecy, the people decide to take neither road, but instead to turn back, to remember and reclaim the wisdom of those who came before them. If they choose the right road, then the Seventh Fire will light the Eighth and final Fire, an eternal fire of peace, love brotherhood and sisterhood. If the light skinned race makes the wrong choice of the roads, then the destruction which they brought with them in coming to this country will come back at them and cause much suffering and death to all the Earth's people.”
In Chinese medicine, the lung meridian is a yin or feminine organ, associated with the emotions of grief and loss. In a healthy flow of the meridian, it infuses the human consciousness with the virtue of Gratitude. This meridian also manages the water channels of the body. Water- without which life cannot be sustained on this earth. I do not believe it is a coincidence that the virus of this pandemic, Covid-19, has an affinity for the human lungs. Those organs through which we begin our interaction with the Breath of Life and though which we will exhale our last sigh as we reunite with The Beloved. Air/oxygen- another thing without which human life on this planet is non-sustainable.
In general, the majority of humans have not acted as good stewards of this planet. We have failed to hold our elected governing bodies responsible when they have legislated in a manner that is destructive to Mother Earth. There are countless historical examples of american industry spewing toxic by-products into the air and water and even now, when we know better, we have not done better. If the “Flint” travesty is dimming with time in our too-short memory, we have only to look back as far as 2017-2018, at DAPL and the shameful events at Standing Rock, to know that the wave of destruction based on profiteering marches forward mercilessly. One of the earliest acts of the current administration was to push the pipeline forward, freed of any restriction for further environmental study prior. Once again, treaties made with the Native Peoples were broken, their lands, waters and sacred burial grounds were violated and the pipeline came to be. After only 6 months in operation, there were 5 spills. Just as The People knew would happen, there was and continues to be, contamination of the water and soil from this fey and politically-motivated project.
In the midst of this new pandemic, the company Gilead applied for “orphan drug status” for Remdesivir, an experimental drug which has shown some early promise in treating Covid-19. What this meant was that they would be granted tax breaks, FDA fee waivers AND exclusive rights to manufacture and sell the drug. A shameful move on their part, intended to build the company's wealth on the backs of the ill, no matter how they tried to spin it. It was granted, people- it was granted! It seems the company only very recently asked to have the designation rescinded when it faced a veritable tsunami of public condemnation. Likely only because that was deemed to be worse for their bottom line in the long run. I am not hopeful that big business will fail to be involved with profiteering from any Covid-19 vaccine which may be developed. I have, in the past two days, become acquainted with the term and premises of “Disaster Capitalism” and its made me physically nauseous.
I read today that the Trump administration is, effectively, allowing companies to break pollution laws (ha! such as they are!) during this pandemic, by disbanding any EPA enforcement of regulations. In simple words: Big Industry can fuck with the air and water as much as they wish during this time, while ordinary citizens aren't watching and many are fighting for their homes, livelihoods and indeed, their very lives in some cases. Despite the now common knowledge that this virus goes for the lungs and any existing lung compromise, such as would be seen from breathing polluted air, pushes prognosis is the wrong direction entirely.
Believe me, I am not a political person. And I don't mean to imply that its only in this country that poor leadership is maiming our planet, (though America is a world leader and as such has great responsibility and it is said that when there is a cold here, the rest of the world sneezes and coughs). Jair Bolsonaro, the current president of Brazil is “pro-business”. This translated, has meant that he pushes policies which weaken environmental protections, thereby encouraging ongoing deforestation (began by his predecessor, who was of like ilk). He took office in January 2019. Fires raged in the Amazon, incessantly this past summer. The Amazon rainforest is known as the lungs of the earth. A collective (human Covid-ravaged) lung for a lung (of The Mother)?
An estimated 906 thousand hectares of forest was lost in 2019. The impact of this on the biome of the Amazon has yet to be reckoned. Not to mention the negative impact on the indigenous Amazonian tribes who hold an ancient wisdom we cannot afford to lose. Just as we cannot afford to lose what precious little remains of the wisdom of our Native American Peoples. Hearken back to the Seven Fires prophecy. It is a shame on all of us US citizens that we did not protest in support of Standing Rock in every city across every state- knowing the way in which the People have been treated in our history. Our conjoined voices could have stopped that pipeline by shutting down the economy. Wow, ironically, just what has been forced upon us now. I have my own guilt that I personally did not do more.
Which brings me to say that in our day to day lives, each of us, ordinary humans- we are not free of blame. We have allowed ourselves to become avaricious Consumers. We are obsessed with acquisition, in all its forms. We take too much. We give back too little. We do not express our gratitude to this earth which sustains us, in all the small ways we can, never mind the big ways in which some of us can (policymakers, industry heads). We can recycle, we can reuse, we can vote with our dollars, even if we live in big cities and cannot grow some of our own food (which we should be doing in at least some little way, if we can). We seek convenience above all else- we want everything faster- have we even considered the environmental impact of 5G on the navigational systems of insects and birds, who are crucial to the food chain which maintains us too? We want everything constantly newer and better. We thoughtlessly use fossil fuels, complaining actively only when the cost at the pumps rises too high. Incidentally, it would be my vote that at least 2 out of 4 weekends, even when restrictions are lifted, we choose to not use our cars at all. That we buy only what we need, and make conscious purchases which help local farms and businesses. That we choose to spend dedicated time with our families, nurturing our homes and growing a small food garden, planting a tree, cleaning up a public space.
Gratitude is only the start of rebuilding our relationship with the Earth. Taking that relationship back to the level needed to ensure our survival as a species on Her back, requires reciprocity. Just as both gratitude and reciprocity are needed for our human relationships to flourish. We need to give back, to nurture this earth, to refuse to elect leaders whose policies will harm the environment and be willing to stand up and hold our leaders accountable.
I have had enough. I have found myself both grieving and angry, in equal measure, in this past pandemic month.
I am angry because I feel myself so small and powerless to make the great changes I know in my heart are needed.
I feel painful longing for a vanished time, in which we humans lived close to Mother Earth and knew Her heartbeat as our own. A time when we saw ourselves as only a humble part of the web of life, which we deeply respected. A time when we cared as much for all others, in all forms, as for our own self.
Today, too many fellow humans have no idea where their next meal is coming from and they can't recall the last time they had a full belly. I have seen with my own eyes the abysmal conditions in which some live. Yes, I saw this in India and in Africa, but also right here in our nation's capital where one cold winter evening, I was shocked to see crowds of homeless jostling for sleeping space around sewer grates which expel warm air on the streets. So many are dying of deprivation across the world, and ironically, so many are also dying from diseases of vast excess. Obesity, heart disease and diabetes are off the charts in America. All of these happen to be co-morbid factors which help to turn a superimposed Covid-19 infection deadly.
What we have come to define as 'success' is how much one can personally 'get ahead'. Instead of our so called successes making us happy, they somehow only serve to drive an insatiable existential hunger, a veritable 'religion of lack', fear of loss and a deep isolation.
I grieve because of the damage that has been done, feeding this accumulative drive, raping and plundering the earth. I grieve for all the trees that have been logged, all the forests that have been burned, all the rivers and seas that have been over-fished or polluted, all the air that is now toxic. I do not want things to go back to 'normal' and to return to 'business as usual' because those precise lack of values are what brought us to this point. Greed and hubris will be our twin hallmarks, inscribed on tombstones no one shall be here to read.
I believe we are perched on the edge of our destruction as a species. I do not know if Covid-19 will be what tips us over the precipice. But, if not, I feel certain that this won't be the last germ humanity will face before the end of this century. We have pushed Mother Earth too far and She is pushing back, in defense of all her other children- the air, the water, the plants, the animals, the insects. How many times in the past month have we seen posts on social media about the effect that humans sheltering in place across the planet has had? The Himalayas are visible for the first time in many years. The stars can be seen again in the skies over Manhattan. LA, known for its legendary traffic and pollution, currently has extremely clean air for a city its size. Here in the Shenandoah Valley, where I live now, there is too-often a smoky industrial haze obscuring the gorgeous Blue Ridges. This March-April in the pinnacle of our human confinement, we have enjoyed the clearest skies and one of the most vividly beautiful springs I can recall. Those Blue Ridges made me catch my breath with their sheer beauty this morning.
* Above, a rare view of the Himalayas seen from the Punjab, 100 miles in the distance and a smogless LA
It surely seems that the Earth is better off without humans than with them. But its not the way it was meant to be. I know it. The joy I experience when I eat a fruit from a tree I nurtured is resonated by the tree itself- it is happy to nourish me as I have nourished it. There is a graceful balance and beautiful harmony in our relationship, a palpable energy fairly exchanged (though I think I get far more than I gave, actually). The love I feel when I interact with my plants and the bluebirds we house in our garden.....I know it is reciprocal. I can feel, viscerally, that they love me right back. I also feel certain that the Earth Herself is a Wisdom Keeper and She knows how to heal Herself. She has shown this to us in one short month and a bit. But we have to commit to allowing it, from this day forward. We have to promise, sincerely, to help Her healing process in considered, practical acts of symbiotic co-creation that will build the New Earth for which we long.
Please, please, please let us Awaken now and use our collective voices, our collective power, to make tomorrow different from today. What we have done for ourselves and each other with social distancing proves that we have the capacity to act in a manner that is mutually beneficial personally and for this wondrous planet on which we are privileged guests. We have to remember that all privilege comes with responsibilities. We are the ancestors of those newly arrived or yet to come. We hold the Flame of Life in our hands. Let us not snuff it out.
What it comes down to is Love. In the Beginning was Love. In the End, all we take is the Love we gave (sorry, Beatles). As Sting says, and I will echo in a perfect chorus of Sevens: Love is the Seventh Wave.
Every ripple on the ocean
Every leaf on every tree
Every sand dune in the desert
Every power we never see
There is a deeper wave than this
Smiling in the world
There is a deeper wave than this
Listen to me, girl (and boy!)
*Photo credit to Carla J- a beautiful Spring at her home in the Shenandoah Valley
The gift of these times
Last Thursday afternoon, I closed my dental practice for routine dentistry. As a usual part of the work I do, aerosol is generated and saliva is our playing field! So, staying open would inevitably mean that I would put my patients, my husband, my assistant (and her unborn baby) at even more risk of getting infected with the Covid-19 virus.
Since then, I have been in a fog. Try as I might, and despite feeling ashamed for it, the most I seemed able to do to try to serve others at this time has been to communicate relevant scientific information on social media and in emails, as well as interject some humour using these platforms, to the people I am connected with. And to pray for us all.
Its been intense trying to process the enormity of our global situation as well as my personal one. To experience the reality that my livelihood, like that of much of America, is dependent on something that cannot be transferred "online". I said to my husband yesterday that I felt it to be ludicrous that with all the years of education I have, I have no way to make a living right now.
We have ended up, en masse, on the edge of a cliff....in a flash, without warning- partly on account of the way in which the pandemic was initially mis-handled in our country. The common citizens, as usual, seem to pay a heavy price for the few who make crucial decisions.
Over the initial days of staying house-bound as much as possible, I have run a gamut of emotions in multiple rounds- anger, insecurity, fear, sadness, grief, denial. I have not 'felt' like 'doing' anything at all- mostly just going through motions of things I knew I 'should' do. I have had to push myself to do even basic things like cook and eat and sleep. I have had a hard time communicating in more personal ways, even with friends whom I love. It is as if I needed to retract all of my energy inward for a time. A large part of my mind judged this poorly as "not doing enough, not being there for others enough" but I couldn't seem to make it any different.
Then yesterday, I forced myself (admittedly on account of being nagged by Hubs) to get outside in the dirt and plant some things. While waiting for him to ready a few elements, I pretty halfheartedly knelt down in the morning sunshine and started pulling weeds from around the plants that are waking up from their time of darkness too. A shift happened.
I felt such a strong kinship to those plants in that moment. The understanding came that they know how to do what I needed to do and had agreed to be my teachers. Without the dross of words, they were speaking the ancient language of the earth and showing me how to be easy, to flow, with her cycles.
And so began the lifting of my haze. By the time my legs and shoulders and back were exhausted, the seeds were planted and my hands were black with dirt, my heart was lighter and I'd had a direct and profound experience of "sa-ta-na-ma": a Kundalini Yoga mantra I have chanted and taught for years. Its all about how infinity distills into form which then must experience rearrangement....which appears on the surface to be destructive......but is really an openness, a very feminine pliability, which allows release of the Essence of Life to be nurtured in the womb and come again in another form. I felt a warm rush of the nectar of HOPE in the energetic vessels of my Self.
There is something infinitely precious about this time, beneath all that seems so dark. And I think it has a lot to do with the 'release' part of the cycle. We are being asked to let go of nearly everything that we relied on and assumed would always be there. And it initially brought up a lot of our existential fear that seems to lurk just beneath our surface awareness. And so we ran to do what we have been schooled to do as consumers- let's buy and hoard and make ourselves feel safe behind our toilet paper forts. And BOOM! It didn't work. Maybe when we couldn't find the TP on the shelves, or when we realized if things got really bad, wiping our asses in the modern way would be the least of our worries- and that the paper had no nutritional value.
And next, as a way to flatten the epidemiological curve, we came to know a previously unheard of term: 'social distancing' and we closed our public work spaces. And the insecurity hit. Who are are we outside of what we do? How will we generate income? How will we pay our bills? We were literally being forced to release the busyness to which we cling and the multiple social interactions that perhaps we had come to use as an acceptable distraction. By this I mean that we were being asked to take a hard look at our lives and how we use our precious time. Were we on the surface, being engaging and connected and serviceful, but in our heart of hearts, all our incessant 'doing' was a way to avoid spending too much time with ourselves or looking too deeply within? Have we been minimizing or entirely deferring, the true work for which we came to this planet: the work of Just Being, the work of Just Loving?
I recalled that last week, as I closed my practice door behind me, I headed to the mailbox to send a condolence letter to the husband of a dear patient of ours who died in January (I'd just heard). The mail van was just pulling away, having emptied the boxes. So the mailman stopped and stuck his hand out and I placed my envelope in it. We exchanged a look. Just a few seconds, but such a deep connection between two strangers (he's new) who were linked only by a common humanity, facing a serious threat to life as we know it.
I said to him "Be well" and he said "You too". Words we might have used 'before'. But now, they carried the weight and conviction of a mutual blessing, And we both felt it and recognized the gift of it.
I think this is the overall hidden gift of this time of intense testing, as we face the very real possibility of loss on many levels. We are being asked to discard all that is non-essential, all that is not authentic, every word and action that is not coming from our hearts, infused with heart energy. In all aspects- in the rudiments and practicalities of our daily lives, in our diets, in our work, in our relationship to ourselves and others.
We are being asked to come again into a reverence for Mother Earth, which will mean that moving forward from this time of crisis, we renew our efforts to protect Her from harm. By the way, the thought has occurred to me that part of what is happening here is that She is helping us to understand Her sovereignty. She had the power to create a New Virus, which unchecked could wipe our species off Her back. We are not indispensable and we need to let go of the false sense of entitlement and superiority we humans have been demonstrating. Like a good mother, one child isn't more precious to Her than all the others. Like a good mother, She is administering a hard lesson to children who haven't been listening: there are consequences for our actions and She is allowing us to experience them in no uncertain terms.
We are living, in a literal way, far beyond the lip-service we have paid to this concept- the experience that at we are all connected and what each one of us does will help or harm all of us.
Yesterday, in the sunshine, touching the earth, I felt such an intensity and a sweetness and a gratitude for every breath. I came inside and proceeded to have a virtual conversation with an angel who reached out to me (yes, she is also a real person) the day before. I experienced through our interaction, such a rush of warmth and love- in a way that was both attached and non-attached at the same time. In other words, a connection undiminished by the analytical mind-chatter and insecurities that can totally ruin our human relationships and harm the balance of the energetic give and take that makes them so life affirming and rich.
Let us agree to embrace this time as sacred. It is a choice we have to make, because the mind is so clever, it can and will find alternate ways to distract us and to numb us out of this chance. Let us agree to go deeper. Let us resolve to release our pettiness and competitiveness, our endless comparisons and negative fantasies. In this time when we cannot journey externally, let's bravely lace up our spiritual boots to take the Journey Within.
Holding you in a vibration of that 'Peace that passeth understanding' and in Universal Love, as I stand in my Grace and my Sat Nam and I bear Witness to yours......
A Love Until the end of time
Yesterday, I finished up around 2.30pm at my dental practice with a last emergency patient before we closed (on account of Covid-19) for these next two and a half weeks for routine dentistry. Incidentally, best 'emergency' ever- a patient with a pair of dentures I just delivered who could not remove them himself! If you know anyone who wears dentures, its the kind of problem a physician of the masticatory system :-) such as myself, LOVES.
Anyway, I then had some time to attend to a call I have been needing to make since I heard a couple of weeks ago that a dear lady patient of ours had died. She needed quite a bit of work 3 years or so back. She was already quite delicate, with a number of health issues and had a mouthful of failing crowns that were causing dental infections and periodontal issues. This is turn (as it will without fail) put a huge inflammatory load on her already frail system. So we saw her a lot, over quite some time. On top of all else, she also had Parkinson's, so the work was not easy on her, or on us. But she was such a sweetheart, that I loved having her in the chair (more than she could ever love being in it, I am sure!).
She had a pair of the clearest, most lovely grey-blue eyes you could imagine, dancing with the light of humour, even as she struggled to get her words out or move her body through space. She was still feisty and so dang smart, even with all the ravages of her ill-health. She spoke with a New England drawl, entertained us with stories of her days as a high powered lady realtor and told us how, despite being as white as a porcelain doll, she came to have a Mexican name (a story for another time). She was always brought to her appointments by her husband, which was part of the delight of her visits because he is a rarest gem of a man. The way we saw him look after her was incredible to witness. They lived alone and he was her primary caretaker, though as she declined more over the past year, he had some in-home help for a few hours every day to take care of her baths. He treated her like the most precious flower and spoke to her ever so gently as he took her to the bathroom, or transferred her in and out of the dental chair from/to her walker. And let me tell you, this man flossed and brushed his wife's teeth for her because she simply could not do it.
So I phone her husband yesterday to offer my condolences. My intention was to let him know that I would forever hold the memory of her, for all the things I loved about her. But I also wanted him to know that I would hold the memory of the couple that they were and the love that they nourished over 66 years of marriage. He is now 86 years old and his partner- no, a large part of himself- is no longer on this plane of existence. I asked him if she went peacefully- and he began to recount the details of her last months, his words rolling over themselves in a way that let me understand he needed to tell this story. By the grace of God, I was privileged to be there to hear it.
He spoke of a terrible pain that began in her abdomen and several trips to the ER over Christmas and in early January. No specific reason was ever found for it and their family physician finally sat him down and said that there were some pains whose origins could never be diagnosed. It was the doctor's sense that she was actively dying and should be admitted to hospice. So that's what happened. And her husband spent every waking hour there with her for her last 3 weeks on this earth.
By this time, he and I were both crying. I was valiantly trying to make it less obvious. But when I asked if he was with her when she left, and he simply said: "Yes. She died in my arms". Well, I lost it. I apologized to him for not being very helpful and then, true to form, this compassionate, lovely man turned around and consoled me!
As I reflect on this, maybe it wasn't at all professional for me to show my emotion like that. But screw it. We had moments of profoundly real human connection throughout that phone call that I won't ever forget. I was able to thank the pure, beautiful soul he is (with words that could never be adequate enough-but at least were affirmed aloud), for showing me, in a very literal way, what love and commitment truly mean. What he did over the last 15 years of their marriage was the furthest thing from easy or fun. But still, they both smiled and laughed and stuck with each other to the very, very end.
My image is that there was a gentle, reverent handing over of this little lady- from one pair of human arms and one human heart, to the Arms of The Beloved whose Heart holds us all, forever.
Today, I entered into a battle with myself. Externally, it was cloaked in a discovery I inadvertently made which precipitated feelings of resentment and anger to arise in me. Something somebody 'did' that felt like a betrayal and I saw them as completely inauthentic. As I leaned into those feelings, which took more effort than I would like to admit, they began to reveal their lessons. (Damnit, damnit, damnit- another effing growth opportunity). Here's what I have derived thus far.
The work, the real work, which is only ever the inner work, is tirelessly going on. It is best if it happens with our awareness, consent and willing participation, because its going to happen anyway. We will be infinitely more miserable, as we get ‘schooled’, if we don‘t agree to play. This shit is never, I repeat, never about anybody else but the '(whoa!)man in the mirror'. It may do a fantastic job of masquerading as a crappy situation 'out there', but the fact is, nothing out there can come 'in here'- namely, the space inside your head and heart, unless it plucks your inner strings.
It gets worse! As we navigate the deep inner journey, there are no companions who can face our demons for us. And actually- very, very few who will even stick around as we face them ourselves (hold on to those few gems until your last breath- they are most rare!). We have to get comfortable with this existential alone-ness and stop wasting our energy knocking door to door, desperately trying to find that which is hidden in our own inner sanctum and will be (re-)discovered no place else.
We must by Grace, summon the courage to go into the desert on our own. The only place we can find, Know and understand Truth, Loyalty, Goodness, Friendship, Fulfillment, Compassion and Love is in our own soul. As we search for them in anyone or anything else, there will be inevitable disappointment.
The paradox is that once we have dug deep enough to find them in the wilderness within, they are more likely to appear in external Form, in ways that can be enjoyed without expectation, or fear of loss. That is the best definition of freedom and joy there is, I believe.
Speaking of loss, something came to me this morning as I was processing all of this. It was a teaching on INTEGRITY, which I sometimes feel is almost a cuss word in today's world, in which cleverness often seems to be held far superior.
The gist of it was- if you know, in your heart of hearts, that you have acted with integrity and this makes you lose someone- you should realize that you have not lost them, in fact- they have lost you.
And there's that ball right back in our personal court again. Our only job is to work with, and on ourselves, so we are best equipped to take action from a place of integrity. And then, we pray for courage to allow the chips to fall where they will. Bread is made from wheat, the chaff must fall away first.
With all my love, coming to you straight from the trenches.....
I got an early Christmas present from Santa- a bring-you-to-your-knees cold. I was deep in the throes of it this past Monday but had a commitment to teach my final regular KY class for 2019 that evening. Also, 3 dear souls had put time and effort in to bring us live music for the class and I did not wish to let them down. I literally exited my bed, got ready and trundled into the car. Truthfully, I was having quite the pity party.....without going into too many details, the Life-road has been rough throughout this entire year and I was doing the classic ‘pile on’ of all my woes atop this really not feeling physically well enough to leave my bed.
So what happens? Not two minutes after we’d left the house (Hubs driving thankfully) two batshit crazy deer made an apparent beeline for my car. The result was a cracked headlight, fender and bashed in driver’s door and side panel. There were unpleasant reverberations of the May accident for me, in which my car was totaled.
At the end, we were unharmed and this was not a given. It could have been much worse, as there was another car heading toward us. If it had been even a few seconds difference and the deer had run in front of that oncoming car first, and it had it swerved......well, you can imagine.
Since our car appeared to stay driveable, we continued on. When we arrived, Hubs had to climb over the passenger seat to get out since the driver’s door was smooshed shut. That’s only fun when you are a little kid!
Class was delivered, very sweetly to us all- I had to just get out of the way. The three beloveds sang beautifully and those few souls who made it to the studio in the midst of the Christmas-busy, were I think, given the opportunity to delve deep and then rest and leave uplifted.
After we were done, Santa Rosa Maria came up to me and shared a recent story she’d heard. It centered on a priest who was complaining extensively to God. At the end of his tirade, he heard God say only this: “My child”. And without thought, he answered ‘Yes, my Lord’.
In these two Divine words, all of the love and compassion in the world is felt. And also an invitation to go beyond the commotion of the mind as it agitates about life’s dramas. An invitation to come to the moment, in silence, and see the Holiness present in all things, always. (My Teacher’s words: ‘If you cannot see God in all, you cannot see God at all’ came right to mind here). In the priest’s answer: an affirmation that the soul instinctively Knows its Source, its SatNam, and that only love is real. 5 simple words in an exchange: the entire mystery of the universe revealed.
It was no actual ‘accident’ that I came to teach this class, this day- I knew with certainty that this story was given to Rose, of course, for her..... but also for her to ‘hand-deliver’ to me. By no coincidence, my entire class, before hearing this story, had as its focus, the soul saying yes. (Thank you, Santa Rosa. Thanks to The One who has seen fit to share you with me).
So, as I leave this decade, one of the things I am being called to witness is the heart of me which is ready and willing to vibrate a resounding ‘Yes!’, and act in accordance with this. BUT for only the right reason: that I am (as is each of us) a beloved child of God, answering His call. All is according to His Will alone: the ups and downs, the good, the bad and the ugly.
May we leave behind the rumination of all that we will never understand; may we give to others the love and compassion we did not receive; may we show up for those who don’t show up for us; may we vow to be authentic even when its so much easier to hide behind the masks we have so carefully constructed; may we each do ‘our thing’ joyfully and devoid of comparative envy; may we hold ourselves and others in an unlimited compassion; may we say ‘Yes’ to the Divine who is constantly calling us Home to our True Self.
Three suns who were daughters
There are people in your life whom I believe ‘contracted’ to be anchors for you. Ones who hold all, or a large percentage of, your entire history. Some share your blood, some are relatives of the spirit. They know you, in a way that those who drop in much later, cannot.....simply because they have been there to Witness your process, pretty much from inception. When they must finally leave, because their mission on all levels, is complete...you are aware that the world for you, simply will never be the same. Especially, of course, if you shared the same house, but even if you had not lived nearby for many, many years. Because you knew, day to day, that they were someplace safe, breathing and keeping your history alive just by doing this.
The truth is, the sadness is yours, not theirs, because they delivered their destiny perfectly, a ‘good and faithful servant’ to the very end.
You can bear your sadness. You can. Because you have had a baton of sorts passed to you. You must now carry a Spark of the one who was your anchor so that your world continues to experience them, through you, in some small way. Perhaps by a simple smile (when you least feel like smiling), maybe through an unbroadcasted act of kindness, maybe by refusing to react to provocation, maybe by putting one foot in front of the other and carrying on when you most feel like giving up. Small, simple things....just how they showed you.
Your sadness is also made bearable because you know in your deepest heart, that the sweet souls of the ones who anchored you, were themselves untethered and have easily flown Home, given wings by their day-to-day kindness and a Grace that they made look ordinary, but which was spun of extraordinary threads of finest gold.
Your sadness has to be felt and it is difficult.....but it is also lined, even at its terrible depths which all that you hold holy must now give you the courage to navigate......with a Love that lies outside of the boundaries of space, time and matter. This is the vibration in which your anchors now reside and where you have to resonate in order to experience them again, in a different, more refined, way.
On a very personal note: Wednesday just past was Granny Achong’s 100th birthday. Wednesday night, I dreamed of watching three solar eclipses, one after the other, with a bit of time between them. Incidentally, Granny Achong left her body peacefully on Thursday morning, 100 years and one day young.
I believe the dream was a message of hope from my three grandmothers: my actual maternal granny, Eileen Shahani- the first eclipse; my granny-in- spirit, Auntie Bhabi- the second eclipse; now my granny Achong, also granny-in-spirit- the third eclipse.
In the dream, the process of each eclipse was wondrous and the darkness immediately after, immense. An immersion in a darkness so deep and profound such as I have never experienced in ‘real’ life. But then, each time, the sun re-emerged and the Light was brighter than ever.
I hope my three grandmothers are dancing together in the ethers, in the joy of knowing they did their very best always and that they loved themselves inside out. I am so grateful they were, and still are, forever mine. I will promise to continually assess and ask myself often what I am doing to give back some of that Perfect Love that was poured into me by three of the very finest women I will ever know.
Here they are.
Eileen Shahani (Baby me, Petra Street, Woodbrook, Trinidad)
Auntie Bhabie (62 Sutter Avenue, Canada)
Granny Achong (St. Anns, Trinidad 2017)
A few weeks ago, Santa Rosa Maria- a regular Kundalini Yoga student in a class I teach on Monday evenings, had to leave early. Usually she reminds me before class (she is part of a monthly dream group), so I am expecting to see her rise up a bit early and quietly head out the door while her classmates are often still in savasana. This particular week, we'd not had that conversation, so when I heard movement in the room at that point in class, my eyes opened to investigate.
Our eyes met and instantly, in silence, I understood she had to leave and guessed why. But the experience we shared in that moment was utterly profound and went far beyond that of non-verbal communication (though that was pretty cool too).
The vibration in the room may well have set the stage for it, for it had been a very beautiful class with all there making their best effort and being so focused and Present. Nevertheless, this was a unique gift that by Grace, Santa Rosa Maria and I were given. As I looked into her eyes, which incidentally, are glacial blue and crystal clear- yet still manage to be warm, full of wisdom, humour and love, what I actually Saw was her Soul of purest Light.
I began to beam, because I could not help it. She smiled back at me and what I Felt was that A Great Blessing had come upon me. The impulse to bow to the Majesty of the G-O-D I was witnessing in her was impossible to disobey, so I did. There were tears in my eyes, because one cannot glimpse the Divine and not be overcome.
My Hubs had missed class that week on account of that most dreaded of all diseases, The Man Flu, and when I got home, this was the first thing about which I told him because my heart was so full of it. I began by saying: "Rose and I had a moment. I got to see her Soul!"
Santa Rosa and I did not speak of this for several weeks. Then suddenly after another class some time later, she came up and tried to go after touching my feet. I stopped her by saying I needed to touch her feet. I told her I was so glad she too had felt the sanctity of that experience. We concluded it was a pure gift- two souls sharing a bit of The Journey together and the Magic of really Seeing each other. Brown eyes met blue and their shared Vision was of Wonder.
It is Holy Thursday and on this day approximately one thousand nine hundred and eighty five years ago, Jesus of Nazareth sat down to eat his last meal with his closest friends and disciples. The line in Corinthians reads: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.
I have heard these words countless times, as it is part of the celebration of the Eucharist at Catholic Mass. I have always loved them- they never fail to make something incredibly sweet and incredibly sad flutter in my heart and they manage, every time, to deliver to me as much sense as this mortal can grasp, of the limitless nature of Love.
However, when I read them this morning, they washed over me with a new awareness. I had an almost visceral experience of the depth of betrayal the human heart of Jesus must have felt. And then came the experience of its polarity- the depth of forgiveness the Sacred Heart of Jesus possessed. He could, and did, truly love those about to run, hide, deny and deliver him into the hands of his enemies; he could still see them as brother, friend and disciple despite Knowing the ugly things they were about to do.
Likely we have all experienced betrayal by someone we love. Someone who appeared to totally ‘get’ us, seemed to be in sync with us and declared their loyalty. We may have begun to feel very safe in relationship with them and gradually exposed our soft underbelly, letting down our guard and shedding our armour. Eventually, faced with a time of testing, we were completely and utterly blindsided and devastated when their actions left us in no doubt that we only imagined we were loved. The last time this happened to me, I can truthfully say that if I had any bread around me just when it was all going down, I might have thrown it, rather than giving thanks and offering it in peace!
Which leads me to reflect that I believe the Christ actually gave us a profound “Relationship/Life Rulebook’ of sorts, by his actions that night, as described.
Giving thanks for the bread was symbolic of expressing gratitude for everything the Divine delivers to us- whether it appears to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’. He showed how to stand so firm in faith that no matter how dark and awful something seems, what we see first is the Hand of God working for our ultimate Resurrection. This is Rule #1: to gratefully declare- “Lord, you sent this to me, it must be for my highest good.”
Jesus then broke the bread so he could share it….an act of incredible kindness and sovereignty, despite the intuition that He would soon be betrayed and abandoned by his closest companions. Rule #2: No matter how you feel, what is most important is how you act. Act kindly; remember your royal nature as a child of the One so you can be gracious always.
He then goes on to say: ‘this is my body, it is for you’. By this, He is telling us about the very nature of Love. Rule #3: Authentic Love often requires tremendous personal sacrifice- perhaps of body at times, but more often of our negative ego and the need to be right.
Lastly: ‘do this in memory of me’… Christ speaks to us here of the nature of Forgiveness, saying in effect that there would come a time when all of the angst would be left behind and then he wanted them to know that it was okay to commemorate all the good of their relationship with Him. Rule #4: you should never forget, but you shall rise up and honour the best in you when you forgive. In this way, all the good memories can live forever, in your heart and soul.
May we all keep striving to love as Jesus loved. May we break bread with each other and not each other's hearts. May we live our prayer, not just mouth it.
Open Hands, Open Heart.
Each person who comes to us is simultaneously in the process of leaving, voluntarily or involuntarily, sooner or later. I am not saying this fatalistically, only realistically. Nothing and no one can truly be captured. All we can do is love...which has absolutely nothing to do with possession. I see this to be one of the fundamental paradoxes of the universe: the only way to hold on, is to release...simply offering ourselves, regardless of the possibility of rejection or loss (which takes immense courage!). When we can mature into loving like this (which may take lifetimes!), then you may flow into me and I may flow into you- and we may both flow with the River of Life. Neither of us will be different yet we will never be the same again. We cannot understand this with the ego or mind....it's a Divine Code that can only be deciphered by the heart and then experienced by Souls which are ready.
- Siri Amrita Kaur
I am a field of awareness. Any thing beyond that is identification with form...