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The Glimpse





“It’s you who’ll define which I
you think of when you say ‘I’.”
– Ram Dass



September, 1973, San Francisco

At what precise instant my mind slipped from wine and weed induced giddiness into silence, I don’t know.  I only remember existing in a calm like no calm I had ever experienced, present in a way I had never been.  Across the midnight street, a red flashing light spun a crimson circle as it careened round and round.  I seemed to know that the light was stationary, that the spinning perceived was the looping of my own short­-circuited brain.

The knowing I felt was not thinking.  Rather, it was a seeping in of perception akin to red bluing into magenta deepening into purple.  I saw and heard and held all in unwavering atten­tion, as if I were a timeless entity keeping company this parti­cular ripple in eternity and the seeming husk that was my body.  Alone inside the car, in the back seat, my body sat upright at a side rear window, motionless.

Out on the sidewalk, Bill, my then-husband, and the other couple with whom we had been partying, Bobbi and her man at the time, were all standing toward the rear of the car.  I could hear Bobbi’s partner pontificating –in that puffed-up way he had, chin pulled in to deepen his voice– on the likeli­hood of my remain­ing catatonic.  I heard him with the simple detachment I’d feel were he describ­ing the whoosh of his own blood in his veins.  In that moment I simply was… and the rise and fall of tones carry­ing meaning that were his words simply were.  I felt them uttered through stiff lips, sensed the high arch of brows over long-lidded eyes that peered like a magistrate’s down the side of his nose.  I heard –felt– the silence of the others, uneasy, not knowing.  Purple shaded into violet that an accidental overdose might have blown my young mind.  A pale tingeing flowed through and with it a soft, sad regret… and then an airiness filtering anew into seamless calm.

I noted and felt all.  My own stillness.  I was in my body, yet also beside my body in the cave-like dim of the Porsche, and beyond its windows in the cool air of the night.  I was in the words spoken and in the hearing of the words.  As my companions spoke, I was in their midst.  I seemed to be –from some depth in my own being never before known to me– present every­where all at once.

At what point the me that I usually thought of as me reappeared, whether it crept in or broke through in a burst, I never knew.

I had not known then –on the brink of turning 30– that I was on automatic, driven by reactions to past conditioning I had thrust roughly away yet still internalized.  And I was blindly, foolishly ignorant of the nature of Mystery.  Having slammed the door on the oppressive religion of my youth, unwittingly I’d also locked out mysticism, the direct experience of connection to All.  For years the incident floated at the edge of my conscious­ness, unmoored by any conceptual framework by which to reap meaning.  Yet, in a manner unknown to me, it led my life into a hard right.  I left the marriage and had my tubes tied, returned to school and embarked on fierce experimentation:  Who was I?

Not until 15 years later when I had devoured Africa in a rumbling odyssey along its dusty roads and wandered alone all over India in a numinously-directed search that led back to me, did I begin to realize what had happened that night in the back seat of that car.  That through a tear in my own veil of inherited and unconscious illusions I had caught a first glimpse, and tasted the unforgettable, indelible and undeniable presence, of the single shared reality that is our innermost Self.


Change your Mind Change your Brain: The Inner Conditions…


Sacred Listening… Blessed Medicine





“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…”
― Rachel Naomi Remen


Miranda, shut up…
you’ll say something dumb!

Her own voice inside her
knotted with threads
of a fourth grade teacher
Sister Mary Faded White Woman
face a hornet’s nest,
threatening to paddle
the small brown girl
into the floorboards
of St. Charles School.
Why don’t you go back where you came from!?!
Poison words
seeping down, down…
no longer even
a trace of Miranda,
only dust bunnies
along the wooden rails
of hobbled desks.

before the day of her vanishing,
Miranda used to roll an easy tongue
around fluid words as if
they were sun-warmed grapes
. . . revolving . . . purple . . .
her Tía Lucinda beaming
Ay, niña!  You won’t have an accent!

Half a lifetime
and still Miranda cracks
her ringmaster’s whip
of self-rebuke,
bringing her thoughts
like errant sparrows
to earth,
mouthless mud-hens
and prickly.


Young Miranda had not responded to a question she did not hear in the hubbub of the new classroom.  Bewildered by the nun’s rage and the chortling and hooting of bolder students, Miranda froze.  That nun, a harried 5th grade teacher, bristled at the added imposition of having to deal with a tongue-tied 4th grader sent upstairs to her higher-level reading class.

The little girl, at nine, was not yet fully the keen observer she would become –a skill she came by naturally but would hone to hyper-vigilance in the war zone of her home.  For her safety she would eventually master the art of becoming invisible, eyes veiled, body shrouded in so deep a silence she seemed to melt into walls.  When the time of harsh awakening came and in the years that followed, every pore of her skin would wave its antennae.  Plain air –what looked like empty space– would teem with the unmasked desires and intentions, incongruities and fears of those around her.  She would learn to burn into her memory and later into poetry what she had seen and heard and felt, knowing –no matter how vehemently her perceptions would later be disputed– that she could and must trust herself.  Knowing –long before she could articulate it– that in that balance hung her sanity.  The events that would end her childhood were still three years away.  At nine, having been in the U.S. only four years, she was learning she was alien and unwelcome.  In that world, a figure as familiar as a school crossing-guard could open his mouth and slyly let out, “Careful, get hit by a car, all you’ll be is a spot of grease.”  The little girl held her breath and crossed the street in a state of hyper alert.  She did not know what he meant –she had not yet encountered the word “greaser”– but there was no mistaking malice.  Only much later would she marvel that a grown man could speak with such venom to a child.

As a teenager –having sealed within her the rough passage through adolescence– withdrawn Miranda morphed into an angry, combative young woman confronting the strictures of family and religion.  She was never a name-caller, nor a shouter, always drowned out by the bully’s louder voice.  But –at home– she questioned everything with contempt.  She found respite only in solitude.  And for this she became the “designated patient” of her family’s miasma.  As such she was tolerated until the silent mask of defiance she wore at her all-girl Catholic high school merited a threat of expulsion.  Such a shaming was public –unthinkable in a tightly secretive family where what happened at home stayed in the home.  Once a week for months she was taken to see a psychologist at the University of San Francisco.  While retaining no memory of those one-on-one conversations, Miranda did not fail to notice that something in her shifted through the mere act of this quiet man calmly engaging her and actually listening.

Miranda made it through high school, upon graduation fleeing into a secretarial job at an insurance company in Chinatown.  A new world of people, situations and other ways of being opened up for her, whose entire world up-to-then had been the confines of family, dogma and nuns.  Her father had run her mother with such a firm hand that on more than one Christmas Eve Miranda and her three sisters had had to wait in the car while their mother stepped out with the bags of gaily wrapped gifts for her parents, her sisters and brothers, nieces and nephews –all gathered inside amidst the twinkling of Christmas lights.  She was allowed only to drop off their gifts.  Silently their mother got back in the car.  Their father turned the car around and returned home.  No one said a word.  They had all known, from their mother on down, that to set off their father could turn Christmas into a train wreck.

In contrast, at Miranda’s workplace, her boss Harry was a soft-spoken Asian man, unhurried and ever thoughtful.  Judy and her boss Tom were both roly-poly and equally cheery, often laughingly bantering and infecting the others.  From the rating pool, Ed was the irreverent jokester with a bawdy laugh and a manic glee that hinted at the more in his mind that he left unsaid…  And Steven was the­ quintes­sential artist, turning into beauty and delight every painting, every gathering in his picture-perfect apartment, every cup of coffee with its piquant cinnamon hint.  Mariko and Miranda became fast friends, her first true hang-out-and-really-talk friend, not simply one of a clique of classmates where Miranda simply went along.  Mariko was funny and far from quiet, even boisterous in her own sweet way, but having come from a non-competitive family it came natural to her to listen without jumping in and cutting Miranda off.

When Miranda left that job a year and a half later, she left with skills and friends and a shifting sense of herself.  She recalled with almost affection an incident, soon after she had started working there, that at the time had been mortifying.  While on her lunch hour, poking around with Judy in a Chinatown curio shop, Judy had wondered what time it was. Miranda, spying a large ornately carved clock, had begun, “The little hand is on the one…,” and stopped at Judy’s great peal of laughter.  Judy had assumed Miranda was kidding.  Much later Miranda could smile at how naïve and contracted she had been.  Still, many more years would pass before she got over her habit of tiptoeing, as if always treading on dangerous ground.

In subsequent decades Miranda never ceased to carefully shepherd herself… always mindful of stepping back from any edge that, for her, loomed perilous.  Like a deer in headlights, she could freeze in any mega-dose of sensory input.  While she could no longer remember the last time she had splintered –her spirit fleeing her body for safety– the price of being short-circuited by too much noise, information or competing demands remained an instantly draining overwhelm.

She learned to recognize the needs of her brain and to move at its pace.  The pathway to retrieve information is longer, brainwise, for the introvert.  For an extrovert, retrieval is an immediate shot, from experience directly into the visual or auditory senses, so that, with little thought, information is processed almost immediately.  For the introvert the pathway is not direct but tends to go back to where memory is stored and where verbal and thought and problem-solving is settled.  Thus, it can take introverts a bit longer when asked to respond as the brain needs to go back over those pathways.  Miranda learned to sit quietly, allowing space for the fragile bubble of insight rising within her to reach far enough into awareness to trigger words exquisitely matching the vibration of what she was feeling.

With time she became aware that in any situation where there was insufficient listening for her to take the time needed to retrieve what felt most alive in her, she was impacted to hold back, to say less and thus explore less.  This holding back diminished the richness of communication, as it was within spacious, searching dialogues that some of the most deeply shadowed places in her came to light, where inspirations bubbled up, and elusive dots connected.  Without the mirror­ing and cross-pollination that occurred in those sacred listening contexts, such revelations might never occur.  With a jolt, Miranda realized that this “saying less” was not benign but amounted to self-censor­ship.  This felt intolerable at some deeper level –something more that at the time she could not articulate.  Never­­the-less, the mere realization freed her not only to more consciously honor her process and more gratefully embody what she now wholly recognized were her life‑long gifts of inner seeing, sensing and perceiving, but also to become more publicly open in their expression.  Her frequent reminder was the state of awe in which she was so often held.

Eventually it dawned on Miranda why she had been unable to get at the “something more” that lay behind her instinctual rejection of what had suddenly been unmasked as censorship –regardless whether the censorship originated in her or resulted from suppression inherent in any situation where one is not listened to.  She now recognized that the adamant “No more!” that had reared up in her was not simply personal to her.  It was collective.  Within Miranda there was now a living intensity, a force inexorably coming into form, driving a full-hearted deter­mination to bring itself forth, fully formed and in full voice.  And there was no mistaking the rising presence of this power in the world.  Embodied most visibly by women, it is that animating force within us all, male and female, which for thousands of years has been demeaned, derided, suppressed –and which for 300 years was branded “witchcraft” and burned at the stake.  It is humanity’s other wing –without which we are broken– the circularly inclusive, fiercely protective, instinct­ually intuitive power of the Feminine with her inborn affinity to the Earth.  She is the Great Mother Goddess, the bringer of seasons –encompassing all her aspects from life‑giving to death-wielding, from gentle and self-sacrificing to wrathful and avenging in her protection.  World-over, she was visible en masse –collaborative and defiant, joyful and bawdy– in January’s global Women’s March.

Like Miranda, much of the world was grappling with a hard awakening.  The hardened patriarchal mentality was now institutionalized in a cold, faceless corporate order.  In its blinkered and uncompromising winner-take-all race to the bottom, it had sacked our natural world to the brink of depletion.  On its own, this ideology could only destroy and enslave.  No solution could or would arise from the same state of mind that created the mess.  On a social front, America in the era of Trump was more divided than at any other time in Miranda’s life.  The racism that had long simmered beneath the surface was now boiling over.  The complicated “blessing” in the spectacle of white supremacists with burning torches and Nazi slogans filling our streets was that Americans in their homogeneous bubbles were at last waking up.

Miranda felt the enormity and turbulence of our challenging journey but saw that whether humanity had one month, one year or a century to restore its lost balance, the work to be done was the same –to drop down into our hearts as we reach across to each other with courage and vulnerability and generosity of spirit.  And to deeply listen.  As if by some magic, listening… and being listened to… heals.


These themes of love, courage, generosity and passionate expression of our essential self in service to our greater healing are richly depicted in the symbolism of today’s Solar Eclipse across America.  Eclipses dislodge the old and usher in the emergent.  We are in an alchemical moment… for ourselves… for Earth and all her beings… and for the gifts of innovation and wisdom for which our world thirsts.


The Sacred Power of Listening

Walking Across America: Advice for a Young Man

Ode to a Lover





Poetry, you are my lover.
You are the ear into which
I pour all I must say,
the listener who will not
turn away but probes
beneath layers to the quick
of my meaning.  You are
the sensualist who chocolates
my tongue, who holds to my nose
crushed leaves of bay laurel,
who snakes into my mouth,
my nipples, my belly,
rooting in the clay of my body
the flickerings of my mind.

Poetry, you are my soulmate.
You dive with me into sorrow,
pump air through fathoms
of hose as I plumb
my confusions, strap me
into the garb of the warrior
to battle my demons.
You pass the talking stick
between rivals clamoring
at my core, lift lanterns
into the murky corners
of my rage, exhort
me to look upon horror
with unflinching eyes
and dare to name what I see.

Poetry, you are my shaman.
Yours the way of the changeling,
you beckon me along the path
of the Others, to feel the hoof
and pad against rasp of the
stone, sinewy ripple of belly
through sage, blistered heel
beneath the chafe of the strap.
You wake me long before dawn,
gaze as if into an oracle
as I chip again and again
at the serpentine of my words,
whisper that beneath the chisel
I too am nearing bloom.

Lisa Dollar © 1997


Curiosity and the Cat




Like a tornado, with its endless supply of material sucked up as it moves along, my curiosity feeds on all in its path.  Every info bit that enters spools to another bit and then another, each interrelating and expanding all the others.  And it never stops.

Every radio show discussion –say, on the effects on the brain of electromagnetic radiation– brings with it some new concept not fully clear to me that needs googling.  This in turn diverges into brain maximization, supplements for brain health, the brain and meditation, and so on.  There are, of course, whole other streams:  differing magnetic frequencies, safer and less safe devices, products for blocking radiation, and on and on.  Every morning, my radio brims with well-researched, informative discussions.  They all prod me to better understand –and keep me searching online.  Always being led forward, with always more to ponder, and always the ever-increasing sense of never catching up…

That level of curiosity was useful for the 14 years I operated the Lysistrata Project.  My online portal for educational resources spanned a wide range of interests from activism to simple living –highlighting the contributions of women.  It began in 2002 –focused then on the roots and the end of war– in the wake of the planes attacking the World Trade Center and the utterly incompre­hensible retaliatory bombing of Afghanistan.  Why dirt-poor Afghanistan when all the hijackers were nationals of oil-rich Saudi Arabia?  Paddling fast through the white-water conver­gence of multinationals vying for their share of the Caspian Sea and its rich deposits of oil and natural gas, I was driven to get at the why.

During those years I had also been teaching at City College of San Francisco, teaching English to speakers of other languages –a population and a work that was entwined with my heart.  Then my feet began revolting at standing so long, and in 2010 I retired.  The Lysistrata Project bustled on.  Once the realization hit, four years later, that endless hours sitting at the computer were taking a toll on my body, I stopped maintaining the site.  Much more difficult would be giving up what had become an obsession –excavating what was hidden, and hauling it up into full view.  This remained an always-on mental scanning for the meaning behind appearances, for how disparate pieces emerging into view clarify into patterns, and to what they all lead.

Indeed, to what they all lead…  I’m only now coming to see that in the seven years since leaving CCSF and my work with immigrants, I’ve been sampling options, trying to find a new way of contributing that –now more than ever– feeds my heart.  But it did not work for me to choose just one.  In the last two years I’ve been homing in on the up‑to-three elements I can weave together in ways that move me enough, intrigue me enough, and draw from within me enough to become the single devotion.  The essence at the center of this dance is the love with which Earth nurtures us and teaches us, heals us, and ultimately speaks through us.

~ * ~

Three a.m., I come awake to the images, already fraying, of a dream.  I lie still, hanging on to the dream’s final impression.  I’m telling someone –I can hear my own voice– “she needs to feel it’s safe to be herself,” about the tiny black and white kitten in the dream, hiding beneath a chest of drawers.  That fragment is all that’s left of the dream.  I remain still, an empty screen for the real-world association that will follow.  Moments later, tenderness sweeps through me for the sweet animal that is my body… and then the insight:  with all the empathy I possess, attend now to the healing of this creature.  And neither hurry, nor demand more from my weakened muscles and bones than they, at their own pace, have the strength to give.

I take in the message, intending to go back to sleep, but my mind is already moving words around, crafting the perfect opening sentence for a piece I’m writing.  Not wanting to disrupt my circadian rhythm by turning on a reading lamp, I fumble in the dark for paper, pencil, and a tiny low-level booklight.  I sink down onto my favorite rug, brought back thirty years ago from Oaxaca, and in child-pose begin putting down the words coming to me.

At some inner prompting, I turn my head to find Pahti, my feline housemate, who seven years ago accompanied me home from San Miguel de Allende.  Imperceptibly, she has sidled up next to me where she plumped down like a small Buddha, front paws tucked in.  When our eyes meet, she greets me with a soft sound in her throat.  I respond in kind.  She slips her gaze past me and beyond the sliding glass door to our wild patch of a garden, still cloaked in darkness.  She’s asking for nothing, and I return to my page.  But memory draws me back to when Pahti first arrived here, bewildered from a long flight in a cargo hold, the bustle through two airports, and a midnight car ride to an unfamiliar place.  For several days all she wanted was to hide.  And for several days I cooed to her, inviting her out of the crevice beneath the kitchen sink by reaching in to stroke her with the long wing feather of a hawk. Whenever she came out of hiding I curled my body around her, slowly raking my fingernails back along the top of her head until her body softened and her eyes closed in surrender.

I had returned three weeks early from my half-year in Mexico to avoid flying with Pahti during the added delays of winter holiday travel –and to give her time to feel safe before I returned to work.  Our slow time together was the medicine Pahti needed.  At 15 months old, she began the kittenhood she had never had, halted before she was four months by an injury that broke her left leg and allowed the dislocated hip joint to deform.  The pain from that unresolved injury left her hiding inside a clay urn in a cat rescue in San Miguel.  I worked with her several weeks once I began volunteering.  It soon became obvious to me she would never be adopted without corrective surgery –and so I gave that to her.  It was not my plan to adopt her as I would be returning to San Francisco to finish up my last working semester, then packing up and returning to retire in San Miguel.  But painfully-shy Pahti had come to trust me.  My heart, ignoring reason, whispered to me to care enough… whispered that what I instinc­tively am and have to give was everything that she needed.

I’ll never know who might have won had not a Ferocious Mother intervened.  At day’s end, on the freeway back to San Miguel from Queretaro after Pahti’s surgery, the inconceivable happened.  The painkiller wore off and Pahti erupted into a savage –wild-eyed from the pain of the metal rod jammed up her leg bone.  Within the wooden carrier I held tight on my knees, she thrashed against its walls.  Gnashing at its wire mesh, she broke her front teeth.  Somewhere in the roaring blur of that hellish race to San Miguel, in the dark interior of that car’s back seat, Pahti’s agony and my horror fused.  Somehow, in some way, something exploded.  Physically, I could have, for all I know, volcanoed, fang and claw, into a grizzly.  But no matter…  Inside me, unleashed, was a raging Mother Bear.  Every cell reconstituted to one purpose, defending my cub.  Without thought, in that instant I knew no one would ever again stand between me and this child.

When the time came to leave, we were together.  In her new safe and quiet home in San Francisco, Pahti blossomed, with a curiosity I abetted no matter how many times she sent the pencil holder flying off my desk.  Everything was new for her and an adventure.  The fridge –or any cabinet, drawer or box– could never be opened without her hopping inside.  Just like me, seven years it took Pahti to have her fill, to settle in among the warm clumps of grass in her own backyard –no longer scanning for every tiny hole in our fence for the more that lies beyond.

~ * ~

When rosy-tinged light begins filtering in, I sit up on the floor to watch the ritual of dawn.  Outside, starting from the highest tip of the 90-foot Monterey pines, the rays of the rising sun begin slowly brushing the trees in amber.  That slow descent down the craggy bark of their trunks, imbuing their branches and dark green needles with honeyed radiance, is liquid poetry.  With the neighbor­hood Lark trilling his exuberant song an end is signaled to the quiet pursuits of the dark.  Another new and full day is beginning… and I too rise.

But I startle myself.  My hand hesitates over the power-on button that opens the floodgates to KPFA and DemocracyNow!, to Rising Up with Sonali and Letters and Politics –the swarm of in‑depth dialogues that normally accom­panies me as I move through my morning stretches, Tai Chi, shower and breakfast.  A vague unease ruffles me… a mixture of tugs… a head hunger to follow up on yesterday’s news, a quiet body urge to be out walking among trees and geese at Stow Lake, and in my gut a twist of guilt.  All the more in these times with our government verging on fascism I feel pulled to keep up with the threats to our planet’s health, to people’s health and our freedom from surveillance.  But I back away from the radio, from assaults to the well-being of workers and voters, immigrants and all who are marginalized, assaults to true education, net neutrality, and a free press –all the mayhem brought on by entrenched corruption and magnified by the chief predator in the White House.  I turn away –today– and instead slide open the door to the garden.  Pahti leading the way, we step out into the morning symphony of birds.

Fountain of Dreams

Starry sky through trees

“With the wild nature as ally and teacher we see not through two eyes but through the many eyes of intuition. With intuition we are like the starry night, we gaze at the world through a thousand eyes. The wild woman is fluent in the language of dreams, images, passion, and poetry.”

–Clarissa Pinkola Estes


Deep in the forest in a sinewy Oak bridging Earth and Sky, there once lived a woman who was a fountain of dreams.  Often the dreams shook her awake in the middle of the night, sweeping her along their torrent of images, in eddies whispering slippery messages.  Su‑Enya did her best to cradle these dreams, to hold close their riddles even as their edges were fraying and sleep was again overtaking her.

Other times –and for this Su-Enya was most grateful– the dreams waited till just nearing dawn.  When this occurred she remained still, nestled within feather quilts, eyes closed and all her awareness inward upon the dream.  With her finger tips she added gentle pressure to the crystal still pressed, as it had been all night, to her breastbone.  With this minute addition of pressure, a subtle melting sensation of her heart blossomed into timeless space.  In this stillness, dream images hung suspended, allowing Su-Enya to enter their energies.  Within her, impressions crystallized, the dreams’ revelations as nuanced as the intricacy of snowflakes.  Once received, these living messages swept down through her, down the roots of the Oak, out the far-reaching networks of root and of fungus, filtering into earth, into water and air, carrying the healing where needed.  Morphing for each dreamer into personalized stories, the dreams circled back often in return visitations, as the world of humans was tearing apart from its own sad forgetting…

Exploring alone in a wasteland a woman entered a deserted town.  Wandering about the empty streets and sun-bleached structures, she caught a glimpse, as if in a reflection, of a barefoot boy and his dog.  Gazing at her they stood silent between two buildings.  She blinked, and they were gone.  Startled, she lurched forward, checked around the two storefronts, up and down and along the ground.  No trace existed.  Yet she knew deep within her that they were present, as real in the heat shimmer where they had stood as in the wood of the structures.  That they were there but no longer visible to her left her suddenly lonely.  She sensed them in the very building where she stood, and she ached to see them again.  A quiet desperation urged her to hack at the wood with the machete that now appeared, dangling from her hand.  The woman recoiled at the thought, feeling with her heart that to hack at the wood was to hack at them.  She sank down onto the weathered boards of the porch and, with the tips of her fingers, began gently brushing away layers of dry woody matter…  And there, within and inseparable from the wood, gazing back at her were the luminous eyes and downy cheeks of the living boy…

With deep care Su-Enya midwifed the mission of these dreams.  As if standing unseen among dreamers, she experienced and saw, in their beds, a number of humans sighed in their sleep, their slumber undisturbed, and later awakened with no memory of the boy and his dog.  Yet, through­out the day and for no special reason, these humans found a corner of their lips lifting in a half-smile… with a sense of having been visited… and a velvety wondering planted inside.  Others awoke as the dream was humming within them, the boy gazing into their soul.  Some vague yearning within them pulled on their tears, a tenderness that flowed out from them into their world.  Each would in some way touch her heart or lovingly cross her arms over her chest, as if holding close an adored child.  Within Su-Enya also, something sad and tender was stirring… if only all children were held with such love…

In a counselor’s office a young woman sat confiding, sad and resigned, as if she had long failed at her attempt to become what she longed to be.  In her mind what was wrong with her, the physical condition that made her unacceptable to herself, was that her skin was merely human skin –not what the voice in her head dictated it ought to be, a skin made of plastic.  The counselor ached with sorrow for this young woman consumed with a notion so inconceiv­able that she seemed beyond help…  Time passed…  A colleague was telling the counselor that the young woman had died.  In that instant, into the counselor’s inner seeing floated an image of the woman’s forearm, her skin angry red around what looked like a graft she had stitched into the flesh of her inner arm –a filmy grey rectangle of plastic…

Su-Enya remained curled a long time around this deep human wounding.  Feeling in her own body the suffocating void.  Being the body of a small girl, eyes shut tight beneath the blanket pulled over her head.  Knees pulled into her chest, arms scrunched tight.  So tight no breath left or entered.  Only, from the next room, entering in sharp jabs came the slurred, stumbling accusa­tions of Papá, drowning out the soft, sobbing shudders of Mami, pleading no, Papi, no…no, Papiiiii…  Every tear and tremble vivid to Su‑Enya in this waking twilight between shadowy Below and the daylight glare of mind.  The Below –that fathomless, fertile realm holding all that lies stunted and banished, forgotten and not-yet-discovered– is the dark womb of dreams.  Behind closed eyes Su‑Enya lived again the tight shallow breath… the furtive vigilance of the child, standing back inside her own body, in shadow peering out at the world through the peepholes of her own eyes… again saw the dark spots in the deep of her lungs where breath too tightly held had never reached…  Su‑Enya long accompanied the desolation of that hollow child.

Allowing the veils to clear from her inner sight, Su-Enya refocused and waded into the core of human struggle.  Telescoping millennia into a past of brutality and bloody clashes then forward to present chaos, she saw that too many humans remained cloven by a clock­work view of reality shorn of the subtle mystery reaching out to them and of their sacred bond with the beasts, the trees and the waters who are their allies.  Adrift and blind to the primal dance of strength and of love –echoed in every give and take of the web of life– they knew only the warrior contest of the material world, of acquiring, amassing and besting, no matter the cost.  This forget­ting had long been strain­ing the web’s most vulnerable strands.  As if in the cells of her own body, she saw and felt the teetering of Earth’s natural balance –and in that weakness opportun­istic elements spawning in the form of mutating­ viruses.  These hybrids of natural and human-made organisms were unlike anything ever seen.  They replicated within humans, driving a hurry sickness that fed on the very voraciousness it created.  It enslaved those it infected, driving them to double their efforts, to get more in a bid to be more.  Every coveted acquisi­tion demanded more.  Many humans withered within, worn out in pursuit of a prize ever just out of reach, yet driven to outrun the shame that no matter how hard they strove, their efforts were not enough.  They were not enough and might never truly be loved… might never belong.   But the hurry sickness allowed no time for question­ing, no time to listen to the faint voice inside.

Under cover of night a father bundled two sleeping toddlers into the back seat of a car, its engine running.  A few yards up a dirt slope stood the small house of his estranged wife.  Just as he closed the car door behind the children, his wife appeared at her door, face pale, mouth open in a mute cry of despair.  Jumping behind the steering wheel he threw the car in reverse and sped down the hill.  In his torment he failed to see he was about to crash backwards into a guard fence of heavy logs.  The car sailed through the fence as if through mere fog… and vanished…  Time plunges and careens forward…  An ancient city, a stone fortress at the summit of a hill, bathes in twilight.  A narrow stone-paved street winds upward between high stone walls.  People, many of them wearing turbans, quietly huddle in small clusters, bedding down for the night at the base of the walls.  Displaced people, grown resigned to their unrooted lives.  Among them is the car with the father and children.  Farther up the hill, alongside the same wall, a woman stands on the running board of her car, looking around one last time before settling in for the night.  It is the mother, who has long been in search of her lost babies.  As she surveys the groups of people down below, she spies her husband’s car, now open-topped!  In that moment she sees her first child, her precious daughter, nearing adolescence and with furtive eyes glancing around.  The mother, yearning with all her heart to be reunited with her children, knows the crucialness of the moment.  An impetuous act on her part could jolt the father, spook him into flight, and once more all would be lost.  She sinks down into her car, now also open-topped.  Out of sight, she stretches one arm up, holding aloft an old, favorite toy of her little ones, a stuffed mother bear, apron faded, her once-plushy body worn almost smooth by rough love.  Heart pounding in her chest, she remains holding up for her daughter to see… this touchstone of home and of love…

Cradled by the tender ferocity of such love, Su-Enya lets herself sink into the mystery of this dream, the loss and the fullness of love of this mother aching for her children.  So deep the well of her longing, so light the soul that has surrendered all to regain them…

A theater stage stands dark and empty save for a moonlight mantle of cobalt blue light.  From off-stage a barefoot girl of about 12 wanders in, dressed in T-shirt and cropped tights.  At stage center, she turns and faces into the audience.  As if home alone in her room, in one single flow of motion she sinks to the ground, legs folding in front of her, arms falling loose at her sides.  One slow breath in, a longer breath out…  and she closes her eyes.  A pause lengthens in silence…  Without the girl uttering a sound, her hands, which had been resting palms up on the floor, begin floating upward as if tracing an oval that encloses her.  Offstage and unseen, the poet/playwright, speaking the girl’s part, begins voicing a poem based on the poet’s life.  Out of nowhere an old doubt arises in the mind of the poet who now falters, forgets who she is.  She crumples into the small unrooted girl she once was, shrinking from voices inside her head demand­ing a mute, muzzled version of her, unable to breathe.  The pounding of her heart grows so loud in her ears that it wakes her… What? wakes me…? is this… a dream…?  Or so wonders the poet, who then stops…  She drops her awareness deep into her body, feeling her belly distend, feeling the thrum of her genitals, her sinewy legs, her feet, her root into ground.  A loop of vibration snakes up through her and down again, coursing deep into Earth and return­ing.  She feels her body mountain-vast and unshakeable.  As real as granite.  Her eyes widen as realiza­tion dawns, she is asleep and still dreaming… and in her own dream she is awake!

In sleep, Su-Enya’s body stirs…  As if dodging a blow, she winces –still held in sleep– as her ears fill with a shrill metallic whine…  A crowded, rush-hour train is streaking through the black of a tunnel beneath a city.  Passengers, emptied by tiredness, are oblivious to the high-speed scream of steel against steel rail and the headlong careen of speed.  Sitting or standing, they stare into devices they grip in their hands, as if from small screens they could draw their life current.  In their midst, unseen, as if secluded in a bubble of silence, a large green cobra is standing erect, calmly present, with hood fanned wide.  Slightly above and behind the serpent’s head, a woman’s hands hover, as if warming over a fire.

Su-Enya jolts from sleep, breath shallow and hard.  Body shaken with each pounding beat of her heart.  Gravity and joy dance in her ancient bones.  Now she is certain!  The balance of power has shifted!  In the visible human world, for now, chaos remains –the tide of remembering seem­ingly slow in massing.  But at its depths the billow­ing swell is already unstoppable.  For this moment Su-Enya has lived number­less lives.  She closes her hand around the venerable, plum-dark crystal, still at her breast.  The love that she feels holds their long history.  From the first crossing of their paths when the crystal called out to Su‑Enya and accompanied her home, its teaching began.  At first, in subtle openings of perception, seeing every tree, every spider and stone, every drop of dew glowing from within.  Later, in inner flashes of white-hot light, roiling blackness and the bubbling brilliance of liquid fire.  Later still, in bodily sensa­tions her cells inexplicably remem­bered of thunder­ous crushing pressure… of straining and thrusting into tremulous form… of the hissing fires, toxic vapors, relentless rains and cooling crust integrating into one living Earth.  Out of that furnace, that shifting, that endless procession of time the crystal took form, its pristine geometry carrying and transmitting that eternal spiraling dance of the One expressing as infinities.  All of Creation the trailing veils of Her ecstasy…

Enfolded within the familiar rustle and creak of the massive Oak in whose lightning-struck belly she makes her home, Su-Enya rolls in the dark from her sleeping mat onto plaited reeds.  Folding her legs beneath her, she sits before her altar, laid out at her knees on a cloth.  By touch she finds the edges of the cloth and its center.  Here she lays the crystal.  She reaches for the clam shell and lifts its top, warm from the ember smolder­ing within tinder moss.  Bending close, she blows gently and a pinprick of fire glows.  She inserts a dried blade of grass, then touches its small flame to the oil-plump wick of a small earthen lamp.  A golden glow anoints the altar with its ancient volcanic-stone Goddess, its relics of loved ones long in the realm of invisibles.  A fang and claw, long red tail feathers of guacamayo, photographs yellowed and blurred.  At a soft skittering sound she tips her bowed head sideways and gazes into the flame-lit eyes of the salamander watching her.  In the space between them vibrates tender and indelible memory…

She turns once more to her offering.  Over the flame she holds a stick of Palo Santo, its aromatic resin flaring, the flame casting about her dancing shapes.  From the Palo Santo now wedged in the cleft of a stone, a slender plume of white smoke rises erect, then begins its slow spiral drift.  All forms of contain­ment dissolve, the mighty Oak seen for the swirl of stardust it is.  Now, all is vastness filled with the pungence of primeval forest.  Above her, violet pearl sky glitters with stars.  Su-Enya’s skin, a mere film of light, prickles with the sudden felt presence of the Others.  Now here, with her, pulses every conceiv­able ancestor, every speck and form and element from aeons of beginning when all beings spoke the inner language, all an intermingling One.  Such was the rich reality for us all… and so for all time it remains in the Heart, where there can be no forgetting.








Two millennia ago as the great teacher was born,
we stood drinking in the night sky,
pulsing along with the star heralding his birth.
I was here!

A mere sapling then, I reveled in the changing of seasons,
adding my sibilant voice to the wind,
tasting the snow.
I was here!

Long I have stood silent,
watched you, like any child, stumble,
rasp your knees in the dirt
and struggle again to your feet.
I, like any grandmother, have let you fall
to taste the grit of the earth,
then, in my fullness, filled your lungs
with the gift of my breath.

You’ve grown powerful, child,
too powerful to remember,
drunken with the swarming blood of the conquest,
iron fists gashing rivers of weeping,
tattering the warming cloak of the mother.

Child, it is time to remember…
to drink at the well of our kinship.
Your sister calls to you in the chortle of stream.
Your brother awaits you in the lantern glow
of leaves steeped in sun.
Come, child.  Come.  Come.

Have you forgotten your way to me, child?
Take the road to the headwaters, redwoods
wreathed in living ribbons of memory.
Here, beleaguered by the baying of tractors and chainsaws,
here, cornered with the last of the ancient ones,
here I stand –still!
I, who lifted my voice that long ago night to the star,
I am here!

©1996 Lisa Dollar


LUNA The Stafford Giant redwood tree

or try this link

Escape, 1945




Drenched in sweat, Ronaldo lay like a corpse in his shallow grave, eyes shut tight against his own salt sting.  His lungs screamed to suck in oxygen in great dragging mouthfuls, but he dared not breathe.  He steeled himself against the ants that chewed at the cuts on his arms.  Nausea swept through him as an unseen crawler dropped out of the palm fronds pressed to his face and scurried across his mouth and down his neck.  He struggled to focus past the pounding of his heart, intent on the chop and hack of the blade.  Just feet away one of the guardias searching for him swung a machete through the clumped palmera and the dangling ropes of woody liana.

Twice before, they had come tramping through the undergrowth, chopping through thickets, shooting at the least rustle, driven with bloodlust to avenge their comrade.  In the Managua cantina where Ronaldo had first encountered the man, hostility bristled between them.  Barely contained, it erupted when the whiskey they had swallowed caught fire.  Ronaldo hadn’t even seen the guardia reach for his pistol, only heard him cock it.  In a single motion Ronaldo had pulled his own gun and fired.  He hadn’t stopped to look at the guardia, saw only that the bullet meant for himself had ripped open his cousin’s chest.  Before the guardia’s body had crumpled to the floor, Ronaldo ducked out the back door and vanished.

Now, in the grave he had dug for himself, he waited.

Exhaustion numbing his body, Ronaldo lay still long after the boots and the voices receded.  In their wake the air thickened with the whistle of the yiguirro, the bare-toothed shrieking of monos, the chatter and screech of the jungle.  When the crickets signaled the coming of night he lifted the fronds that shrouded him and rolled out of the hollow that cradled him.  He pushed himself to his feet.  His head swam and he toppled to one knee, then sank to the ground.

He knew in his bones he would not see the men again, that the heat of the search led back to Managua.  South.  South to all that was his life.  He would not see Managua again, the rolling finca that was his family home, the landed privilege he knew.  A wife just twenty-one, two infant girls he carried in his sombrero, tucked before him on the saddle.  To lose all for that haughty mare he had refused to give up at the guardia’s demand!  He gripped his head in his hands as if to stop an explosion.  Useless to think if he had known what she’d bring, he himself would have put a gun to her head.  But if not the coveted mare, soon enough something else.  Somosa’s cabrones could take what they wanted.

Rage and despair erupted in a sob and his head snapped up.  He glanced around as if eyes might have witnessed his weakness.  Shame yanked my father to his feet.  ¡Soy hombre!, he hissed through clenched jaw.  He walked a few paces fumbling with his fly, urinated while peering through shadows at the dangling seed pods of guava.  They would quiet his stomach till morning.  Honduras lay to the north.


In Longing and In Loss






We smooth out yellowing documents: birth certificates; the Nicaraguan passports that brought us to this country that October of ‘49, Mom a dewy red-lipped girl, Pop exiled and stormy, my sister and I just 6 and 5; the Certificate of Naturalization that in ‘56 proclaimed us U.S. citizens.  As Mom fills out her new application, I watch her hand scrawl hesitantly, weighed down by fear of Pop’s blowup when the time comes to tell him.  “Mimi, we are only getting you a passport… just in case,” I remind her.  “If travel to Bosnia becomes possible, we’ll need to be ready.”

In this rare sliver of opportunity, her determination has won out over fear of Pop’s explosions and toxic silences.  She’s carrying a prophetic urgency that time is running out –spurred by the specter that, one month ago, watchfully stood by as she climbed trembling out of her accordioned Mustang.  After tumbling down an embankment and twice rolling over, it had plowed into a concrete retainer.  Only a miracle, she said, could have spared her life.  Now, her pressing mortality adds one more voice to the inner clamor always tugging at her.  Despite Pop’s prohibition, her long dreamed-of pilgrimage to Medjugorje cannot be put off any longer.

Feeling Mom’s suspension between life and death swirls me into a moment one year before, another glimpse of Death waiting.  Scott, 46, lay in a hospital bed, his tall lanky frame withered by a liver that had spent itself.  The interminable days of repeated medical assaults on his frail body mounted while awaiting a donor.  That same day, August 24th, 1990, Mom was celebrating her 66th birthday, and I was bursting with excitement that in mere days I’d be flying off to Kazakhstan for a peace march to the nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk.  I would miss being here when my Sweetie got his new liver, but we both felt sure I had to go.

That morning I’d dashed from florist to florist looking for the perfect flowers to delight Scott and to celebrate Mom’s birthday.  The only blooms special enough for either one of them were some miniature blue-violet gladioli, so intense your heart stopped, with edges delicately ruffled and brushed a pearly cream.  But only three stems.  Undecided who would be their recipient, I eased my trusty VW into traffic and knew when the time came I’d make the right choice.  Minutes later, watching Mom’s eyes as she held the gladioli, their exquisite beauty opening in her an inexpressible longing, I knew they had been meant for her.

From Mom’s garden we snipped pink roses for Scott, large loose-petalled earthy roses, as voluptuous as a ripe woman looking you in the eye and parting one leg just so.  Their rich perfume filled his small hospital room.  With bony hands he reached for them.  Clutching them to his face, his body shook with wrenching sobs for the country garden he would never have.


India 1987: In Search of Jesus




“A ripe tree bears ripe fruit, and an unripe tree
bears unripe fruit.”



1987 had begun with an ineffable sense of yearning, a stirring of the heart for something as yet unknown, that as it continued became almost exquisitely distressing.  This longing to wholly merge with –akin to the excruciatingly sublime physical need to merge with a lover– wanted no other, however, wanted no external object. Originating deep within some recess of my heart, the yearning was for union with something within me seemingly located even deeper yet.

At the time I had no spiritual framework for comprehending what I was experiencing.  The glowing heart and self-less love I have always felt in the quiet company of animals and the natural world brings a gentle bliss that is utterly complete.  Feeling that love-bliss, that intuitive intimate connection, was priceless to me –yet something I saw as merely personal, just how I am.

The yearning that came alive in me in ‘87 was a gradual opening into awareness of an essential Existence in me previously unrecognized.  In time –out of the movement of my mind to comprehend my own life journey– arose the question, Who was Jesus?  Who was he, really?

Decades before, on graduating from high school, I had turned my back on what had been an oppressive religious education.  Nowhere in my 14 years of Catholic schooling, based as mine had been in the strict inculcation of belief, had there been, for me, even a simple foray into the unfathomable mystery that is Spirit and the stirrings of soul.  Endlessly repeated Q&A drills concerning faith and temptation, sin and hell, the self-sacrifice of martyred saints and the infallibility of the pope –of that, plenty.  There were glimpses –an indelibly-etched Christmas Candle Lighting procession– when exquisite music, our own girlish voices singing, and the heavy richness of incense caught my heart and filled me with tears.  But of open unscripted talk, genuine exploration of the numinous in the everyday, there was none.  Ever.

Most of what I’d been taught simply had no resonance for me.  And, having wholly dismissed the official patriarchal notion of Jesus as the “only begotten son of god” –born of a virgin-birth, who, as the earthly incarnation of a god-trinity that included father, son but no mother, had died for our sins– I had no recourse but to close that door.  I had not dismissed Jesus; I simply had not known how to think about him.  So I had walked away, into a life that was staunchly ethical but ignorant of an as-yet-unawakened part of myself that inadvertently had been discarded along with religion.

In ’87 my whole life going forward seemed to hinge on knowing:  Who was Jesus?  Who was this figure who, in spite of all the disinformation spun about him and the atrocities committed in his name, had left my own heart stamped with an impression of unconditional compassion and of a timeless and revolutionary truth both misunderstood and deliberately distorted?

So it was that in a moment of straining to pierce that cacophonous veil of ignorance, words came from within me so clear, so vivid and so unexpected that they could not have been mine: “Go to India and go alone for on the road you will find what you seek”.  With the words came an inner push to make it so and the familiar thrill that I would soon be on the road again.  Immediately I began preparing.  Then fear gripped me –what if something unbearable happened and I alone so far from home?  And I turned my attention to seeking someone who might journey with me.  A chance meeting led me to a spiritual community in Nevada City which makes annual pilgrimages to India.  Hanging out with them one weekend to get a sense of their dynamics, I paged through an album of photos.  Warmth smiled up from group images.  One from a series on a bus snapped into crystalline focus one facet of their experience: the happy faces of two women, their gazes clear and open before the camera, name tags pinned to their blouses, and to one side the large sealed window that spoke of first-class hired coach and air conditioning.  Instantly I knew this orderly and safe containment from the raw experience was not what I sought from my encounter with India.

On returning home to San Francisco, still daunted yet determined to go alone, I wrote a letter to Sai Baba, a revered holy man in southern India with whom a friend had been acquainting me.  In hopes that I might go see him and bring her back some of his Vibhuti, the ash that he materializes from his bare hands, she had invited me to accompany her to local gatherings of his devotees.  These experiences of devotional chanting, the hypnotic call and response wedded to the soulful strains of a simple harmonium, the ecstatic sway of my own body cross-legged on the floor, had unexpectedly swelled my heart with profound joy.  Though I knew little about Sai Baba I promptly wrote him that I was coming to see him, that I was afraid and feeling vulnerable and seeking his protection.  I had no idea if he understood English and certainly no expectation that even should my letter reach him that he’d respond.  Nevertheless, off I sent it, needing somehow to make my yearning visible before the Universe.

Several mornings later I walked the edge of the Pacific, a daily morning romp for my dog Luke who ran circles ‘round me chasing his beloved tennis ball.  Up ahead seagulls wheeled and called, then settled, feeding on the body of a tawny shark that had washed up on the beach.  I skirted them widely as I passed so as not to disturb, thinking to check out the shark on my way back.  As I approached on my return the gulls lifted into the air, exposing the shark with the side of its face, the gills, all eaten away.  Never before having seen a shark so close, and wary of actually touching it, I reached for a stick of driftwood.  I gave just a gentle poke to its taut leathery skin.  Instantly the shark was thrashing!  Horror engulfed me.  Deep mindless anguish, both that this creature was being slowly eaten alive and that I had no way of helping it or ending its misery.

And out of this crescendo of repulsion and helplessness came a clear voice:  “Walk away.  The gulls’ work is nearly done.”  Immediately a wave of peace descended through me, and as if mesmerized I resumed walking.  From a short distance away I turned slowly, still held in a kind of trance, to look back.  The seagulls like a cloud had already settled again on the shark.  And I knew with my whole being that its ordeal was passing.  In that moment also, certainty flooded me that whatever presented itself in India I would not be alone and I would cope.  And more, without knowing or needing to know the how of the Mystery, I knew that the plea of my heart inscribed in a letter had been noted and here was the guidance I sought.

Lisa_Ganeshpuri_1987On October 4th I arrived in Bombay, now Mumbai, and from the airport took the two-hour taxi ride north to Ganeshpuri, Muktananda’s old ashram.  Thousands of devotees from all over the globe had gathered for the fifth anniversary of his mahasamadhi, the leaving of his body.  The occasion coincided with a full moon (and a portentous lunar eclipse) bathing in silvery light the fragrant tropical grounds of the ashram with its splendid gilded shrines, marble pavilions and the serenely beautiful main temple always open for meditation.  The feeling was magical… I felt transported into another dimension and blessed to my core.

To accommodate the large number of visitors, Westerners were housed in the conventional buildings of the ashram, likely dormitory-style, though of that I retain no impression.  For Indian devotees, a mammoth inter-connected tent encampment, sprawling and curving in on itself (or so it seems to me now as I recall it) had been erected on the grounds of the ashram.  It seemed to go on and on, connected and flowing, its warren of carpeted paths canopied with heavy woven cloth.  Family groups squatted and reclined in loose-draped alcoves, talking and tending their cooking fires.  All that I saw and felt on my walks in this pulsing community, the sensation of my steps on the rugs, the voices, the rounded sounds of languages I did not understand and the quiet laughter, the aromas, the soft eyes of those I passed, are a treasured kaleidoscope of seen and felt colors held within an unforgettable sense of heart-full unattached belonging.

“Belonging” in the sense of being one more anonymous and accepted pilgrim.  And a very loose sense of “pilgrim” as I had not known Muktananda and felt no connection to Gurumayi, his successor.  She was/is head of the Siddha Yoga organization, founded by Muktananda, whose Oakland, California ashram I had very briefly attended.  An intoxicating weekend of devotional chanting in Oakland had touched my heart and beckoned me to attend the celebration in Ganeshpuri –a serendipitous invitation to India.  I had planned to stay at Ganeshpuri a week –a sheltered time, I thought, of acclimating to the intensity of India.  However, the slow-moving, deeply relational soulfulness of India I found among these pilgrims had already enchanted me.

It was the time-pressured, get-it-done intensity of the West that ultimately prodded me to move on –specifically, the disrespectful shooing away of Indian women in the temple by officious Westerners in saris intent on sweeping the temple in the middle of the night… the Indian women lifting off like a many-colored flock of birds, settling down together some distance away only to be yet again shooed away.  By the fifth day, departure details were complete.  Following breakfast the next morning I boarded a bus with my backpack and Lonely Planet guide –and entered the wide meandering river that is India.

I had no itinerary –Ganeshpuri had been the only booked accommodation of my seven week trip.  With Sai Baba on my mind I headed back to Bombay to arrange transportation to Bangalore.  During the two days I was in Bombay I made connections with lovely people I would see again.  Some were extended family members of an Indian acquaintance from home for whom I was delivering a small package; some were friends of people I had met at Ganeshpuri; and most I met by chance, just striking up a conversation.  At this time I first encountered some intoxicated-with-love young Christians from a group called Heaven’s Magic, with whom I was to repeatedly cross paths.  All the connections felt special in some way, magical even, and I felt buoyed along, as if carried by a stream, and filled with gratitude.  Early morning of the third day I boarded a flight to Bangalore.  My seat mate, a young Hindu woman who was going only as far as Pune, was lovely, soft-spoken and engaging.  As occurred repeatedly with many people I met by chance, she serendipitously delivered the next piece of the puzzle, the next needed turn in this story being shaped with each step taken.  Eventually I came to see the entire journey through India as a flowing illustration of the art of just showing up, trusting that whatever was needed at each point would dove-tail with me, meeting me there when I arrived.  On hearing that I was on my way to see Sai Baba, she recommended I go directly to the Rajmajal Hotel, whose owners would know of his whereabouts and how to connect me.

It was still morning when I arrived at the Rajmajal.  The welcoming young man at the reception desk beamed with helpfulness –and again I was struck with my good fortune.  Sai Baba had just returned from his seasonal residence in the cooler hill country.  He would be giving darshan, a public viewing, that evening at his Brindavan ashram in Whitefield, an hour south of Bangalore.  Giving me the key to my room, he thoughtfully advised me to rest, and then added that at 5:00 pm a hotel car would take me to Brindavan, wait for me, and bring me back to the hotel!!

~ * ~

The road to Brindavan –at least the portion I’m recalling– was a country lane shared with walkers, cows and a wooden-wheeled cart, all moving at about the same pace.  Once the hotel car had delivered me to the ashram I followed others into the place of darshan, a large circular space, lightly enclosed with mostly half-walls and topped with a flat parasol-like roof.  Inside, many were already waiting, seated cross-legged on the smooth concrete floor.  I carefully threaded my way among family groups and settled into an available space almost at the opposite end from the entrance.  As others arrived we all pressed closer together.

SaiBaba_elephantPresently an expectant buzz arose and eyes turned toward the entrance.  Sai Baba’s slight form –in his customary long orange tunic and unruly afro– was bent down, quietly greeting a devotee.  He continued moving along the path that had been left clear for him, occasionally exchanging a few words with a devotee or accepting letters held out to him.  Devotion hummed in the air.  As he came closer, I, a newbie observer, wondered if he would look at me and, if he did, would I feel anything.  As he serenely passed our section, his eyes gazing softly ahead, a sensation unfurled somewhere deep in my gut, quickly coursed up through my chest, momentarily caught in my throat, then spilled out in tears and wonder, leaving me in a daze.  I had no idea what had occurred or what I was to do next.  In a fog, one thought crossed my mind: I’m not here this lifetime to sit at the feet of a master.  Then thought fell away.  After Sai Baba had left the space and the crowd was slowly streaming out I too moved along with them, emptied of expectation, of anything beyond this happening now.  I flowed with others into a much smaller room, dim, almost womb-like, the floor carpeted, the soft sounds of a harmonium beckoning us inside to nestle together on the floor.

The sweetly haunting voice of the bhajan singer ebbed and flowed, she initiating the chant, the group repeating it back to her.  I easily dropped into chanting, my body naturally swaying, mind still, breath becoming a velvet presence that, of its own volition, entered and left through the heart.  In this way an hour hypnotically passed.  The session was ending, people gathering up shawls and shoulder bags, quietly leaving the room.  I too moved with them, quieted in a way rarely possible for my acquisitive mind.  Just outside, the hotel car was waiting… I recall no words exchanged with the driver… we were now on the road, I in the back seat, our vehicle inching along in a quiet procession with those on foot, at times barely moving.  A woman approached the open window on my left, inquired if I was going to Bangalore, then asked if she and her husband might share the car.  Yes, of course, I replied, promptly sliding over in welcome.  Once in the car and on conversing a bit, she exclaimed with chagrin, “Oh, we would never have imposed had we known you were a foreigner!”

Geeta-family_Bangalore-1987That simple error made possible an encounter that remains indelibly a highlight of the journey and feels to this day like a destined connection.  Chaya Devi turned out to be Sai Baba’s bhajan singer, hers the sweetly haunting voice from the womb-like room, and her kindly, dignified husband, Dr. Ramachandra K.V., was Sai Baba’s majordomo.  In the hour we spent on the road to Bangalore, Chaya and I slipped into a bond rich with the sense of having always known each other.  From the Rajmahal we continued on to their home.  That evening, including a home cooked feast with their two delightfully present daughters, chatting, laughing and interpreting our horoscopes, and the following day and the pictures we took, all still vibrate with love, with light and with meaning.  Chaya felt sure we had shared a past life as sisters.  I felt then and can still today feel the bubble of tenderness and soul recognition that enfolded us.  And I vividly recall that during the night spent in her home, asleep in her daughter’s bed, I was just for a fraction of a moment roused from sleep by the sensation of Chaya gently pulling the blanket up over my shoulder.  Even now the memory of the love she radiated resonates so strongly within me that it’s as if that incident were occurring in this moment… as if no separation in time or between us exists.

Chaya’s home had to have been –though it’s not noted in my journal– the first of several Hindu homes I visited whose puja room altar included Jesus along with their deities.  In every case I asked, why do you have his picture here?  The response always came with reverence:  He was a great Master… He was a great Prophet… He was a great Teacher…

~ * ~

Geeta-FamilyFrom Bangalore I flew to Pune, then bused to Aurangabad, gateway to Ellora and Ajanta, ancient Hindu, Buddhist and Jain cave temples carved out of the Charanandri hills.  Here too I connected with an open-hearted, joyful young woman and her parents, Hindus, in whose company the inexpressible love capable of creating the monumental vaulted chambers and intricately carved walls and statues came to life for me in a way they could not have had we not been together.  Geeta Iyer, the daughter, had been my seat mate on the bus, and what started as a casual chat soon evolved into peals of laughter, which quickly fused us into a foursome for the day.  What might have seemed merely a pleasant encounter carried a deeper message.  The heart connects.  Where joyfully open, the heart connects in miraculous ways.  Hinduism has an all-inclusive spirituality that wholly weds the transcendent and the earthly –enshrined in the erotic couplings of Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati.  This union of joyful devotion, soulfully embodied in the chanting of bhajans, steals the attention from the mind and billows it in the heart into sublime accepting openness.

This is why in my moment of intense need to pierce beyond inherited Western concepts to an essential truth that could be felt throughout my being, I was sent to India to feel the beating heart of the Love that Jesus taught.  Jesus, iconically depicted with his blazing Sacred Heart.  The spiritual Heart, source of love, is the central energetic engine of the body.  The heart is the integration point between the earthy drives that root us into matter, ensuring our physical survival, and the ethereal impulses that draw us to expand beyond the visible, to see with inner eyes of wisdom, to choose from love, and to merge with the Grace ever present.

~ * ~

India1987_4From Pune I flew north to New Delhi.  Once again and repeatedly while there my path crossed with members of Heaven’s Magic.  Though one of the colorful comic-book-style leaflets they gave me painted doomsday scenarios of no interest to me, my actual experience of these earnest young people was that they were on fire with love of a vision of a “heavenly kingdom”  that they could clearly taste.  They seemed to me like early followers of Jesus, wholly intoxicated with the love of him and what he taught, and on fire with bringing others to know what they had discovered.  The gatherings I attended at their communal home were joyful, and their eyes and faces glowed with innocence.  I have no doubt that before my experiences in India I would have been so focused on judging their ideas as to be unable to see the beauty at their core.  What a loss that would have been!  Meeting and being with them was a priceless gift.

In New Delhi I met up with acquaintances from home and  traveled to Jaipur in Rajasthan.  Something was off, a toxicity within the group I wanted no part of –and for me a time of testing related more to an interweaving thread of my life better left for another day.  I will say the bubble of protection that had enveloped me burst in Jaipur –witnessing the condition of a street pup who reminded me of my Luke when, at six weeks, he had crossed my path almost dead.  No one would save this small one.  My eyes were suddenly opened to the immensity of the need all around me and my heart broke.  Suddenly, feeling in some way shattered, the noise of northern India, the incessant honking horns, was unbearable.

Abruptly I left Jaipur, returned to Delhi.  Here I had a life-altering experience with David, Aaron and Maria of Heaven’s Magic –to which I’ll return in a moment.  One month of my journey had already elapsed.  As there was still much that I wanted to see, and now felt desperate to leave India, I literally fled east on a train to Varanasi.  My heart warms with the memory of this city described as the beating heart of the Hindu universe.  Luck brought me to the Shankeri Lodge where a high outer wall seemed to keep the world away.  Owned by a warm family, an endearingly busybody father, here I felt a locked door was unnecessary and I slept unguardedly on a porch couch in the sunny courtyard.

Four days later I crossed the border into Nepal and Kathmandu.  So quiet, it was like night and day.  Here no one drove on their horn.  I visited Kopan Monastery above Boudhanath, seeking a contact, but he was not known.  From my journal: “On my way back down the mountain met a young Buddhist woman living at the Monastery.  She was clear-eyed, enthusiastic, eager to communicate though struggling with English.  European, though I don’t know from where.  She told me about a Buddhist master who attained enlightenment in one lifetime: how on realizing the path, went to live in a cave, ate only a certain kind of leaf and mastered his desires for food & comfort, mastered his body’s regulation of heat & cold.  I was struck by how it’s all choice.  We constantly make choices.  I can choose further comfort, pleasure, possessions for myself or I can choose to give equal value to someone else’s needs.  I’m so attached to my body, its comforts & pleasures, sexual desires, greed about food.   How to reconcile that?  The choice is in my face every time I spend money on another bauble.  I accept intellectually the nothingness of owning one more thing, and that to require nothing is to be free.  But I’m not ready yet.

“It happened naturally when the time was right to give up meat and drugs.  The time is coming to give up other indulgences, the superfluous, for the sake of moving toward what is essential.  I know now it’s not just a platitude, but a necessity if my life is to reflect my deepest self.  I know I will not choose denial.  I want to retain my individuality and color while opening my eyes more widely to the needs of others.  One thing that has come of all this searching in India/Nepal, the meetings in New Delhi with the Heaven’s Magic people, is… choice.  They’re people who, like the earliest disciples, have walked away from their former lives, banded together in love & harmony & trust to simply spread the word of Jesus’ love.  Such genuine beauty & love I found among them.  Such transcendence of self for the sake of something far greater than themselves…   I felt such peace & comfort with them as if I’d always known them.  I know such feelings are possible among any people living from their deepest calling.  Again, choice.  Choose these wherever I find them, rather than people involved in their own gratification exclusively.  They’re everywhere.  Some full out.  And some like myself on the periphery.  Practice seeing god in everyone…”

The week in Nepal restored me.  Here too there had been a test –what would have been a mindless escapade sure to be regretted– and I had momentarily teetered on the edge.  But abruptly I rose and walked away.  Choice!  Here –though I did not recognize it at the time– something in me shifted.  Each life, just as it is, is the path.  We set each part of our journey in motion by entering it at the darkest place (that in us which lies most in shadow and aches to be known).  And we create the whole of who we are with the steps we take and with what of our lives we ourselves choose to make sacred.

I returned to Varanasi, then by train went on to Calcutta where I made one more crucial choice.  Approaching the colonial-style pavilion of a ghat on the Ganga River, I noticed my body’s growing reluctance to carry me to an anticipated meeting with what had been recommended to me as “the finest palmist in the world”.  Without explanation, I knew that what destiny lay ahead for me, already in motion, was to be met with unguarded heart.  I retraced my steps and left.  From Calcutta I flew to Bombay and continued on home.

Maria-Aaron-David_Heavens-MagicBut I want to end this with my last meeting in Delhi with Aaron, Maria and David of Heaven’s Magic.  During my time there with them my heart had been full to overflowing.  Something had come into me that I’d never felt before, that was pulling me in a direction I would never before have considered, that was requiring nothing from my mind, and that I just went with.  In my hotel room, I asked them to baptize me.  I’m not sure if I was sitting or kneeling.  Most likely my hands were open, palms up, but I can’t really say.  I only recall they were standing close around me with their hands on my head, praying.  No thought was in my head.  Nothing.  I was just there, open, letting their words wash over me.  Then, as if someone flipped a light switch I was a bloom of ecstatic joy…   I remember nothing else, what was said, how they took their leave.  By the next day or so I was on my way to Varanasi and never saw them again.  I had been deeply, deeply touched by the Jesus I had found there –by the Love he embodied and that lives on in all the people who crossed paths with me… in people everywhere who live from awakened Hearts.  I had been baptized not into a religion, nor into any belief or set of beliefs, but into a new way of being that was fuller because it included all of me… all the parts in and around me that I now know are sacred.

Adyashanti and Mark Matousek on Jesus

Neil Douglas-Klotz and Tami Simon – The Aramaic Jesus

Adyashanti and Francis Bennett on “Resurrecting Jesus”

NPR | Jesus in 2011 – N.T. Wright, John Dominic Crossan, Willis Barnstone


Winter Solstice New Moon 2014




 “The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.”
Terry Tempest Williams


In grand celebration of today’s Return of the Light following the longest night of the year (in the northern hemisphere signaling the beginning of winter with its lengthening days) and the Sun’s serendipitous crossing of the threshold in the company of a New Moon (doubly echoing the birth of a new cycle, a new vision, a more Light-infused way of being) I offer a poem.  Penned in August ‘87 on the occasion of the Harmonic Convergence, its passionate exultation perfectly conveys our moment of now. The poem says it all…

Eve of the Great Age

Such a gift! being human at this moment,
our cells holding memories of all we have been,
rounding another spiral of unfoldment
to embody this Light that flows from within.

Universe, thank you! for ripping open our hearts
with your thumbnail,
for spilling the fear blindly hoarded,
for blowing in breath and the hunger for Love.

Keep swirling us, whirling us with your lessons
till your mere whisper rocks mountains in us.
Seed our paths with co-conspirators –myriad others
you’ve stung with your match to the heart.
Kindle in our circles a sense of mission
and shared vision bigger than anything that singly
we’ve dared to conceive.

Free our ears to hear the promise of voices long silent,
and widen our eyes to peer into worlds that are living
and linked, where willows & whippoorwills & the realms
of invisibles are our sisters & brothers.

Let us lose in forgetfulness the veil of I-ness & my-ness,
celebrating in others the colors of rainbow,
seeing in them our own light & our shadow,
drinking deeply of the well of belonging.

Drum our days into dizzying dance of community
& solitude, compassion & mastery, labor & laughter.
Bugle our backs to stand up for justice
and our voices to sing! for the joy of it.

Plant our feet so firmly on Earth that the taste
of her clay chocolates our tongues, and the stream
of her sap in our veins echoes thunder of ocean,
torrent of river, rush of mist into ether.

And beckon each of us –and every last one of us–
to creep all the way out to the edge of our being
and find our way back fingers singed
on our own unique gift
pouring forth all that we are,
accepting your invitation… to co-creation!

                                  ©1987 Lisa Alfaro Dollar

Joyful blessings on our shared journey!


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