Take Me Home

•July 31, 2011 • Leave a Comment

I’ve returned.

Since I’ve been back in the States, I’ve made new friends and fallen away from old ones.  I have been exhilarated and truly brokenhearted.  I have been kicked out of a Vipassana retreat simply for being connected to Spirit.  I had a car accident.  I reunited with an old friend who brings me infinite joy and hope in the ability of friendships to ebb and flow, to change.  I have spent precious moments with my Mom in conversation, and heart-bursting moments of connectedness with my Dad.  I have worked out, done Yoga, Pilates, and run until my left foot ached.  I have eaten blueberries until I felt sick. I went swimming in a lake that was warm due to a nearby nuclear power plant. I have been loved and supported. I have received insincere offers to connect.  I have lost my best guy friend.  I opened a business.  I have withdrawn and expanded.  I met Cliff and Sally, the kind of people that restore your hope in humanity.  I have cuddled my bulldog, Pub, and I had a big enough heart to let him remain in his new home with his new “mommy.”  I have had moments of pure miss for friends that I made while traveling.  I have longed to travel more.  I researched trips and flights to Spain, Brazil, and Ireland.  I have made plans to go see the Grand Canyon.  I have given psychic readings and energy healings; I have received both in return.  I detoxed and juiced with a dear friend, and she taught me about herbs for healing.  I held a friend while she cried.  I created a website (www.wix.com/travelspirit/danachilds).  I stopped writing and started again.  I went to a high school graduation.  I spent a week with my family on vacation in Florida. I learned how to communicate with animals.  I hiked a mountain, sat in an ancient, ceremonial Indian seat and felt the immense power that emanated from the stone.  I moved back to Charlotte.  I saw Xavier Rudd in concert and was absolutely awed.  I have cried.  I have laughed.  I have hugged people that I missed.  I have continued to become.  I had culture shock, accompanied by three cultural meltdowns.  I met a man who restored my faith in the potential of love and good men, and I read Rumi.  I have had epiphanies.  I have felt my body warm after reading the text, “I love the way you talk to me.” I have had some terrible dates.  I have sent the following text:  “My date: 1. I had to be the man and pick the place and time. 2. He was 30 mins late. 3. When he went to get his drink he didn’t ask if I needed anything (which I didn’t, but boo on the etiquette) 4.  He wore a Hawaiian shirt with hula dancers in bikinis all over it. 5. Within 10 mins I was bored and tired. 6. After 45 mins I said I had to go. He wants to do it again next week.”  And now, I sit processing through my travels, climbing back over words that I have written while traveling, and feelings that places have evoked.  And, I find myself wanting to connect back into my blog, connect back to the group of people that supported me in my travels.  From my heart to yours, here are excerpts previously unpublished….

April 2010 – Fatephur Sikri, India  The Tomb of Salim Chisti

The tour guide, Soukin, shows me around.  He has a boyish grin and a soul of pure gold. He takes pictures in all the good places, and takes me to a seller so I can purchase the necessary cloth with which to make my wishes.  He tells me that the cloth will be donated to the needy and explains to me the process of making a wish, clarifies that I get to make three, and leads me into Salim Chisti’s tomb.  I delicately lay out the cloth and spread the flowers over the tomb.  Soukin leads me to a window so I can tie my threads around the marble cut-outs and make my three wishes.  “Wishes from the heart,” he says.  “Keep in your heart.  Don’t tell.  Guaranteed 100% to come true.” I close my eyes and hold the thread over my heart, searching it for its deepest desires.  I find my first wish and open my eyes to tie the thread.  Soukin smiles at me.  I do the same for my second wish – it’s a wish for friends and family that is sitting in my heart.  I open my eyes to tie the second string around the marble lattice.  Soukin laughs at me.  “You’re funny,” he says.  I smile.  Close my eyes and probe my heart’s depths for my third and final wish.  I make it.  I tie the string.  I exhale.

And, as I type this now, I sit in eager anticipation for that third wish…..for the first two have already come to be.


Making Wishes

April 2010  Jaipur, India

I am sick.  And I long for familiar sounds; the sound of a car passing by on a wet road, the sound of sports on television, the sound of low conversation by family and friends in the background, the tip-tap shuffling of Pub’s feet on the floor, of doors opening and closing, the sound of my name said by a familiar voice and holding within it the past that we share, the person they know me to be.

April 2010 Udaipur, India

The manager of the hotel, Baba, has joined us on the rooftop for a drink.  He looks at me.  “I can read palm,” he says.  He takes my palm.  “You are very powerful.  You are happy.  Happy woman.  You listen to others, but you always listen to self.  You believe in yourself.  You no believe in others, no need others because you see a problem, you solve.  You no need help.  How you say this?”

“Independent?” I offer.

“Yes.  Independent,” he says.  “It’s in your eyes.  You are look in glass, you see you.  Business.  You open shop or start business, you will make money.  Lots of money.  If you run shop, not husband, not family, but you, then it will be successful.”

“What should I sell?” I ask.

“Books, flowers, no matter what you sell.  It will be successful.  You understand everything?”

“What did you mean about the eyes and glass?” I ask him.

“Come madam.”  He leads me around the corner and stands me in front of the mirror.  I giggle – like standing in front of a mirror makes me do.  “No laugh,” he says.  “Look your eyes.  Look.  You see power?”

I look.  I see it.  I nod.

“You see.  You believe or no believe.  This I am telling you.”

April 2010, Udaipur, India

“Why wouldn’t they want us to learn Hindi?” I ask Rich.   “Who?” he asks me.  “The couple on the roof, Preet and the guy.  You know – her boyfriend, the camel jockey.”

Silence.  I look at Richard.  He looks at me.

“Oh my God.  We met a camel jockey,” I laugh.  “ A successful one at that,” he says.

May 2010 Jaisalmer, India The Desert

I look to the horizon.  All around me, the edges disappear into a haze.  There is no end, no beginning.  I close my eyes.  A slight breeze blows.  I feel it caress my face – a warm, light touch.  I rise and fall with the motions of the camel; there is no separation between animal and rider.

The desert is sexy.

I lie under the tree in the shade.  The breeze blows hot across my skin, my skin sprinkled with sand. The sun seeks an opportunity to burn through.  It blazes.  It roars from the heavens.  I see the gauze of air that the heat creates – rising from the sand.  I taste the sand in my mouth.

The desert is fierce.

My camel

Thar Desert

May 2010 Rishikesh, India

The light from the moon is still really the light from the sun.  They are not separate.  This light is all the same source.  From the same place even though it appears separate.  All one.  All connected.

June 2010 Bagsu, India

He was thoughtless, insensitive.  I was crushed. Hurt.  Scared.  Lonely.  Just ALONE. And I wanted to leave Bagsu.  Pack up and go.  Run away.  Hello old pattern.  I thought of Dr. Usha. Dr. Usha, my Reiki teacher, my sister from another lifetime. Dr. Usha, who was clear and strong and wise and lovely.  She could help, help me feel less alone.  And I went to her.  She and I talked about me working with her, doing my own healing stuff and helping her open an office in Goa on the beach.  And we connected.  And she said to me, “If I were a man, I would propose right now.  I see the light in you.” I laughed.  We high-fived. She said, “And we are not lesbian, so we’re here.  You can love ten men at the same time; it’s just a matter of the societal, physical boundaries that you apply.  But love is there.  Everywhere there is love.”

Dr. Usha

October 12, 2010 Bali, Indonesia

On my birthday, I wake up and write a Dear Universe note.  They are simple.  You begin with Dear Universe, and you proceed to ask for exactly what you want.  I remember learning how to do this from my very first spiritual teacher.  She told us about her experience with her Dear Universe letter to manifest her husband.  Dear Universe letters are detailed, and she included what he looked like, his level of intelligence, even the fact that he spoke several different languages.  She met him shortly thereafter.  But, she forgot to stipulate that one of the several different languages be English.  They got married anyway.  And, she said, if he had spoken English and they had been able to clearly understand one another, they wouldn’t have gotten married. But, they work.  They’re still together.

So, I write my Dear Universe note.  “Dear Universe, you already know what I want for my birthday…and could you please send him wrapped in a bow?”

My roommate, Mexico, comes home with a chocolate cake for me.  He takes the ribbon off and wraps the red bow around his head as he sings “Happy Birthday.” I laugh.  He’s gay.  Literally. Right, I think. Be specific.

The One and Only....Mexico

December 16, 2010 Bali, Indonesia

Loneliness greets me every morning and strokes my hair every night.  I am familiar now with fear, with doubt, with insecurity, longing, and rejection.  I miss confidence, togetherness, sexiness.  I miss something beautiful.  I miss love. I miss me.

February 1, 2011 Bali, Indonesia

While I am excited about going home to The States….I mean, I really don’t know where home is as of yet…..I am also filled with a sense of dread and fear.  But what I came to understand today is that going home doesn’t mean living less fully, exploring less eagerly.  There is still room to explore, to create.  I can paint with my body, hike the Appalachian Trail, scream into the Grand Canyon.  I can still dance on the beach and wear flowers in my hair.  It is ME, my BEING, not my surroundings.  I choose my happiness.  I choose who I am in every second.  No matter where I am, there is always something to explore, something new to learn.  I give my surroundings life, not the other way around.  And whatever I choose, where I go, it is always perfect because Spirit will always be there.


Yesterday’s Gone

•January 12, 2011 • 3 Comments

I celebrated the New Year on a flight from Bali to Kuala Lumpar.   The plane left Bali at almost 10pm, and the sight from the air was stunning:   the coastline visible from the myriad of lights and the scores and scores of fireworks bursting in the air.  As the clock struck midnight, I was wished a Happy New Year by the Air Asia flight staff amidst a plane full of strangers. Across oceans, I toasted my friends and my family with a bottle of water.  And amongst the deeply penetrating pangs of miss I felt for the people I love, I had to catch my breath at all that 2010 had allowed me to experience.

I gave up everything to go on a journey. I said goodbye to my English bulldog, to my  friends and my two families.  I saw Dizzee World Theme Park in India.   I met a fisherman on the Mamallapuram Beach in India who had watched as one of his family members was swept away by the 2004 Tsunami.  I stood on a deserted beach under the moonlight and held hands with a young Indian man who dreams of owning his own shop.  I met amazing, strong women with courage and dreams.  I walked along the Bay of Bengal as my scarf danced to the whipping wind.  I fell ill again and again.  I hugged a Saint.  Twice.  I discussed the Port of Yemen.  I wrote blogs while overlooking the cliffs of Varkala.  I learned how to make chai.  I had my last piece of chicken.  I lay on the roof with a new Indian friend and looked at the stars.  I learned that STD means something different in India.

STD in Varkala, India

I was truly alone.  I fell in love with one of my best friends, and I grew enough to be able to let that love go. I reconnected with a man who taught me a lot about being a good teacher, Scott Russell.   I did shoulder stands until my pinky went numb.  I met a dear man named Peter from Ireland who brought me a chocolate bar when I most needed it.  I felt the peace and easiness of being in a headstand.  I had my food stolen.  I made new friends.  I connected with old ones. I rediscovered the power of human touch.  I fell in the shower.  I climbed a mountain.  I opened up my hamstrings.  I sang.  I talked about the differing sizes of countries bananas with my bunkmate, Marion from Ireland.  I embraced the inner girl in myself.  I met a completely skeevy doctor in Kovalam who offered me a job and wanted to teach me Ayurvedic medicine and massage.  I learned that Indian men get their power from their mustaches and spicy food.  I learned that sometimes things really are free.  I let go of the past.  I grieved. I gained weight.  I dreamed about barongs of Bali.  I was told what the number 11 meant.   I was a citizen of the planet.  I rode buses and trains in the searing heat.  I saw an elephant blessing people.  I smelled fabulous smells and abhorrent ones.  I tasted decadent Indian food and gorged myself on naan bread.  I craved apples and peanut butter.  I ran through the tea plantations with my best friend Tricia.

Tricia and Me in Munnar, India

I meditated.  I said no.  I rode a bus driven by an Indian Mario Andretti and hung on for dear life, and I felt safe because of the presence of the ticket taker. I transformed my very DNA.   I rode an elephant, and I loved that elephant because he was a stubborn old rebel.  I watched old women spread rock and hot tar on a road with a broom.   I despaired.  I paddled in the Backwaters of Allephey and ate bitter mango with salt.  I went to the hospital and was probed beyond my level of comfort. I ate maggots.  I saw the ruins of Hampi and experienced a marriage festival complete with the throwing of bananas.

The ruins of Hampi

I learned Ashtanga Yoga in Mysore.  I rode through the streets of India on the back of a Brazilian’s motorbike.  I was massaged.  I embraced the past hurts in my body.  I was attacked in the wee hours of the morning on a dark street while heading to Yoga class.  I loathed my body.  I saw unreal swarms of dragonflies.  I lost myself and found her again.  I watched an Indian man toss bull urine on his son and laugh.  I met my Indian family.  I learned how to make fresh Paneer from the milk provided by the cow in the basement.  I marveled at the Taj Mahal.  I felt the longing that Shah Jahan must have felt while watching the construction of the Taj Mahal from his prison in the Agra Fort. I sat upon the onyx throne once an Indian King’s.  I attended a glitzy, full-on Indian wedding.  My hands were painted with henna, and I was given silver anklets for my feet.


Me after getting henna on my hands by locals



I saw King Akbar’s old road to Jaipur and his wishing well. I made three wishes in Salim Chisti’s tomb as I tied my red and yellow string to the marble cut-out windows.  I was taken on a date to McDonald’s.  I purchased precious stones in Jaipur.  I saw the most beautiful pink tourmaline I’ve ever seen.  I read Oracle cards for new British friends.  I had a nightmare and was comforted by an addict.  I learned how to test hash before buying, or rather, watching someone else buy it.  I had an Indian hotel manager read my palm and tell me that I would be successful in any business I ever chose to do, because I was a powerful woman.  I skyped.  I learned that in India, anything is possible except for one thing – not possible, even if that means the hotel manager has to heat up the water for my bath in the kitchen and bring it up to me in a five-gallon bucket.  I witnessed the magnificence of the Floating Palace as seen in James Bond: Octopussy.  I fell in love with Udaipur. I watched boys flying kites on their rooftops.


Udaipur rooftop - boys getting ready to fly their kites



I roamed the fort of Jodhpur and breathed the history into my veins.  I saw the mesmerizing shade of blue painted all about the city of Jodhpur by the high spiritual caste.  I rode a camel in the searing heat of the Jaisalmar desert where I saw the lights of the Pakistan in the distance and was left alone on the dunes at night.  I begged to go home early from the desert; I was told no.  I cuddled a baby lamb marked with henna polka dots.


In the Jaisalmar desert



I was offered a joint by a 60+ year old man from the dessert. I met a soul mate on a dusty train ride, and since we couldn’t talk because of language barriers, we were forced to speak with our hearts as we sat side by side and shared energy.  And I missed him when he left twelve hours later. I studied Yoga with a Himalayan Yogi on the banks of the Ganges.  I embraced White Tantric Meditation and Philosophy.  I was given a spiritual name by my Yogi teacher.  I met a friend named Michele with whom I spent a week, and it was so easy to be in his presence that I still miss him at times.  I bathed away my Karma in the freezing cold Ganges and sat to dry on the rocks with Michele.


Me and Michele on the Banks of the Ganges



I felt the pelting of a waterfall on my head.  I shared music.  I brought food and drink to a sick friend.  I illegally walked through the old Beatles ashram.  I patted and fed cows at random.  I picked up an amazingly dear friend from the airport in Shimla.  I recognized unconditional love.  I ate fresh cherries.  I spoke of matters of the heart.   I listened to mine.  I rocked my inner child on the back of a bus.  I listened to Tibetan monks chant and pray.  I looked on in amazement as monks created a sand mandala, an intricate design in striking colors. I missed seeing the Dalai Lama.  I saw a sign that said T-Sharts Embroidered instead of T-Shirts Embroidered, and I took a picture of it because it made me laugh.


Garland beside the famous sign. It still makes me laugh.


I ate sweets.  I watched movies in a make-shift theater in Dharamsala, complete with popcorn, Coke, and my best friend, Garland.  I rode a horse in the Himalayas. I had my chocolate cake stolen by a cheeky monkey who climbed a pole and ate it while staring at me; he then came back for the crumbs.   I sat in silence in temples.   I learned Reiki.  I experienced past life regression and rebirthing through breathing.  I learned Shamanic secrets of reprogramming crystals.  I connected to Mother Earth.


Connecting to Mother Earth and her creatures in the Himalayas



I grieved for my losses.   I was taught the art of color therapy.  I was told that I was loved.  I learned the secrets of the jade egg.  I was lead in a hypnotherapy session by a renowned doctor from The Netherlands.  I cried when I left India and told her that I would one day return.  I fasted for 7 days in Thailand and purified my body.  I learned the art of Muay Thai Boxing.  I laughed.  I got waxed for the first time ever.  Ouch.  I met an Australian boy, a fighter, with an exquisite soul and an artist for a mother.  I learned the art of diving underneath the waves and the joy of swimming in the ocean.  I met a Pakistani girl whom I now call a sister.  I danced on the sand, in the ocean, around the fire, under the stars.


Dancing on a Thailand Beach with 2 exquisite souls from Australia to my left



I had my bag and camera stolen.  I was hugged by friends.  I was complimented by a Welsh man whom later went home with a Lady Boy. I wore a mustache of seaweed in crystal clear ocean water.   I went on a boat ride that should have killed me, but I survived.  I learned that cat people and dog people don’t view the world in the same way.  I embraced my friend’s pain and turmoil over oceans of distance.  I jogged over a snake.  I played with a friend in Kuala Lumpar, like children meeting again.  I was visited by a friend from Indonesia whom I hadn’t seen in 9 years.   I saw shooting stars in Byron Bay, Australia.  I took a picture that clearly demonstrates why The Gold Coast is called The Gold Coast.


Gold Coast, Australia



I dined alone.  I spent a week working in Sydney and learning the car kits trade.  I saw some of the most beautiful coastline I’ve ever seen.  I lost a student in a tragic accident.  I washed and put up a sail on a sailboat. I encountered disappointment.   I sailed a yacht.  I heard the symphony play in the Sydney Opera House.  I played with a puppy in The Esplanade in Cairns all the while wishing I was playing with his owner.  I hugged a koala.  I was lead around the Great Barrier Reef by a green sea turtle – best tour guide ever.  I ate the bum of an ant, and it tasted citrusy.  I did cartwheels in the botanical gardens of Darwin, Australia.  I came home to Bali.  I cried as I looked at what Bali has now become.  I learned the art of massage, reflexology, and the Chinese meridians. I was lied to.  I had a crush on someone.  I learned the significance of the number 5.   I worked on believing that I was worthy of love.  I found my voice.  I cried on the beach when I received the news of a death of an old boss.   I learned to drive a motorbike.  I tried arak. I healed relationships with my family.   I saw a pit viper and two cobras in one week.  I held a fruit bat.


The fruit bat sort of looks like a flasher here. . .



I stood on a surfboard and rode a wave.  I listened to the piano.  I got lost.   I learned about the world of Spirit and mediumship.  I healed. I swam in a pool underneath the stars.  I looked at the moon.   I watched beautiful sunsets while perched on volcanic rock.  I saw abject poverty that broke my heart.  I let the past go.  I saw a father holding his dead 9 month old baby in his arms after a village was rocked by a measles outbreak.  I met my dear friend, Tom, who drove me around on the motorbike when I told him I had Pati Hati – Indonesian for broken heart – and we just had the silence and the wind and that was enough.  I cried at the joy of a 60 year old leper who sincerely thought she was 25 years old.  I stood at the base of a volcano as it erupted, and I smelled the sulphur, heard the crack, saw the lava and felt the panic.


Mount Merapi exploding



I astro traveled.   I found a refuge in the rice fields of Canggu.   I grieved for the future, events yet to happen.  I dreamed vividly.  I gave healing to an autistic toddler.  I learned to trust myself.  I was held.  I had a Mexican Christmas in Bali. I finished the first half of my Medical Degree.   I got locked out of my bathroom and peed in the garden.   I was told how to act like a bear and how to masturbate a 60 pound salmon. I meditated on rocks of lava. I met my destiny.  I loved myself.

And now, I am ready for 2011 and all that it holds – the surprises, the delights, the pains, and the disappointments.  May it be as challenging, as rewarding, and as sweet as 2010.  May I continue to embrace old friends and meet new ones.


In Bali - and happy



Stupid For Your Love

•December 25, 2010 • 2 Comments

I just want to stop fucking things up.  I want to rest easy in my body, easy in the knowledge of who I am.  I want to be secure.  Secure in me, in who I am and what I can offer.  But the doubts bubble up, and I am no longer detached enough from who I am to allow them to pass by, so I embrace them and shoulder them and show them to others, and they, sensing my desperation, my insecurities, leave.

I get on my motorbike and drive to the ocean, to the beautiful Bali sea that once washed away all my troubles, all my fears.  I park the bike, shedding my clothes on the dark brown sand as I drift into the depths of the watery salt and ask it to wash it away, to remove the doubts, the fears, the insecurities, the leftover energy that I no longer need, the intrusions.  And it does what it can.  I climb out of the rollicking waves, gather my clothes in my hands, and drape my sarong around my body as I climb onto the volcanic rock.  I walk to the edge, my sarong blows in the breeze, my wet hair slaps against my shoulders, my back, and I look to the horizon.  It’s cloudy.  So is my heart.  If I could just pull my still-beating heart out of my chest and dip it into the sea, wash it clean.  If I could just clear it of the piles of disappointment, of disillusion, of heartbreak.  If I could just make it shiny and new and worthy of love again.  But I can’t do that.  And whoever loves me must love this heart with all of its past, its fear, its flaws and imperfections. He must love its sixth sense, its visions, its dreams, its ideals.  He must embrace its fragility, its aching tenderness, and bouts of neediness.  He must endure its sufferings, its periods of quiet solemnity , and its treacherous battles.  But first, I must.  I must love it, embrace it, and endure it.    And I must hold it and tell it that it’s safe and beautiful and loved, and above all, that it’s so very deserving.

I get back on my motorbike and drive to the villa.  It’s late in the afternoon, and I haven’t eaten.  I have no appetite.  No hunger for food, for the substance of life.  I go into the bathroom.  I strip down.  I wash my hair, my face, my body.  I slip on a sundress and walk outside.  I walk the edge of the pool and sit on the warm concrete, my face turned toward the direction of the ocean. I overlook the rice fields and the cows grazing nearby.  And the tears come.  The disappointment wells up and spills out of my eyes and I think of the message from David that I got on Tuesday, “Toughen up ole’ girl.”  And through the tears, I laugh.

I am living for Tuesdays right now. Tuesdays is when I get to learn.  David is my teacher, my guide into this world of Spirit that I have begun to discover and explore.  David is a medium.  The real deal.  He’s an unseemly character as he is a retired kickboxer, a 57 year old rough and tumble English gentleman.  But he is as real as they come.  And accurate.  So very accurate.  And I trust him enough that I have told him about a boy that I have met, that I sort of like, but that I fear that he may like someone else.  And David laughs on the other end of the phone and talks about how women’s intuition is often wrong, but he picks up on this boy that I like and says, “I just got that it was for a short time.”  And, of course, David is right.  A very short time.  A couple of weeks.  Time enough to remember what it’s like to have someone to share with, to talk to, to cuddle.  And time enough for me to get in my own way and let the doubts and insecurities sabotage it.   So, this guy and I decide that we really should refit our interactions and allow a friendship to develop instead of a relationship.  And, I’m good with this because he also reveals that he is scared of my psychic and healing ability, that it makes him uncomfortable.  And this is who I am at my core – a psychic, a healer, a believer in all things spiritual.  I am a person who believes in the accuracy and aid of dreams.  I am a person who believes that the aura will tell you if someone is lying.  I am a person who believes that there are no coincidences in this world.  So, how could I possibly have a relationship with someone who is afraid of who I am, of what I am?  So, I gracefully let the hope of a relationship go and reform it into the hope of a friendship.  Logically it makes sense.  Rationally, it’s a relief.  Spiritually, it’s the best thing for me.

But my poor little heart.  My poor little desperate heart.  She wants someone to love her so badly for all that she is.  So, my heart aches, and my mood declines, and I slide between the sheets with my wet hair and let the tears fall for my broken heart.  And I know that these tears are for all the breaks it’s endured, not this little recent nick.  These tears are for my multitude of fuck ups; these tears are for everything that I have given up to walk this lonely path looking for my soul’s riches.

And I ask Spirit to show me that beautiful, blindingly, white light so that I may step into it, so that I may end this physical suffering.  Because I’m so very tired, and while the rainbow is beautiful and the colors many, there is no pot of gold at the end.  There is, instead, disillusion.  I no longer want to be here.  I no longer want to be where I am.  I close my eyes and wait for the light, but Spirit decides to show me Thailand instead, and I am whisked away back to Rawai, back to the Muay Thai Boxing gym.   And I see friend’s faces; I hear laughter.

We’re dancing.  We’re having fun.  Rob, Nosheen, Nat, Brad, Zak, Aleshia.  Cameras flash.  Smiles.  Laughs. Yells back and forth over the thumping bass of the music.  Nat and I stick close together.  English Nat. She’s lovely and funny; she makes me laugh, and her spirit is sweet.  I see Brad.  I step down and take his hands, dance with him for a minute.  He pulls me close to him, “I couldn’t have made you any more perfect,” he says.  And it’s so sweet, so, so dear. He kisses my neck.  But, it’s not what I want, and I shake my head and he looks at me and says, “No?”  “No,” I say.  And, in his drunken bravado, he smiles and dances away.  I venture back up to Nat, and explain that the night has gotten a little strange, and I’m ready to go.  She is too. We catch a ride back to the gym.  In confidence, I tell her about Brad.  We decide it’s all bravery from the beer and bid each other good night.  I wash the tropical heat and smell of smoke from my body, brush past the boxing ring and slip into my room for sleep.


Dancing in Thailand



The next morning as we’re gathering the gang for a late breakfast, Dutch Matt asks where Brad is.  “What do you mean?”  I say.  “He was with us last night, but when Nat and I left the club, he was still there.  Did he not come home?”  “No,” says Dutch Matt, “He’s not here.”   I go wake Nat and let her know.  I go to Nosheen’s room.  Ahhh Nosheen.  I adore this girl.  At this point, I’ve known her for a few days, and it’s already so easy to be in her presence.  She’s special.  I can tell that.  Nosheen and I chat for a bit, but she’s really tired, so she is going to skip breakfast.  I tell her I’ll come find her later.

Liz tells us that Brad doesn’t have his phone, so there is no way to contact him.  We’ve asked the other guys from the club last night if they’ve seen Brad. No one has seen him.  We’re a bit worried.

We head for breakfast, but decide to go to a different place this morning, a place right around the corner and across the main road.  It’s a skeleton crew.   MattE – the sweet Ozzy  with the exquisite spirit,  Dutch Matt, Liz,  Zak – fellow American,  Rob -from Dubai, a man I first noticed because of his physical appeal, but became infinitely more beautiful when he showed me the depths he’s capable of in a conversation about  love and relationships beside a quiet pool, Aleshia and Nat. We talk about the shenanigans of the previous night and catch MattE and Liz up as they decided to have an early night.    It’s nearing lunch time now, and we decide that if Brad isn’t back by 5:00 that we will notify the manager of the gym and contact the police.  We finish our breakfast.  We laugh.  And someone yells out, “There’s Brad.”  We all turn and look.   The motorbike is whizzing by, long, dark hair whipping behind the driver, and Brad side-saddling on the back, hunched over, looking like he’s been run over by a steam engine more than once.  We yell out, “Brad,” but he doesn’t hear us.  Then someone says, “That was a man driving. Did you see those shoulders?  Those were broad shoulders.”  And Dutch Matt takes off on his motorbike, following the path blazed by Long -Hair-with-Man-Shoulders and Painfully-Hungover-Brad.  And we’re sitting there at the table, some of us with mouths hanging open, some with tongues wagging, but all relived because Brad’s back.

Dutch Matt pulls back up on his bike and swaggers over with the information.  “It was definitely a man. I stopped him in the road as he was leaving.  It was a lady-boy.”  I look at Nat, “I feel bad,” I tell her.  “Yeah.  You know this is all your fault, right?  You drove him to go home with a lady boy.”  And I just look at her.  And we laugh.  “I do feel bad, though,” I say again.

So, it’s out.  Brad is being brought home on the back of a motorbike after a night of heavy drinking by a lady-boy.  And, there is no denying this because we all saw it.  And, we’re a ruthless group.  I hope that he handles it with finesse and just owns up because this group will ride the hell out of him for this.  There is no living this one down.  Not with us.  Not with this group.  Because this group is like family, and family is always the most ruthless.

The day passes and the night arrives, and our friend Diana is prepping for her fight.  We all go out to dinner to support her, to encourage her.  The gang drags in to dinner in pairs, in fours, and Brad is one of the last to come to the table.  It gets quiet.  We all look in his direction.  “How are you feeling?” I ask.  “Okay,” he says.  And I don’t remember exactly how it came out; I don’t remember the words that were spoken, but Brad completely fesses up to having gone home with a lady-boy.  “I don’t remember a thing,” he says.  “Does your bum hurt?” I ask.  “No, thank God,” he says, “But I woke up naked on his couch, so I can only assume something happened.”   “Maybe best to get tested when you get back to Wales,” I say.  He agrees.  And I just want to rush over and hug this sweet, sweet man.   Just hug him for all that he is, for his beautiful innocence, for his honesty, for his self-acceptance.  But, since that’s not completely appropriate in the middle of dinner, I hug him with my soul instead and hope he feels it.  And the group digs in and details fall about.  And we laugh.  “I don’t remember anything,” he says, “but something must have happened.”   Zak looks over at him, “Brad, is that a hickey on your neck?”  We all look.  It is.  We laugh and say, “Oh yeah, something happened all right.”  “What was it like this morning?” I ask him, “Was it uncomfortable; did you talk?”  “Oh.  There was no talking,” he says.  Zak leans over to him, “Hey, Brad don’t worry about it.  Talking is for girls.”  And we erupt in laughter of course.  Brad continues, “I woke up.  I was naked.  I put on my clothes.  I asked her, him. . .  it if it could take me home.  It agreed.  It drove me home.”  “Yeah.  A taxi looks like a really good idea in hindsight, doesn’t it?” someone asks.  “Oh yeah,” says Brad, “A really good idea.”

And just like that Brad becomes my hero.  A man who is honest and accepts what he’s done, where he’s been.  A man who doesn’t hide behind lies or denial.  A man who is simply himself – and knows that that’s enough.   And the jokes continue.  And Brad endures.  And he laughs at himself.

And I, safe in Bali, come out of this memory.  And I come out of this funk that I’m in.  I dry my tears.  I dust myself off.  At least, this guy I liked was really a guy.  I mean, it could have been worse.  But, more than the laughter, what brings me out of this funk is this memory of my Thailand family -a bit dysfunctional, at times dramatic, sweet, loving, lots of laughter.  And this is what family is, be it blood born or created in a time of need.  Family is acceptance; family is love.  And I still have this family.  Granted, we are scattered all over the world.  But we are connected on Facebook, and the really important family members, the ones I cherish, we still talk.  We encourage one another, we inspire one another, we laugh with and at one another, and we divulge our real selves to each other.  Because we know we’re family.  And family listens, and family understands, and family counsels.

I skype Nosheen.  Nosheen, who has become my sister.  I talk to her about this guy; I pour out all of the details and my insecurities. She listens and she brings me back to my senses. She tells me to look at him not as a person, but simply as energy.  When I do that, the entire situation takes on a new light.  This person is not necessarily energy that I want to be around; this person is not an energetic match for me. Nosheen and I talk for a while and her love and acceptance allows me to get out of bed, put on a sundress, get on my motorbike and drive back down to the beach.  By now, the sun is sinking in the sky, beginning its descent in order to rise on the other side of the world.  The ocean is fierce, the waves crashing against the rocks and the temple steps that I am perched upon.  I feel the spray from the pounding sea and I taste the salt on my lips.  I look to the golden sunset lighting up the horizon and I wonder – when did I begin caring so much about romantic love and so little about myself? When did I begin to feel like I had to settle for something or someone less than I deserve?  When did that shift occur?  And I make a vow to my beautiful heart that I come first, that I will correct this, that I will bring my focus back to me.  I will discover my own desires.  And I rest assured that those desires don’t lie in the grasp of another person.  For I have love all around me, in my given family, in my chosen families, and in myself.  And that love is enough.  It will always be enough.


Bali sunset



Letter To Me

•September 30, 2010 • 1 Comment

So – this post  is a bit different.  I haven’t really updated in a while – obviously.  I have more about Thailand, some sad and sweet stories from Australia – and Bali.  Wow.  Bali.  Now, if I can just settle down enough to write it all.

Here in Bali, my writing has been more for me.  More for my heart, my soul.  But, something told me to share.  So, here it is.  Vulnerable.  Honest.  Open.

Dear Sweet Darling Dana,

You are going to find yourself on the verge of your 34th birthday sitting in a room in Bali and doubting your entire life, everything you’ve done, wanted, been and seen.  So let me give you some words that you can read as many times as you need to give yourself some perspective at that moment of doubt – so that you can remember and come to know that nothing is in vain and that everything is divine.   I agree that I should have sent this letter with you at birth, but I didn’t have time to write it then – I wasn’t quite sure how some of the chapters would turn out.

You will be devastatingly mistreated as a very, very young girl.  It will happen every day for a year.  It will happen when your parents are busy working.  It will happen under the shade tree in a Georgia backyard.  It will happen when the other children in the daycare are sleeping.  You will overcome this.  You will receive all the help you need in overcoming this.  It will create a drive and ambition in you and this will help propel you to where you need to be.  And, most importantly, it will allow you to truly empathize with the children that you will one day help.  You will help many children.

You are going to move a lot as a child, from one small town to another.  A lot – almost every year until you are in the 7th grade.   Due to this, you will learn that friends come and go and to keep a distance, to not really let anyone in your heart, because eventually you’ll leave.  This will help you when you are young, but you will meet people in later years to help you overcome this.  Trust me on this.  You will have the most amazing, dependable, supportive friends you could ever hope for.  But each summer when it’s time to move, you will love the packing and unpacking; you will learn to love the idea of going new places, meeting new people and starting over at each place. You need this as it will provide for you a basis for a love of travel.  When you are in the 7th grade, your family will settle down and stay in one place.  This will not be easy for you.  You will want to keep moving, keep starting something and leaving it.  But, you are in this place to learn to stay and to learn what you don’t want your life to be.  And, eventually, you will learn to love coming back to visit this place – to see the stars at night and to feel the vibration of the Earth once inhabited by Native Americans.

During middle and high school, you will constantly feel misunderstood and that you are in the wrong place.  You are.  But, there are so many lessons here for you.  Just pay attention and know that this is temporary.  You will have your first boyfriend here.  He will be a beautiful and wounded soul – a musician.  He will teach you a deep love of music and appreciation for watching someone create music.  You will explore your budding sexuality with him in a sweet and tender way, the two that come to mind are his basement and The Lake.  Enjoy both of those; they are truly beautiful.  He will always be special to you; he will also always be wounded.  Keep the necklace that he made for you when he was away at summer camp.  When you are in your thirties and in a time of deep hopelessness in regards to love, you will find this necklace in the bottom of your jewelry box.  You will wear it.  When you place it on your neck at night, you will remember that love is sweet and tender.  And that love is possible.  Big and reckless love is possible.

Your family will go through a rough and dark period when you are in your last two years of high school.  Hold your ground.  This will pass.  You will have a very bad fight with your Dad in which he calls you a Selfish Asshole and tells you that he won’t speak to you again until you straighten out your attitude.  He won’t speak to you at all for weeks.  Just know that he is in a world of pain due to all that is happening with your sister, Denise and your niece, Rebecca.  Things are cloudy and unclear.  You are caught in the middle.  It will be okay.  After a few weeks, you will write your Dad a letter and leave him a tape of the song “I Will Take You Home” by the Grateful Dead in his truck.  He knows that you love him.  You will begin talking again.  But this incident will rock you to your core because the worst thing you can possibly imagine is losing your Dad, but don’t worry.  He does love you and he will never abandon you.   He will hold you as long as you need it. And when he is not around and you miss him, you can play that Grateful Dead song.  It will soothe you every time you hear it; it will bring you your Dad.  But, there will come a time when you will see that you are strong enough to hold yourself.  And the foundation of yourself that you have constructed on your Dad will shift.  You will become your own person in your own right.  So capable and so strong.

Also linked to this dark time is an episode with your Mother.  You will come home late at night to hear your Mother crying.  This will be the first time you have ever seen your Mom cry.  She will be wailing and sobbing.  She is drunk.  She will threaten to kill herself and tell you that you are the only thing that she’s done right.  This will cut right to your core.  You will begin to feel responsible for your Mom and for her happiness and health.  And while this is the way things will be for years and years, there will come a time when you know that you must travel far away and for a long period of time.  This travel will be the only way to help heal this wound – for you and for her.  This nomadic travel will help you become you, will help you learn to live for you.   Be delicate with your Mom.  Let her know that you love her often; she will need constant reassurance.

You will fight incessantly with your parents about where to go to college.  They will desperately want you to go to college in Georgia.  Know that this is because they want you near to them.  Just pray and ask for help.  It will come.  You will even get a full academic scholarship to help you leave Georgia.  It is the right thing for you.  And the trick to getting your Dad on the same page – because trust me – he will complain the WHOLE time about this University – is to get him to visit the campus.  He will fall in love with it too and know in his heart that it’s the right place for you.

Your love of foreign travel will bloom while you are in college.  You will meet an amazing and inspiring man, Dr. Wireman.  Pay attention to this man.  He is going to help you more than you will even realize at the time.  He will support your acting and encourage you;  he will also provide the funds for you to take your first overseas trip.  After you have graduated, you will come back to Dr. Wireman for some help.  He will give you a business card for a University in Surabaya, Indonesia.  You will get a job here, and this will alter your life profoundly.  Indonesia is very important in your life. Dr. Wireman holds a love of Asia that is deep; it will take you many, many years, but after his death, you will come to know why.  And, you will feel his spirit present with you when you visit China.  Just thank him.  He’ll get the message.  Unfortunately, you only come to see the impact of Dr. Wireman too late, and he will have passed away due to cancer.  But, trust me, he knows how much you appreciate all his help.

Your second boyfriend will happen while you are in college.  You will truly love him.  He will remind you of your Dad with his love of football.  Enjoy him.  Enjoy being in love.  Enjoy the youthfulness and longing of it all.  You will have sex for the first time with him.  It will disappoint you and leave you on shaky ground, but embrace it all in the name of youth.   Trust me, after the first few times, sex will be something that you grow to truly appreciate.  And with him, you will learn to laugh at it too.  This is important.  You will outgrow him.  Let him go lovingly.  When you are going through a heartbreak period in your later life, he will text you out of nowhere with this: “I just found a picture of us. We were so young and you were crazy beautiful.”  The text will make you smile.  Appreciate it.

During your travels in college, you will find yourself sitting alone and terrified in a train station in Budapest, Hungary.  Relax.  I will put four Norwegian men on this train with you.  Find them once you board.  Introduce yourself.  They will invite you to travel with them.  Accept.  You are in for the time of your life.  You and your four Norwegian men.  They will take such good care of you.  And with one of them in particular, you will learn the romance of trains, of hearing a foreign language whispered in your ear, of skinny dipping in the Mediterranean under the light of the moon, and of wandering through the streets of Venice hand in hand.  You will make a promise with this man that if you both reach the age of 50 and are still single, that you will meet back in Venice and ride down the canals in a gondola.  But, something tells me that you won’t be meeting him back in Venice.  He will write you love letters though.  Keep them for a long time.  You will know the right time to throw them out.

You will have your first one night stand in college.  It is only when you read this letter that you will be able to laugh at it.  He is an attractive guy and athletic.  But, after the deed, you will ask him to leave instantly, and even though he lives right downstairs, you will not even be able to say hello to him anymore.  When he says, “Hi,” you will just wave your hand and keep walking.  And it doesn’t really matter because you won’t even remember his name by the time you read this.  But, it will remind you that, for you, sex is always more than a physical act.  To be satisfying, you must connect.  And you will have a few more one-night stands – all divine.  All perfect in their own way.

You will fall in love again before you graduate college.   His name will be James.  It will happen over the college French fries.  And he will be sweet to you.  Very sweet to you.  You will be charmed by his ambition and exotic accent.  It will be a mature relationship, but will dwindle due to his concentration on his job and establishing a career for himself.  But, don’t worry.  You will always remain friends. He will even take you skydiving.  And, years and years after you have broken up, you will have some conversations and realize that this man is one of the few that truly understand and know you.  You will continue to support each other from afar.  Kind words will always be exchanged; love will always reside there.   And you will always want to visit Antigua.  One day you will.

Also in college, you will meet a man named Jim.  You will share a love of theater with him.  He will be your best friend for a long period of time in college.  But, the love timeline won’t work for quite a while.  After James, however, you will reconnect with Jim – in quite a fun way.  You will perform a play together in New York, and you will be shown how free and easy being with someone should be.  And how often you should laugh.  Jim will make you laugh.  You hold on to your dream of travel during this period though, and Jim will provide the stability you need to enable you to work and live in Indonesia; he will even take care of the dogs while you are away.  You will return to the US and to Jim before you are ready.  Just flow.  Know that what you have started in Indonesia is not finished.  You are not done calling Indonesia your home – and that love of Bali that you developed – hang on to that; you will one day call Bali home.   Near Christmas time, you and Jim will cook dinner together, sit down to eat and begin laughing with each other.  He will decide this is the moment and will hide the engagement ring in the bread.  When you pull out the ring, know that it is not fake; you are going to laugh and ask him what bubble gum machine he got it out of, but know that this is the real deal.  This man wants to marry you.  Your answer of, “Okay.  I guess,”  is enough to clue you in that you are not quite ready.  It’s okay.  You will learn a lot with Jim.  You will buy a house.  You will settle down.  And you will have moment after moment of getting in your Jeep and yearning to just drive away.  Drive far far away and never come back.  Remember, this is okay.  This is letting you know that you need to really look at your life – settling down is not for you at this time.  Call on some help.  Begin soul searching.  Thanks to Jim, you will make the connections that enable you to be introduced to the world of Energy, Chakras, and Soul.  This will radically change your life.  Embrace it.    And when you are ready to shed Jim, be graceful.  Be gentle.  And be firm.  Know that he will move on.  He will find love again, and so will you.

You will encounter another man around this time who piques your interest – Brian.  He will be going through a tough time, and the two of you will connect deeply.  It will cease suddenly.  Know that this love is just not meant to be at this time, but it will be at a time when you are both ready for it and when you both need to be treated lovingly.  Just hold him in your heart.  When the relationship does come to fruition, it is sweet and steady.  You will end it, and the ending will be difficult for you as friends that you cherished will scuttle off as well.  This is good.  You are growing.  Know that.  And after some time, you will be able to reconnect with Brian and see this relationship for what it was – a time to be taken care of and to take care of someone else – to be secure.

You will get married.  It will be quick, and it will be perfect.  I’d like to warn you to really slow down and take your time, but this marriage gets you exactly where you need to be.  So, jump in.  Love it and cherish it.  Work on it for as long as you want.  One day you will be driving in your car and you will panic and pull over to the side of the road with this thought in your head, “Oh my God, what have I done?  Why did I get married?”  It’s really okay.  You had no way to know that he had such an addictive personality and that his addiction to weed would turn to alcohol so quickly; this is not your issue to solve.  This is his.  You will learn a lot in this marriage – you will begin to see the type of partner that you really want in your life, and you will begin to see the gentle strength that resides deep inside of you.  Your separation will come about in a beautiful way, but it will be so very difficult for you as you will really be going through this on your own.  But, through all the pain and the tears and the complete heartbreak and loss of innocence that you will feel, know that beauty will blossom from this.  It will.  I promise. And one day, you will regain that child-like hope that marriage is a good thing. You will regain your trust.  It will take years and years.  But you will find that hope again.  Trust in that.  And the fact that you will still love him and care about him and think about him years and years and years later is a testament to the depth of love you are capable of.

You will travel this world searching.  Wandering.  You will not know where you are going.  You will wonder what you are doing.  You will doubt.  You will stumble.  You will have beautiful moments and moments full of despair.  And you will grow.  You will rise.  You will rediscover all that you are, the power that you hold.  You will meet people that will further your journey, further your growth.  You will meet people from lifetimes back and you will recognize them; some will even recognize you.   India will call to you and you will answer.  Trust your intuition. Trust your heart to lead you to the right place.  It will.  It will lead you to the right place every single time.  Call on help when you need it.  Meditate.  Trust.  This is Your path.  This the Right path for you.  You will discover the healing powers of the ocean and the drying powers of the desert.  And you will return to Bali.  You always knew you would, didn’t you?  Bali will be your home for a while.  You will know this as soon as you step off of the plane.

You will be looking for love in Bali.  You must be patient.  First, you must fully find yourself.  Fully and wholly.   And, you will.  But before you do, there may be a bit of heartache, a bit of doubt.  This is just fine.   Know that you are not in Bali to simply find love; you are there to find your destiny.  And you will.  And wow.  It will be more than you ever hoped for.  Just make sure that you pay attention to what attracts you – to what makes your energy rise.  Follow that sense.  You will long for stability in Bali and this time, you must find this stability in yourself.  And you do.

Before you are embraced into true and divine alignment, you will have a couple of one night stands in Bali.  They will not be your typical one night stands.  You will feel a connection with these guys; you will know them as friends.  And the physical relationship will send you over the edge a bit.  They are quick, deep, and hurtful because you will know the truth of the matter before anything even happens.  You will know that these are blips on your screen of life – fleeting. But, they are necessary as you are being shown that your intuition is to be trusted above all else.  You are coming across past life loves and you know this.  Trust it.  Trust it.  You are being shown that your growth is happening rapidly and you no longer need months or years with these past karmic relationships in order to glean the lessons and move forward.  So, move forward.  Let these guys help you realize who you are, what you want, how best to communicate and how to sustain that integrity that you’ve worked so hard for.  You’re there.  You’ve got it.   Above all else, remember that you are safe and that you are enough.  That’s the lesson here.  You are enough.  So, release them lovingly and move into your wholeness.

You will be pulled to write, to learn healing techniques, to help children in orphanages, to help educate poverty stricken women and provide medical care.  And these are all linked to your destiny.  To your potential.  To you.  Dive in.  Let the ocean wash away the doubt, let the salt float away your fears.  Your life is about to become miraculous.  In fact, it already is.  You are becoming.  And you are divine.

And hey, trust me – your true love will know you when he sees you.  Really, trust me on this.  It will catch you by surprise and be easier than you ever imagined.  And you’ll be so in love, and it will be so, so good.  Better than you ever imagined.  I promise.

Home in Bali

Past in Present

•August 11, 2010 • 3 Comments

In the air, flying away from Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, away from Thailand and away from all of the people that have become my makeshift family over the past month.    I know that I should feel excited – heading to Australia.  But I don’t.  I can’t explain the sadness I feel.  It’s just here.  And it’s heavy.  And I’m uncomfortable because I don’t know why I feel like this.  My life is stunning, amazing.  Truly.  I am living a dream right now.  My dream.  How many times have I said, “If I could do anything, I’d travel the world”?  I’m doing it.  I am existing in a world full of possibility, a world in which I can do anything I can dream, go anywhere I wish.  And I know that tiring, lonely days are all a part of the dream, but it doesn’t make them any easier when they come.

Leaving India was hard.  I didn’t feel ready.   Getting on the plane in Delhi, bound for Thailand, I felt like I was leaving home.  India had essentially become my home.  It was familiar.  I knew what to expect – and that was to never have ANY expectations.  It was comfortable.  It was filthy.  It was hot.  It was hard.  It was home.  I belonged there.

I spent my last month in India bunkered down in Bhagsu / Dharamsala learning Reiki, shamanic crystal healing and color therapy from a truly amazing spiritual healer, Dr. Usha.

Dr. Usha

I did a past life regression session, a rebirthing session, studied Yoga and Pranayama with an Ayurvedic doctor, and taught a Yoga class of my own.  I met a beautiful, lively Israeli/British girl, Samantha, who reminded me of the importance of laughing and being silly.  I met a stunning, searching Israeli/American man, Sagi, who reminded me that a spiritual quest is worth sacrificing a lot, and that I too, still have desires.  And with these two beautiful souls, I discovered the comfort and joy of kinship -the beauty that comes in trust, group laughter and shared interests.  Together, we hiked up through the Himalayas and became one with Mother Earth; we caressed her trees, rooted into her soil, her boulders, conversed with her waterfalls and felt the pain of pollution.  We discovered a family energy with each other.

Hiking up the Himalayas

At the waterfall

We looked forward to every morning when we would walk to Yoga class together and share breakfast afterward and every evening when we would reconnect over dinner, share a dessert and talk about what we’d learned, what we’d experienced that day since breakfast.

Samantha, our Yoga teacher, Me, and Sagi after Yoga class

It was at one of these dinners, talking about our day, our classes about tantric sex, about jade eggs and the Taoist principle of exercising the vaginal muscles, about Buddhist meditations, Tibetan massages and singing bowls vibrating at specific chakra energies when I suddenly burst into laughter.  Sagi looked at me and said, “What?”  Since he had spent some time in the South, in the conservative, Republican, Bible Belt of The States, I knew he would understand when I replied, “I just realized that I am a LONG way from Georgia and the NRA.”  And I was.  I am.

I left India as a Reiki Level 2 practitioner, crystal healer, color therapist, and with a solid job offer.  I left India with an interest in hypnotherapy and a desire to get my Holistic M.D.  I left India secure in the knowledge that everything and anything is possible and that the right thing, the thing that is meant to be will always surface.   I know what I want.  I want to help people heal themselves.  And I know that if I choose, I can go back to India, get my hypnotherapy credentials and work with Dr. Usha.  I can help her open an office in Goa and work part of the year on the beach and part of the year in the Himalayas doing exactly what I want to do – spiritual healing in the form of Yoga, Reiki, hypnotherapy and lecturing.   The offer is there.  The choice is mine.  And, deep in my heart, I know that it is the first of many opportunities to come.


I book a flight to Thailand.  I had planned on going to Nepal after India, but the monsoon is hitting it hard, so I decide on Indonesia and book myself into a 10 day Vipassana Retreat – ten days of utter silence and 10-12 hours of meditation per day.  But, the airport that I am to fly into in Indonesia doesn’t issue visas upon arrival.  So, I end up settling on Thailand.  Thailand kept coming up in conversations, in emails, so it feels right. I trust that feeling and book my ticket to Bangkok.  The night before I fly out, I am surfing the Web and come across a Muay Thai Boxing Camp in Phuket, Thailand.  Something about it grabs me.  Something about it feels so right.  With less than 20 hours before I am to fly out of India, I add a flight from Bangkok to Phuket and head to Thailand to learn Muay Thai Boxing and get my soft body back in shape.   Little do I know that I have a family waiting for me there as well.   Little do I know how perfect my decision to go to Phuket really is.


I box a couple of days, then decide to start the Fasting/Detox program.  It really isn’t on my “to-do” list, but my body is just so unhappy and so round that I decide it will be the best thing for me.  I’ve always struggled with eating healthy due to my unnatural love of sugar, so I figure this will provide me a solid platform to a healthier me.  Seven days of fasting, colonics, lots of water, and psyllium husk and bentonite clay shakes.   I will spare the details of my first colonic, but trust me, it’s horrifically funny.  I am left alone in a room with a small basket, a toilet with a board sticking out of it, a five gallon bucket of coffee water hanging from the ceiling with a tube extending to the toilet, a little bit of KY, a rubber glove, and a, well, sort of a sprinkler shaped butt gadget.  Yeah.  Not a good time.  But, a funny one.  I manage it.  For eight straight days.

The Colonic Room

The fasting is lonely.  I am amazed at how all socializing revolves around food.  Dinner, drinks, coffee – these are the ways in which we socialize.  We gather in kitchens, in restaurants; we gather around food, around drink.  So, when the Rawai boxing group is going out to dinner, I decline.  When they go out for drinks, I decline.  I’m sad.  I’m lonely.  I don’t connect to anyone.  For the first time in my travels, I’m homesick.  I miss home.  I don’t know what I’m doing here.  Something deep inside me knows I am doing the right thing for my body, but this is hard.  And it’s not the food I miss, it’s the people, the connecting; it’s the memories and the feelings that the food holds for me, the comfort it provides me.   It’s not the blueberry muffin I miss, but the lazy, married-life mornings of baking with my husband.  It’s not the grilled chicken I miss, but the easy happiness that dances around a cookout with friends, family, and sunshine.

The detox center is a little over a mile from the boxing camp.  I walk from my room at the gym every day to the center, and then back to the gym at night.  It’s like simultaneously living in two different worlds.  My world by day – quiet, meditative, focused on purity, and my world by evening – surrounded by people who have been boxing and working out all day and are obsessed with dinner and getting enough protein.  It’s challenging to try to find a balance.  It’s challenging to meet people as I am in such a different mind-space than the boxers I am living amongst.

Rawai Muay Thai Boxing Gym --#3 door on the left is my room


Arcan:  The first person I meet at the boxing camp.  He’s Canadian.  Well, he’s Iraqi-Canadian and lived in Turkey for a while.  Listening to his family story is like reading an unbelievable novel of sad fiction.  I go to the beach with him and one of his friends. Arcan is nice enough.  He invites me to the movies.   I accept.  He tells me that he was a soccer player and is recovering from an injury.  He has come to Thailand to train, run and get back in shape.  But, his injury is keeping him from doing the training.  He’s running a lot instead – – – he says.

My Roommate:  Let’s call her Liz.  I usually don’t change names, but there are times when the guilty need to be protected.  After two days of having the room to myself, a young Welsh girl moves in.  She’s here on her summer break from teaching.  She’s here to train hard, get in shape, and prepare for a fight.  I think she’s sweet.  There seems to be a small group of friends forming, but I can’t really hang out much because of the Detox Program.  I am gone from the grounds all day everyday, and since I am fasting, I can’t really go to dinner.   Liz and I chit-chat.  We roughly get to know each other in the few minutes when we’re in the room together.   She strikes me as young – I don’t mean physical years, I mean emotional maturity.  It’s like there is a depth missing, but I can’t put my finger on it.  There is just something. . . . She keeps telling me about American Zak; I haven’t met him yet.

MattE:  Ozzie Matt.  Matt Emery.  We are in beginner class together on his first day.  He helps me with my kicks.  He tells me that he has just come from Indonesia and that he’ll be going back in September.  Indonesia – my home nine years ago.  When I connect to someone about Indonesia, it’s on a deep level.  Part of my being resides there, has since I was evacuated in 2001, and speaking with someone about the place wakes up a part of me that has been dormant ever since.  So, my first connection to Matt Emery is this.  And MattE becomes even more to me.  My breath of fresh air, my hope in humanity restored, my eyes open to fully living life.  I love everything about him.  Not romantic love, not sexual.  Just pure love.  Pure appreciation for the beauty and hope residing in another soul.  His energy is amazing.  It is youthful appreciation for every breath he takes, every person he meets, and every new experience he has.  The more I am around him, the more I want to be around him.  The closer he is, the closer I want him.  He speaks with an awkwardness that just make me want to laugh and wrap my arms around him.  When he looks me in the eye, I swear I can see the most beautiful heart I have ever seen, sitting right in his eyes.  Right in his being.  Radiating from the center of all that he is.  And the tragedy that he has seen and experienced,  the pain and selfishness wrapped up in his past that he so easily spills is all still so innocent.  The fights he’s been in, the pain he’s been through – they have not diminished his youthful hope; they have only encouraged in him a yearning for a more beautiful life.

Me and MattE

Dutch Matt:  Matt from the Netherlands – Matt who is so smart that it makes him just a little bit awkward and so incapable of small talk that he says exactly what he’s thinking.  And this is usually innocently inappropriate and funny; it includes remarks like, “I didn’t really know you, but have a nice life.”   Bad driver Matt who no one ever wanted to get on the back of his scooter, especially after he admitted that he slowed suddenly so that girls would lean forward and broach his back with their breasts.  This made all the guys laugh really hard because they all know they do it as well -they just aren’t brave enough to admit it.  Matt who is so serious about soccer that even at a Saturday morning beach game, he will throw elbows and hit little children if it will edge the team closer toward victory.   Matt who is not on Facebook and who swears his girlfriend isn’t on Facebook either – – – until we find her account and show him.

Dutch Matt

Brad: We’ll call him Brad – another name changed to protect the guilty.  The very guilty.  Brad, the sweet faced Welsh man who spews gentleness and inclusiveness wherever he is.  Brad who always makes sure to say, “Dana, are you coming?  Dana, are you going to join us?”  He is easy to be around and his observant eyes see the truth in the matter – all the matter.  Yet, I just wish I could breathe more confidence into him, just pull him outside himself long enough for him to see all that he has to offer to someone and how beautiful  and giving he really is.  Because he is.

Zackery:  July 4th, coming back from detox, I meet Zak – Zackery.  Protective, take care of every situation, in control Zak. Zak, who knows what he wants in every moment and knows how to work a situation with humor in order to get it.  And Zak and I start talking, and talking, and talking.  He’s one of those people with which there is instant connection, easy to talk to.   Our first conversation charters depths that most people are uncomfortable with; within twenty minutes of conversation, we know more about each other than some acquaintances I’ve known for years.  Talking to Zak is a little like visiting home for a moment; there is a sense of peace within the communication, a sense of safety.  And since he’s American, there is instant camaraderie.  It’s July 4th; we have to celebrate.   But, I’m going to the movies with Arcan.  I speak to Arcan, and we decide to go to the beach with the BBQ and fireworks before catching our movie.   And, I’m so glad because July 4th is probably my favorite holiday.  It’s a time for family and friends, laughter and solidarity; it’s a time for being with a group.  And I know I need it.

Me and Zackery

Arcan and I go to Friendship Beach and wait for the others to arrive.  It’s sort of dead; it’s early and the band hasn’t started playing.  The others arrive, and we gather around a table.  They order food; I order water.  Arcan is quiet.  He seems to be uncomfortable.  I am loving the group dynamics, lovely people all around – Zak, my roommate, Ozzie Matt and Dutch Matt, Brad – people smiling and laughing.  And quiet Arcan.  We leave after about fifteen minutes; “We need to get to the movie,” Arcan says.  In the cab, I say, “Are you uncomfortable in groups or do you not like those people or what?”  He replies, “Sometimes I am just quiet.”  But there is something deeper that I am feeling; Arcan doesn’t play well with others, and I don’t like that.  We get to the movies, but we missed it – – by an hour.  He’d never even checked the time.  We go back to the camp; I have a DVD we can watch.  We get ready to watch it, but he says, “hang on,” and he steps outside to get high.  He comes back inside reeking of pot.  And there’s his truth.  He stays high all the time.  He’s not training, not running.  He’s smoking.  I want to puke.   But I don’t.  I finish watching the movie.  Arcan leaves.  I don’t want to have anything else to do with him.  He has thrown my past in my face; he has shown me that he is the sort of person I do not want in my life – in any capacity.


He reminds of deception, of being lied to.  This deception is a clear scene from my marriage – a crystal memory of rushing home after shooting a BoJangle’s commercial.  I call Troy to let him know I am coming home early and we can go to dinner together.  I pull in the driveway and rush out back to see him.  He’s standing there, busy working on laying a new slate patio.  It looks amazing.  I tell him this.  I hug him.  I lean back.  I look in his eyes.  And I can see.  “Are you high?”  I ask him.  “No,” he says.  I laugh a hurt laugh.  “You are high, and you’re lying about it.  Why are you lying?”  He backpedals, begins making excuses.  I look at him again.  “I am going to dinner,” I say. And I leave him standing there, surrounded by sand and stone.  I drive around Charlotte for a few hours; I eat dinner in my car – alone.


Shortly after Arcan leaves, Liz comes back to the room.  She immediately starts talking about Zak.  “I think he is trying to sleep with me,” she says.  I laugh.  “He’s a male. Of course he is.”   But I know that her saying this is akin to her pissing on her territory.  Basically she’s said, “He’s mine.  He wants me.”  That’s what I hear.  And, I’m okay with that.  So, I talk to her about it – ask her what she thinks, how she feels.  And she says that she sort of has someone back home that she is interested in, likes, but that they are not serious and she’s not sure what Zak wants and how it will work. . .. So I tell her, “You have to check in with YOU and see what YOU want.  Do you want to sleep with Zak or not?  Know that it is meeting a physical need and that is it.  Don’t expect or want more, because logistically it doesn’t make sense; don’t worry about what he wants or expects or what may happen.  If you do have sex with him, know that’s what it is and it’s because you want it.  Otherwise, don’t.”  She replies, “You are wise.  I like that.  Good advice.”  And I can almost hear her sigh of relief as she feels like I have gotten the message that Zak is her territory.  And it makes me laugh.


And this is just the beginning of Thailand. . . . .

She Will Be Loved

•June 7, 2010 • 3 Comments

So, let me level here:  I obviously took a break from blogging.  I was traveling at a fast and furious pace for a while.  I have almost three weeks left in India.  I have decided to settle down and stay put where I am so that I can take some classes.  This blog is where I am in the current, the here and now.  I have many experiences to share which got me to this point.  I have an amazing tale of seeing a sight that no tourists get to see, of learning to dance Indian style, of traveling for a while with an addict, of falling in love with the city of Udaipur even though I was sick, of touring an old fort in the blue city of Jodhpur, of trekking through the desert on a camel and being left alone for hours at night, of doing Yoga on the Ganges with a Yogi (and being sick again), and of a beautiful five days in Shimla.  I will be publishing these stories.  Just know that they are a bit out of order.

This blog is where I am NOW.  HERE.  I AM HERE.

Dharamsala - The Himalayas

I am raw. Stripped down from the events, the day, the week.  I head to my room, and roll out my Yoga mat.  I begin to flow, moving my body, opening my heart, expanding, reaching.

There is a knock at the door.  It’s Ida from my Chakra/Reiki class.  “Let’s go!”  she says, eager to go out to a café and have a drink and a bite to eat.  “I’m doing Yoga,” I say, “but where are you going, maybe I can meet you after I finish?”  “Up the way,” she points, “maybe past the Pizza place.”  “I’ll find you,” I say.

And I get back to my Yoga.  I warrior, I vinyasa, I triangle, I backbend, I handstand (for a second), I backbend some more.  I work on dropping back and trusting that the wall is there for me to walk down.  I work on trusting.

And the power goes out. Darkness.  I finish up aided by the light of my computer screen and throw open the windows.  It’s storming, a beautiful, threatening storm.  I wrap my shawl around me and sit on the edge of the bed right under the window.  I cross my legs and watch the lightning.  I feel the stray mist that blows in and sits on my skin.  The wind whips, and I pull the sheet over me for extra warmth.  It’s a storm like I have never seen, fierce with billows of lightning – like fireworks.   I watch the shadowy flashes of the building nearby, the tree bending near my window, and the mountain in the distance – all quickly and starkly lit up by the brilliant flashes in the sky.

I turn my IPod on, and I begin to rock to the music, to the beat, to the pelting of the storm. And the statement that simply came to me intuitively during Reiki Initiation comes once again.  Here I am.  Yet, this time, I understand it.  I repeat it over and over.  Here I am.  Here I am.  Here I am.  And the tears begin to flow and soon it turns into sobbing.  Uncontrollable sobbing.  Yet, it’s not all grief, not all sadness.  It’s pure wonder at the world, tears flow because of the sheer beauty of it all, of how it works, of this sudden understanding of infinite time and unending relationships.

Garland – how right that he would have been here, that he would have spent the past two weeks with me.  It was his unconditional love and bottomless support that has allowed me to –essentially- die and be born again.

For now, after these five months in India, after months of soul searching, of digging my toes into the sand, of hugging saints, of letting go of the past, of Yoga, of running through tea plantations, rowing through the Backwaters, losing myself, feeling vibrations of centuries past, meeting people from all over the world, of riding camels through the dessert, of meditation, of missing friends and seeing them again, of laughing, of crying – after all of this, I have arrived.

The Universe told me.

Here I am.

While Garland was here in Dharamsala, I felt very strongly that we should do a past life regression session.  I thought it would be interesting; I felt pulled to it.  We did.  He visited two of his past lives; I visited three.  Yet, we weren’t sure that we crossed lives.  But there was this nagging, this hint, this inkling that there was a past life between the two of us, there must be.

Garland and I didn’t know what would happen when he came to visit.  What we did know was that we loved each other deeply.  We didn’t know where that would go, if anywhere.  What it would be.


When Garland arrived in Shimla a little over two weeks ago, I met him at the airport.  And the first couple of days were like getting to know each other again.  We had sort of frozen our relationship in time, suspended ourselves to see what may lie between us.  And it was the same deep love.  Not a romantic love, per se, just pure love.  And sitting with him in Shimla, being lazy and completely unmotivated, eating cherries and cookies, I looked over at Garland busy working on trying to obtain his lost luggage and suddenly realized that this is a person who loves me utterly, every second for who I am now, who I have been, and whoever I may become.  He expects nothing.  He just loves.  And, I am safe in this life to be who I want to be, who I really am.  I am safe to become who I am.   Because I will be loved.

And when he left Dharamsala to head home, I walked him to the taxi and gave him a big, long hug.  My eyes teared.  His eyes teared.  And I waved him all the way down the hill until he was out of sight.  Something wasn’t resolved, and I didn’t think it lay in the present.

I emailed Lynda, my trusted healer back in Charlotte, and once again, she did a distance session for me.

“You guys have a very significant lifetime together…. As very very very dear friends, both women. You were both Asian. If you know that culture, women friendships are like sisters. In that lifetime you were ill. “Garland” cared for you totally and faithfully until you died. There was such deep love…. Not romantic. . .” she typed back to me.   And there was much more in the email, details about energy, about shifts, about mine and Garland’s continuing friendship.  But the beauty of it all overwhelmed me, the sadness in it.

How very beautiful that Garland and I would decide to visit China together (last year) – an impulsive decision – even before we really knew each other.  How perfect that we would see China in this lifetime for the first time, together.  The trip to China is what cemented our deep, enduring friendship.  How funny the Universe is.  And, how amazing that in this life, he is still supporting me, still taking care of me, and still terrified that I am going to leave him, that we will lose touch, even though I keep reassuring him that this is not going to happen.

Garland’s been gone for almost a week now, left to go back to the US, to his home, to his job.  During this time, I have been completed a self-healing and Reiki class.  Powerful stuff.  Powerful energy.  And I know that it’s energetic healing that I want to do.  I want to help people heal.  I am clear.  So now, I will start my new life down this path, searching for the right modalities and looking for a place in which to practice them.

I am here now.  The Universe is right. I am reborn in this life with a second chance of getting it right, of following my heart.  Garland’s energy allowed me to bury all that I was, to put it to rest.  He supported me through every step watching me as I left my old self – just as he did in our past life.

And now I can see while looking out at this storm, this storm that washes away the old and lets the new bloom afresh – I can see that we will never lose touch, not in this lifetime, not in the next, or the next, or the next.  We’ll keep finding each other because of the love that resides between us.  Not romantic, not conditional, but pure love.  Accepting of all that has been and all that will be.  Accepting of all the changes, the mistakes, the distances.  Pure.  Unconditional.  Larger than this lifetime.  Infinite love.

Me and Garland - his first time on a horse - not that you'd know that from the picture

Angel G

Me and G

Strange Overtones

•June 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I return to the hotel after visiting Agra Fort, and Salim and Jagdish are sitting on the front steps of the hotel.  Sitting in chairs, watching the road, the people pass, the cars drive by, the motorbikes, the camels, the donkeys.  I look around.  It’s “man time” in Agra.  Every day after sunset, the men just sit outside and watch the world in front of them, speaking with each other.

Salim pulls me up a chair.  I sit with them and participate in “man time.”  It’s just their social outlet.  I speak with Jagdish for a while.  We talk about his hotel.  He has had it for years and this past year decided to remodel it, to knock the old to the ground and to rebuild it.  He designed the entire hotel.  He is proud, but humble and quiet in his pride.  His energy is soft and safe.  He feels like family. And I feel protected.

Jahanvi's sister, Jagdish, and Jahanvi in front of Daawat Hotel

He takes me into the hotel and shows me all of the special things.  He explains where the front desk will go once complete, where the couches and chairs will be placed in the foyer.  He tells me that the room on the right will be the non-vegetarian restaurant and the room on the left will be the vegetarian restaurant.  He shows me the light fixtures that he specially chose and had brought in.  “You won’t see these anywhere around here,” he says.  They are simple pendulum lights with colored glass that glow beautifully when turned on.  He is an artist and a businessman.  A beautiful combination.  And his new hotel, Daawat, will be a testament to that.

After the tour Salim says, “Go change.  We go.  We go to Big Bazaar.”  I hurriedly change and go back downstairs.  I am so hungry as I did not eat lunch today, but I am sure there will be street stalls and food at the Bazaar.  I am looking forward to seeing the Bazaar, the market.   Salim isn’t here.  “He is coming back,” says Jagdish. I hang out once more in front of the hotel, feeling almost a member of the mafia.  Salim is gone for about forty minutes.  He drives up on the motorbike and nods for me to get on.  “Where were you?”  I ask.  “Went to get shave, but they closed,” he says.  I suddenly want to smack him, and I’m not sure why.  I think the hunger has gone to my head.   I climb on the back of the bike.

And I feel it.  His energy is a little bit different.  Oh my God, I think this is his idea of a date.  Oh no no no.  Okay, I tell myself.  Just relax.  Let’s see what an Indian date is like.  It’s an experience.

He pulls into traffic.  He almost runs into another man on a motorbike.  They begin speaking back and forth.  I don’t know what’s happening.  Is this bad?  Is this typical?  Are they going to fight?  They have slowed down and are going to same speed, driving side by side.  Eventually Salim turns back to me and says, “This my friend.”  Wow.  Small world, I think – literally almost bumping into his friend.

We pull into a large complex behind his friend.  We park the motorbike beside his friend.  And I realize it isn’t a coincidence that his friend met him on the road, it was planned.  His friend is hanging out with us.  Cool.  We walk into the complex, and I am searching for the stalls, the arts, the crafts, the colors, the noise that accompanies a Bazaar.  Nothing.  Just a half empty mall sort of.

We walk into a store. It’s called the Big Bazaar.

Oh. . . .

And it’s like a rotten K-Mart.   We browse through, Salim and his friend chattering away and me pulling up the rear end.   Salim picks up a t-shirt with a man on it and steam coming out of his ears; the t-shirt has the words “Dad is more than a money machine” printed on it.  “You like?”  Salim asks.  “No,” I state. He points to another one, just as tacky with some sort of kitty cat on it.  “This one?”  he asks.  “No,” I say.  “But I want to buy you a gift,” he says.  And I flashback to my 4th grade Christmas, the Christmas when my Dad bought my Mom a yellow jumpsuit and her response was, “Buddy, don’t ever buy me clothes again.”  I suddenly understand that.

His friend picks up some soap and shoves it under my nose.  “Yes?” he says.  “It doesn’t smell,” I say.  It smells like a plastic wrapper.

They walk me to the chip aisle.  “You like chips?”  “Yes, chips are good,” I respond.  Salim’s friend hands me a bag. “Gift.  Take it.”  Salim picks up a pack of cookies.   Salim’s friend pays for it at the checkout.

I’m baffled, but I just go with it.

We go back out and get on the motorbikes – hopefully heading to dinner, I think.  We drive about twenty steps and park in front of the McDonald’s.  Oh no, I think.  How do I politely tell them that I don’t even eat this crap at home unless it’s before 10:30AM and it’s an egg and cheese biscuit?  I still can’t understand that whenever an Indian wants to take me somewhere, it’s somewhere Western.  I’ve given up on this one and simply accept it knowing that no matter how Western the place, it will always be an Indian experience.

We share a thing of fries, and the guys get ice-cream.  I drink a Sprite.  This cannot be dinner, I think.   The only thing I had today was a muffin at 10 this morning.  Salim mentions something about his friend cooking dinner.  Thank goodness, I think!

We leave McDonald’s. I ride on the back of his friend’s bike after much confusion on my part.   We drive about 10 miles per hour, side by side of course, so they can talk.  Suddenly we stop, and I realize his friend is waiting for me to get back on Salim’s bike.  “Dinner tomorrow,” he says.  “I make veg for you.” And he drives away – along with my hopes for dinner.

Salim starts driving.  “Where are going?” I ask.  “Just around.  You can look.”  He drives.  I look at Agra.  It’s not a beautiful city, not inviting really.  Busy roads.  Hot.  Dusty.  Dirty.  Agra is about the Taj, about the Fort, about the history, and about family.

He suddenly turns around, “You want something eat?” he asks.  “Yes,” I say.  We find a packed little place by the side of the road and pull in.  It’s filled with locals – a good sign.  He orders dosa and I order stuffed naan.  It’s the biggest dosa I’ve ever seen.  I drink a chai.  I drink his chai.

Salim and his dosa

We go back to the hotel.  “See you tomorrow,” I say as I walk into the hotel clutching my Big Bazaar bag.  And thus ends my Indian date.  If that’s what it was.

The power is off.  I can’t sleep.  It is so dreadfully hot.  I think I am melting.  Eventually, the power comes back on, and I am grateful for the fan.  I still can’t sleep.  Finally, at 3AM, I get up, go outside and turn off the hall lights.  I find my white cotton scarf and soak it down with water.  I cover myself with it, turn the fan on high, and crank up my IPod.  Finally, I drift to sleep – my head sweating into the pillow.

A Dustland Fairytale

•June 2, 2010 • 2 Comments

I am on the back of Salim’s motorbike, roaring down the streets of Agra, and I am not sure where he is taking me.  We pull up to a building that is clearly closed; we walk inside.  “This where I am working,” he says.  “You’ve only been back in Agra for three or four days and you are already working?”  I ask him.  “Yes,” he says, “This my old boss.  He call me, say he need help.  I come work for him.”

We walk over new, marble floors coated in a thick layer of dust from all the construction work.  There are cords and wires everywhere, exposed concrete, building materials.  And, while it’s interesting enough, I wonder why he’s brought me here before letting me check into a guesthouse and stow my bags away.

Hotel Lobby - not yet open

We climb the unfinished steps.  He opens a door.  Before me is a huge, beautiful, brand new guest room.  “You stay here,” he says.  “Hotel not open yet.  You are first guest.”  “Really?”  I ask, “I am staying here?  It’s ok?”  “Yes,” he says, “You are welcome here.”

I put down my bags, and he shows me the rooftop.  Complete with a view of the Taj Mahal.  It is breathtaking.  He shows me two rooms that are being constructed on the rooftop; they are rooms with full glass on one side.  So, no matter where you are – sleeping, showering, using the toilet – the Taj Mahal is in full view.  I love it.

“This is very nice,” I say, “will be very nice.”  “Yes,” he smiles, “We open one week.”  Amazing.  There is a lot to do.

He leads me to the basement and shows me the cows, two heifers and one calf.  I am confused as to why there are cows in the hotel until I learn that these cows belong to the owner.  They use the milk from them to drink, to make paneer (milk cheese), and curd, and lassis.  Sadly though, the cows will be taken to a village soon, because the smell is not good for the new hotel.   But, they will still be treated well and the fresh milk delivered to the hotel.

Baby Cow

He then leads me to the back of the hotel, to the owner and his family’s residence.  He wants me to meet them.  His boss, Jagdish, is friendly and welcoming. We greet one another, and he heads straight back to the hotel to work; I like him instantly.  Salim is talking to someone else, another worker.

It’s a little uncomfortable. I am not sure what to say or where to go as the home is a series of rooms surrounding a big open area.  I sort of stand around, feeling completely awkward and out of my depth for a while.  I am relieved to see a fat, black lab waddling around.  She is precious and so obviously spoiled.  I pet her, heaping love on her and letting her fill that doggy gap that I carry around.  “Chewby,” says the boss’s wife as she is walking into the kitchen.  “Name is Chewby.”  I call the dog Chewby for a week until I finally realize it’s actually Chubby.

Salim leads me into the kitchen where the wife of his boss, Mnjula, is cooking.  “She loves cook so much; she want to learn,” he says.    Then he walks away.  I am not sure where he goes.  I sort of watch Mnjula for a while, feeling awkward.  It is hard for her and I to communicate as she speaks little English and I speak even less Hindi.  Her eldest daughter, Jahanvi, comes into the kitchen.  She is twenty years old and is home for a break from school; she usually lives in Delhi with one of her aunts.   I immediately relax; it is amazing how important language is; how vital the ability to speak and be understood, to express – how our spirit, from the inside out, simply longs to be understood.

I watch the mother cooking.  I speak to Jahanvi.  The mother tells Jahanvi to lead me into the living room, and she brings me a plate of food, freshly made.  And I instantly know that I am welcome here.  I am at a home away from home.   For me, food is love.  This person has taken time to prepare sustenance for my very survival.

And thus begins a relationship with this family.  The week that I spend here, I am included.  I am cared for, cooked for (MumMum always making sure mine is not spicy), taken to a family wedding, made a dozen or more chais (by far the best in India).  I hang out with Jahanvi.  We share life experiences with each other; she shows me my first Bollywood movie and translates every word of it as we watch.  I show them pictures of my family, my friends, my dog.  Jahanvi shows me pictures of her family, she and her younger sister being goofy, her younger brother, her silly friends back in Delhi.  Jahanvi and MumMum teach me how to make paneer. I call the mother MumMum.  I play with the family dog.  I love them.  They love me.  My Indian family.

MumMum, Jahanvi, and half of me

Jagdish and MumMum at the wedding


Jahanvi and I wake at 5:30AM in order to get to the Taj Mahal by sunrise.   We leave the hotel, walk around the corner, through the park, and we are at the gate.  It takes us about ten minutes.   We enter.

The Taj Mahal.

It’s a sigh caught in the heart, a deep breath again and again.  It’s love.  It’s beauty.  It’s purity and grandeur.  It’s your first kiss.  It’s your wedding day full of innocent hope.  It’s Christmas when you’re four years old.  It’s puppy breath.

It’s the quiet chirping of birds in the morning.  It’s the dew glistening on the petal of the rarest orchid.  It’s the most brilliant sunset dipping into the bluest ocean.  It’s the bright light in the eyes of your true love.  It’s recreation, reproduction, and beginnings.  It’s death.  It’s the end.

It’s epic.  It’s the past, the present, and the future all bound, floating like a white castle suspended in midair.  It is in this world; it is not of it.

And this initiation into this world of beauty, peace and love, of ends, of beginnings – this is the gift for visiting this house of love and death.

I walk around it, in it, resting my hand on the marble, soaking in its purity, pulling in its essence through my pores.  I watch the sunlight pour in and alter the marble from glistening white to pale yellow to soft pink.  I see the patterns of light beaming through, playing on the smooth floor.

The Taj is the most beautiful, photogenic woman in the world.  There are no bad angles, no unattractive sides.  Jahanvi and I sit on a bench in the garden and just marvel at it.  Just watch its gracefulness.

I can’t take my eyes off it, and I know how a young boy in love must feel – full of adoration and longing – lucky to be in the presence of such beauty.   I close my eyes and breathe it in.  The smell.  The feel.  The vibrations.  I will remember this always, this pulsing, this energy.  This.


Another day in Agra.  I go by rickshaw to the Black Taj, also known as the Baby Taj.  It’s a garden directly across the river from the Taj Mahal.  There is a crude foundation there.  The plan of Shah Jahan was to build himself a building of black onyx directly across from the Taj where his body would be kept after his death.  His wife, Mumtaz Mahal, buried in white marble, he in black onyx.  He began construction.  His son locked him in prison, declaring that public funds should not be spent in this way.

But, the view from the Black Taj is stunning.  The rickshaw driver says, “Sunrise and sunset.  Today, you are done with the Taj Mahal.”  “No,” I say. “I don’t think you can ever really be done with the Taj Mahal.”


Salim says that I should see the Agra Fort, and he volunteers to drop me off there.  I hop on the back of the motorbike, and he takes off.  I can’t wait for the breeze.  It’s stifling here.  The breeze smacks me in the face as I peer around him to see the road in front of us; it’s so hot that it takes me breath.  I have never felt wind like this.  The heat is searing.  He drops me out front and tells me when I get a rickshaw back to have them drop me at Rani Mundi Circle; from there I can walk to the hotel.  “When get back,” he says, “we go out.”  “Great,” I say.  “See you later.”  He drives away.

As I walk into the Agra Fort, I am reminded that the nice thing about having to pay an entrance fee into tourist places is that the local hawkers don’t go inside.  This provides a little peace; it is actually possible to experience a few moments of quiet.

I see the different parts of the fort, the old celebration courtyard, the glass building where the women in the harem bathed, the silver plated door where the noblemen took their orders from the King, and the older, red sandstone portions, and I suddenly feel this longing.  Just longing.  And I can’t tell what I am longing for.  I just feel it intensely.  So, I walk over to an opening, a window in the fort.  I look out, across the highway, and across the river is the looming lady, The Taj Mahal.  The distance making her small, but still glorious, still other-worldly.  I perch in the window and stare at the building until the guard comes over and makes me climb down.

At the other end of the fort are Shah Jahan’s old prison quarters, beautiful marble with inlay work.  Marble screens.  And never-ending views of the Taj Mahal.  This is where Shah Jahan was kept, where he spent his last years. Locked up by his son, forbidden to spend any more money for personal matters, for a Black Taj.  In his final years, it was here that he stared out at the Taj Mahal, watching it, longing for it, longing for his dead wife.

And, my feeling of longing makes sense.  Shah Jahan’s vibrations, his feelings remain here in this fort.  And I can feel them.   I can empathize over the centuries.

On My Way

•May 9, 2010 • 1 Comment

I am sitting on the train to Bangalore, soaking in my own sweat, waiting for the train to carry me away from Mysore.  I am leaving Mysore with a new sense of passion, of excitement.  I feel ready to ride the trains, to see India, to experience it with my newly forming heart.  In addition to telling me that my heart is reforming itself, Lynda also wrote to me that I may feel confused as to where to go, what to see next, because I am just supposed to be wandering right now, just soaking up the places.   I am ready to embrace being a wanderer, because I am grounded in the knowledge that I will always be in the right place, that I will see what I need to see, experience exactly what I need to experience, and meet the perfect people to teach, warm, and greet my soul along the way.

As the train pulls out of the station, I quietly ask India to show me her secrets, to reveal herself to me.  And as the wheels begin to grind faster and faster on the tracks, I can hear her answer, “All you had to do was ask.”


Everyone I have spoken to says to skip Bangalore – that it’s just a big, modern city.  No reason to go.  Nothing to see.  Nothing to do.

And that’s exactly why I like it.  Since there is nothing to do, I can do exactly what I want.  I can sit and meditate; I can go to the gym; I can find a Yoga class; I can sit and write.  But I do none of these.  I browse shops.  I watch an American film.  I eat Western food.  I have chai at a locals-only restaurant.  I watch Cartoon Network.  I get my hair trimmed.  I walk around the city.  I walk for hours and hours and at the end of the day, I realize that my toes are completely raw from walking all day in flip-flops.  But, I am okay with that; it feels good to have walked so much.


I battle through the busy streets of Bangalore to the train station – Bangalore City Railway – one of India’s busier railway stations. I spot an STD/ISD  booth and stop to call Salim (the cook from Varkala) and give him my train number, let him know that I am on my way.  He is so excited that I am coming to visit.  “Thank you,” he says, “I will see you on the 13th at the train station in Agra.  You get there, you call me.  I come to train station.”  “Ok,” I say.  “Thank you.  See you soon.”  He thanks me again.  And again.  For calling him, for coming to visit in Agra.  And, in the short few minutes on the phone, I am unable to make him understand that it is my honor to visit him, his family, his friends; it is truly my privilege.

I walk into the railway station, and it’s so dark I can’t even read my ticket.  The power is out.  I find a security officer and ask him which train is to Agra.  He points to the left.  I buy another liter of water and walk down the line of cars to find my correct compartment, Sleeper #2.

I find it.  I climb in and shuffle through the car to find my seat.  The Indian train is a little microcosm of society.  For the most part, I like riding the train.  I like submerging myself into this world, observing it and participating in it.  And now, I have 35 hours to experience this little world. Let’s be clear.  I’m not talking about air-conditioned, 1st class, 2nd class or 3rd class.  I am talking Sleeper class, no A/C, dusty, dirty, bottom of the rung.  I took 2nd class one time; it’s not the same – the friendliness, the togetherness, the light conversation – it’s not there.  No, it lies in the sleeper class with the manual laborers, the crying babies, and the students.

The first thing I do when I find my seat is to look around for my guardian.  There is always one.  Someone who makes eye contact with me, maybe even a slight smile, but in that second of eye contact, there is trust established – someone to watch over me, make sure my bags are ok if I must go to the restroom, to make sure I don’t miss my stop.  My guardians on this train happen to be in the same compartment with me – a few students studying in Bangalore and going home for the summer break.  They make sure that I am comfortable and that my bag is stowed appropriately.  I am safe.

After a couple of hours, I clamber up to my upper bunk, wipe off the thick layer of dirt and settle myself amongst my bags as best I can. I don’t sleep well; the train bumps and grinds, starts and stops throughout the sweltering night.  I do manage to drift off for a couple of hours only to awaken covered in a fresh layer of grime blown in the windows by the fast night speeds.

The morning comes with cries of “Chai. Chai,” and “Coffee.  Coffee,”  by men carrying pots of hot liquid and small paper cups.  It is amazing to me that you can get whatever you might need on an Indian train.  Young and old Indian men walk through the cars selling hot meals, cold water, soda, lassi (yogurt drink), toys, chains and locks, cashews, peanuts, oranges, lemons, pomegranates, their own personal musical talents, and sometimes even their sorrows in the form of nubs of an arm, a hand, or blindness.   All for sale.

By midmorning, my clothes are soaked through with sweat and my soft, silk pants are dried crunchy from the salt of my perspiration.  I pull out a small sliver of soap, my towel, toothbrush and toothpaste that I have learned to pack on the top of my bag when taking the train, and I go freshen up as best as possible.

On this mid-April day in the mid-afternoon sun, the heat is stifling.  My eyeballs are sweating.  I look at my watch.  It’s 1:45 pm.  The train journey is about half over.  I climb down from my bunk hoping that there is more air circulating below.  There isn’t.

But, I talk with my guardians.  One is about to graduate and become a medical doctor; he is working in a hospital in Jaipur for the summer and invites me to visit him; my other guardian is about to graduate and become a pharmacist; he lives up North in Chandigarh.  He invites me to visit and says he will show me around.  They both give me their mobile numbers and say to contact them if I need anything at any time during my travels in India.  Most Indian people do this – give you their number and offer help.  And, the really astounding thing is, they mean it.  Always.

We talk for hours and hours.  It’s a download of information.  I learn about the caste system and India’s version of affirmative action, the University and schooling system, and lots of random medical information.  They teach me about hypotension, hypertension, what to do if having a stroke, when to not take ibuprofen, medicines to avoid if you have kidney issues.  Tons of information.  Some of it I will remember; some I will forget.  And, I am not really sure why I am getting all of this information, but I know that at some point, I will need it.  India doesn’t give you a lot of things that are useless.

They ask if I am lonely traveling by myself.  “Not really,” I say.  “I had a friend come and travel with me for a while.  And, I meet people.  Some days are lonely.  Some days are good.”  They shake their heads.  They do not understand this  – being alone and being okay with it, actually desiring it.  In conversation, Indians will say lonely, rather than alone.  The word alone, they don’t understand.

They tell me about their communities, their villages, how everyone knows everyone and all of their family history.  “In the US,” the doctor says, “I think you don’t sometimes know your neighbors, even their names.”  “That’s true,” I say.  “Here,” he says, “we know the names, the children’s names, grandparents, brothers, uncles, aunts, how long they live here, who in their family has died, who marries who.  We know all.  For all village.  All community.”

“Yeah,” I say, “India has a strong sense of community.  America is more individual.”  And, we talk about this for a long time.  The pros, the cons, the differences between the two and the values in society that perpetuate these ways of living.  They like their community, their sense of belonging because it is perpetual love, perpetual support.

I long for community, for true community.


The train arrives in Agra.  The Doctor walks me to the gate.  He finds a pay phone so that I can call Salim.  He pays for the call.  He waits with me out front so that the rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers won’t bother me.  He has taken me into his community.

Salim roars up on a motorbike.  With my huge backpack strapped to my back, I hang on and head down the streets of Agra, ready for India to reveal herself to me.

Not Myself

•May 1, 2010 • 5 Comments

*Before you read this, know that I am about a month behind in my blogs.  I am safe.  I am sound.  I am riding a camel through the desert as you read this post.    

I get off the train in Mysore and within minutes spot Charles pulling in on his scooter.  It’s so good to see a familiar face, to be welcomed at the train station instead of haranguing with rickshaw drivers and trying to figure out where to go, where to stay.  “So sorry I am late,” he says, “Julie had accident on scooter this morning.”  “Oh my gosh; is she okay?” I ask.  “Yes, yes,” he says, “but make me late.”  “No,” I say, “It was perfect timing.  I just got off the train.  I’m glad Julie is okay.” 

We try our best to figure out how to get Charles, me, and my two backpacks on the small scooter.  I’ve seen families of five carrying groceries on scooters like this; I know it can be done.  A local Indian sees us struggling and comes over to lend us a hand; within seconds, my large backpack is stowed topsy-turvy at Charles’s feet, and the small one is on my back.  Charles offers me a helmet, but since I look ridiculous enough as is, I pass.  If we wreck on this thing, there is really no hope anyway. 

I am hot and tired from the all night train.  Charles decides to give me a tour of the city; it’s not really what I want to do at the time, but he seems excited, so I go along.  We pull up to Café Coffee Day; it’s the Starbucks of India, posh and modern with prices to match.  We lug my bags up the steps and sit outside.  We order milkshakes; not quite what I was expecting when approached with a rest in Mysore with Yoga, meditation and healthy home-cooked food, but I am not complaining! 

We catch up. He reminds me to roll my shoulders back, open my chest. He tells me of his plans for an ashram in Brazil; I tell him about traveling with Tricia and about Hampi. He stresses again, “Julie and I are nothing.  She is not my girlfriend.  I am very clear with her about this,” and I find myself wondering why he feels the need to repeat this.  On Skype, he must have said three times, “She is not my girlfriend.”  And then he says, “Okay.  This is why I wanted to come here first, so we can talk. Julie was a little strange about you coming at first, but I told her that you are my friend and that you need help right now, so I want to help you.”  I cut him off.  “Charles.  I don’t want any problems.  That’s why I asked.  I have no problem hopping right back on the train.  I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable, myself included.”  “No, no,” he says, “She is good with it now; she understands.  I had to explain her, ‘Julie, you and I had fun.  But, when you leave for home in three weeks, we may never see each other again.  This can be nothing.  Dana is a friend. . . “   My stomach lurches.  Oh how very uncomfortable.  But, he keeps digging the hole deeper:  “Dana, you know how women can be.  Possessive.  Like they own.  And jealous.  And you are the older (he keeps talking – my mind clings to the word older) woman here, so I know you can make this work.  But, if you have any trouble, I want to you come and tell me.”  Okay.  STRIKE ONE.  I speak firmly. “Look.  I don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable, that’s why I asked you and Julie on Skype.  There is nothing romantic here (and I circle my right arm between the two of us), so there should be no problem.  If there is a problem with Julie, though, I would talk to her before I talked to you.  Or, I will just hop a train.  Easy.” 

“Yes.  It will be good,” he says.  “You need to stay here and get back in the center again, get strong again.” He smiles really big, “Once you are strong, there is no room for bullshit.”  But I wonder if it really will.  Poor Julie.  I would be uneasy if I were her as well; there is a connection between myself and Charles.  For me, it’s sweet and sincere – a manifestation of someone who can help me and whom I can help as well.  For Charles, well, I don’t know his intentions, and while they feel warmly helpful, my spidey senses are definitely tingling.

We leave the coffee shop, and he shows me the neighborhood.  We stop in front of Pattabhi Jois’s studio and home; there is something definitely cool about that.  It’s right around the corner from the house.  Granted, Pattabhi is deceased, and I’m not doing Yoga there because it is overrun with people and there is no individual attention, but he’s a legend.  And, it’s cool. 


Julie is warm and inviting.  She is looking for a bus to get her from Bangalore to Puttapharthi; she has decided to try to leave tonight to go see her guru, Sai Baba.  He is at his ashram only a couple of hours outside of Bangalore.  If she leaves tonight, she will be there in the morning.  The train from Mysore to Bangalore is no problem; it’s the rest of the journey she is trying to figure out.  It’s a sudden decision for her, and I feel responsible.  I suddenly wish I was invisible.  I want to crawl into the walls and not take up any space.  It just doesn’t feel good.  I can’t quite work out what is happening or why, and I’m tired. 

I make small talk with Julie, trying to ease any tension that might be hers.  We are in the middle of conversation and Charles says, “Dana, go shower and rest.  You must be tired.”  And, like a puppet, I do it.  Without thought.  Without question.   I shower.  I nap.  Julie wakes me up, “Hey.  Charles went to get a massage.  We will walk there and meet him in about 20 minutes for Yoga.”  I get up and put on my Yoga clothes.  Yoga sounds delicious right now.  It’s Ashtanga Yoga though, and I’ve only practiced Ashtanga a few times, but I feel ready for it.

Julie and I walk the fifteen minute walk and talk the entire way.  She tells me about her parents – their backgrounds, how they met and married.   And, it’s a really cool story – the stuff movies are made of.  Her parents are devotees of Sai Baba as well, so her wanting to go see him is nothing new.  It’s just good timing for her now.  I enjoy connecting with her, and I hate that she is leaving tonight.  But, Charles agreed to pay for a taxi for her from Bangalore to the Ashram, so it’s all settled.  She leaves this evening.


Yoga is perfect.  Just what I need to pull me right back into my body.  Very challenging.  Really, it just kicks my ass all over the mat.  At one point, I literally have to crawl to the top of the mat to do my vinyasa.  My body is tired and defeated.  It can barely hold me up, let alone fight me in the asanas. And, my physical body is still changing so rapidly that I don’t even recognize it on the mat sometimes.  Like today.  I am in a pose, and I look down and think, “Whose body is this?” I wonder how long that will last.

It is Mysore Style Ashtanga which means you go at your own pace in the class, and the teacher is there to assist and pull you deeper into postures.  Of course, since I don’t have the First Series memorized, the teacher stayed pretty close to me so he could tell me what to do and see me struggle.  He is a very serious man, but with my grace and Yoga prowess, I am able to make him laugh a couple of times.  (hope the sarcasm came through there)

Jai, the teacher, and I speak briefly after class.  He asks where and what type of Yoga I study.  I ask him the same.  He studied here in Mysore with BNS Iyengar.  Basically, one man, Krishnamacharya, taught three of the big names in Yoga:  He taught BNS Iyengar who teaches Ashtanga and focuses on mudra, meditation and pranayama, BKS Iyengar who teaches Iyengar style Yoga which focuses on alignment, and Pattabhi Jois who, until his death this past May, taught Ashtanga focusing on linking movement and breath. He says that a beautiful practice is one that combines Iyengar with Ashtanga. 

I remember MyLinda saying that the Yoga world is really small.  Everyone knows everyone, because less than 1% of the world’s population practices yoga.  It’s amazing how small the world of Yoga really is. 


Charles cooks dinner.  It’s a production.  Julie lays out a blanket in the living room, and lights the candles.  The three of us eat delicious, healthy, fresh food by candlelight.  I look at Julie, “Do you guys always eat like this?” I ask.  “Pretty much,” she says.  “Why not?” Charles asks.  “It’s nice.  It should be like this.”  And, it is nice, but since the fan’s off, it’s really hot.  But, you can’t have glowing candles if the fan is on full blast.

I stay a week.  It’s my only candlelight dinner.


Let’s just cut to the chase.  Julie leaves. The next day is nice.  Yoga.  Ride around on the scooter and see some of Mysore.  We go out to dinner.  And, Charles tells me all the things I need to hear.  “You are such a strong woman.  I can see this.  But, you hide it.  Like with your shoulders rounded forward.  Why do you hide it?  Why are you afraid to be who you are?  You are so beautiful, but you don’t show it.  Let your hair down.  Be who you are.  You just need confidence. ”

You know – all the right things, the perfect things.  The things that are so great to hear, but by the end of it, I sort of found myself saying, wow, I must really be coming off like a pile of dog poo.  Lucky I have Charles around to see my real potential, my real self.  And, I wasn’t conscious of that then, but I am now.  That’s what happened. 

And we get along well.  Dinner is great.  I let my hair down. Literally. And, I actually feel lively and beautiful, and I begin to remember that there is this amazing person inside of me, that I am an amazing person. 

And then after dinner there is this awkward start of a physical relationship, because what man can resist a woman who feels beautiful?  I tell him that it just isn’t right, considering Julie especially.  He responds, “She’ll be gone for a week, and by the time she gets back, you’ll probably be gone anyway.”  And he buries that line under reassurances.  And while I hear him say, “It’s okay.  We are friends first.  It doesn’t matter to me,”  I am reading his body language which is not in agreement.  He asks me to lie with him, on the living room floor, and just sleep there, but I decline and go to my bedroom, closing the door behind me. 

It’s late.  It’s around 2AM.  I can’t sleep.  I listen to my IPod.  I get up.  I go out on the deck, and I write.  It’s the only thing that remotely soothes me.  And it doesn’t, really.  I scribble in my journal, “In Mysore.  In a house.  With a man whose girlfriend is away.  Driven by a cab he paid for.  Waiting for the sun to rise.  To be born – so that the light of the day will wash away the doubts and bring with it the promise of a bright tomorrow.  And a Yoga class.”

It’s 5:20 AM.  Yoga is at 6.  I wake Charles.  “I am going to Yoga class,” I tell him. “Want to come?”  He replies groggily, “Not enough sleep.  We will get there and it won’t be a good practice.  After the sun salutations, you will feel tired.”  “No,” I reply. “I am awake. I am going.”  “Do you want to drive the scooter?”  he asks me.  “No,” I say.  “I want to walk.” 

I leave in the dark just before the dawn.  My brain churns away.  Thoughts roll through my head:  Yoga is my best friend right now.  It’s the one place where I can experience true love for myself.  Until I can feel that all the time, I’ll find it in Yoga whenever I can.  Every time I unroll my mat, I know that connection with myself waits within its sticky confines.

And I feel so safe here in Mysore.  It’s nice to feel safe.  I look down.  I have my Yoga mat in one hand and my whistle/compass/thermometer in the other.  I question why I brought the whistle along.  I haven’t brought it out before.  But, for some strange reason, I picked it up before I left the house.  I pass the new construction, I pass the tea shop, I pass the park, and I turn down the street toward the Mystic School of Yoga.  I feel someone behind me.  It’s dark.  The sun isn’t up.  No one’s around.  No lights are on.  I turn around.  There is a man behind me, possibly in his 20s.  I cross the street.  He crosses the street and stays behind me.  My insides go cold.  I slow down to let him pass me by.  He slows down.  I stop.  He walks two steps in front of me and stops.  “Can I help you?  Do you need something?” I loudly ask. My voice full of bravado and courage that my body doesn’t feel.  He looks at me and then looks stupidly ahead.  He’s an egg short of a dozen.  

The road we are walking goes straight. I have to turn right to get to the Mystic School.  He is standing on the right side looking down the road headed toward the school – the school whose lights aren’t on yet.  He just stands and stares.  “Which way are you going?” I ask and I begin to go to the left side of him and pretend to walk straight.  He walks straight.  I cross behind him and turn down the road going right.  He runs up behind me and grabs me, pulling my hips from behind and pulling me to him.  I yell loudly and swing around at him. I push him away.  He backs up a couple of steps.  He stares at me.  I stare at him.  I’m not turning my back non him now; the road is completely dark.  No lights have come on.  My heart pounds so loudly that it’s ringing in my ears.  He stares. I stare.  He charges toward me.  I lift the whistle to my lips and blow.  And blow.  And blow.  He runs off. 

I walk through the gate of the school and go upstairs.  It’s locked.  No one is there.  I sit outside on the balcony and remind myself to breathe.  Another student comes.  We make small talk.  Jai comes and unlocks the door.  I fall into Yoga like it’s the strongest man I’ve ever known.  I tell my practice everything that happened.  And it holds me.  And it comforts me.  And I regain a little of my strength. 


I walk back home.  I tell Charles what happened.  He says, “You should have listened to me.  I told you not to go.  I told you it wasn’t safe.”  And, in that moment, I should have packed my bags and left.  But I didn’t.  I did stay a week.  I did stay weak.

In those hours after that harmless attack, I reconnect with a passion I thought was gone, a passion Charles ignites with his insensitivity.  He says, “Why are you traveling? All I see in you is fear.  I do not think you are courageous.  It hasn’t seemed to be so good.  Maybe you should go home.  I came for learning chanting and meditation and deepening my practice.  Why are you here in India?”

Through hot tears, tears withheld for too long, I let my soul pour out the answer:  “I think our reasons are different for being in India.  I want to be here to see,” I say. “I want to see the Taj Mahal, the building built out of love and passion.  I want to feel the marble under my hands and my feet, feel its vibrations in my body.  I want to go to Bodh Gaya and sit in the spot where Buddha gained enlightenment.  I want to see it, to feel what it feels like there.  I want to see India, to taste it, touch it and know it.” 

And I do.  That’s what I want. 

And I immediately Skype my parents because sometimes only your parents can make you feel better, can make you feel safe.  And, I don’t tell them about the attack because I don’t want them to worry. I turn on my happy face, my “everything is perfect – I am your perfect daughter” face and I talk with them through Cyberspace.  And they tell me I’m beautiful, and that I look happy.  And I listen.

But I stay another week in Mysore.  Not feeling confident.  Not feeling physically well. Not feeling myself.  I even say that out loud one day – just to myself, I say, “I don’t feel myself.” And I turn the phrase over in my mind, looking at it spelled out, and I see it as, “I don’t feel my Self.”  And I think that’s one of the saddest thoughts I’ve ever had.  So, while Charles is out getting a massage, I lie on the living room floor of the house in Mysore, and I just cry because I can’t feel my Self, and I don’t know where my Self has gone or how or when I lost it.  But, I make a promise to find her.  Fast.

And I do.  I learn to take from Charles what I need, when I need it.  And to protect myself from his disconnected actions.  And there are moments in the week with Charles when I experience every past lover I’ve ever had, my first love, my ex-husband, my sweet boyfriends of years gone by.  All my past lovers.  And by the week’s end, they were all shed.  And I was left.

I contact my friend and energetic healer in Charlotte and told her that I was having a rough time and needed some help energetically. In her email back to me, she writes, “Your heart is recreating itself, and it’s a new, softer skin. It’s vulnerable right now.”  And it is.  And I cry when I read her email because I am astounded at what the heart can endure and still be able to recreate itself, to feel enough hope to be born again, and softer at that.

Suddenly, I am ready to go.  I know it’s time to go.  I book a train to Agra but decide to go to Bangalore for a couple of days, because I can no longer stay in Mysore.  I found myself again.  And I know that anyone who says I am not courageous DOES NOT know me.  I can roll my own shoulders back, expand my own chest.  I am strong again.  And, like Charles says, “when you are strong, there is no room for bullshit.”