Sep 30 2010

Who Is Parvati?


The Divine Mother. She is my mother; she is my father; she is my brother; she is… me. When Maharajji started giving the Westerners new names, I became Parvati. The fairy godmother of all fairy godmothers had waved his magic wand and I went from being Barbara, the barbarian or stranger, to suddenly being the wife of Shiva, the wife of God. Not bad, I thought.

I had never really related to Barbara, or Bobbi as I was called in college, or Bobbi Sue as one branch of the family insisted on calling me. Or Bob, as my mother tended to call me. Bob, now really.

Maharajji would periodically look at me and ask, “Who is Parvati?” My stock reply would be, “Shiva’s Shakti.” Merely the energy of the entire universe. Uh-huh. Sometimes I’d say, “The wife of Shiva.” Maharajji proceeded to get me married. Maharajji asked me if Parvati had a son. Yes, Ganesh. Did she have another son? Yes, Skanda. He laughed and clapped his hands. Sure enough, years later I had two sons (although I had foolishly picked out girls’ names the second time around).

Throughout the years, I keep coming back to the question, “Who is Parvati?” I’ve been through all the relationship roles—daughter, sister, lover, wife, mother, grandmother. I failed at a number of them. Nope, as hard as I tried, none of those defined me. And being the goddess in the west is hard. I introduce myself as Parvati and people look at me quizzically, “Poverty?” Hopefully not.

I studied the goddesses, researched the divine feminine. I spent years doing Tibetan Buddhist dakini practice. I did mantra and puja. I pondered the significance of having King Himavan, the Himalayas, as my father (Parvati literally means “daughter of the mountain”). I read the mythology, searching for clues. I sought to find the courage to be the goddess.

Worshipping the Divine Mother is one thing; becoming her is something else again. It’s a journey of many lifetimes, a stumbling into grace . . . a pendant in the ear of the Divine Mother.

Sep 23 2010

With Thanks for Ram Dass’s “Coated” Words


In the short video clip of Ram Dass posted on this site, he says that in the two years between his first meeting Maharajji and going back to India, in all the countless lectures he gave during that time, his “words were coated with Maharajji.” Some didn’t get it, many did. Be Here Now, the distillation of his talks from that time period, touched millions of others. Those of us who wound up in India at Maharajji’s feet heard him loud and clear—the trumpet call to wake up, the message that LSD would only get us so far on the journey, the realization that the holy books were all real, and that enlightened beings did exist and could touch our lives.

In India, they said that Ram Dass had “the gift of Saraswati.” Saraswati is the goddess who is the consort of Brahma, the Creator. She’s the muse, the portal for creative expression, such as music and poetry. Ram Dass was like a fountain whose words endlessly poured out the essence of Maharajji. And his delivery of that essence made it easy for Westerners to “get.” We could relate to him—this very smart, very funny “bad boy” who’d been kicked out of Harvard—and we could catch a glimpse, a taste, of what he had experienced in the presence of Maharajji’s unconditional love.

I know that when I initially met Ram Dass in the summer of ’69, and heard him speak to the dozen of us who were gathered in the barn at his father’s place in New Hampshire, it was the first time in my life I felt like I was getting answers instead of more questions. My search, which had led me through all the “dead white guys” of Western philosophy and psychology, alcohol, sickness, hallucinogens, and failed relationships, had finally paid off. I moved into a tent in his father’s backyard the very next day.

This year, around 40 of us gathered in Maui with Ram Dass for a reunion. We’d all been through a lot in the four decades since we’d been with Maharajji. There was Ram Dass’s massive stroke years earlier, and the gratefulness that he was still with us, and able to speak far better than the doctors ever expected (with the added benefit of those long pauses that give us time to sink into the heart space). There were the deaths of satsang members to remind us to appreciate the blessings of this life. But no matter how much time has elapsed, no matter how many challenges we’ve faced—divorces, bankruptcies, physical issues, difficulties with family and friends and businesses—we were still all joined in this large family of the spirit, still telling and listening to the stories, the words, that have coated our life with Maharajji.

And no words can express the gratitude for such grace.

Sep 16 2010

The Lions at the Gate


There was a period of time in Brindavan when Maharajji would send us over to see Anandamayi Ma, the epitome of Mother. We’d take garlands and fruits, walk down the dusty streets of the ancient town sacred to Krishna, and enter her ashram. She’d be surrounded by an impenetrable wall of “lions at the gate”—the women who guarded her fiercely. You couldn’t approach her except by standing on the darshan line and waiting your turn, which meant turning off any judgment about how different it was with Maharajji, who allowed us such easy access.

Of course, it was well worth it. The rush of Mother love in her presence, the sweetness of hearing her pure open-hearted singing to Krishna. The only real lions at the gate were the ones in our own minds and hearts—the thoughts and emotions that could keep us in a state of separation when all we craved was an uninterrupted flow of love.

The external guardians of sacred space are so much easier to deal with than the savage inner ones that seem to bar our entry into love, into freedom, into peace. The lions that roar about making money, finding/saving a relationship, taking care of the kids and grandkids and aging parents. The ferocious “I’m not good enough,” “I’m impure,” “I’m too fat,” “I’m too old.” And the sneaky ones, like “I’m doing such good service.” I. I. I. Ay yi yi.

The battle with the lions at the gate. (Where’s Russell Crowe when you really need him?) Long ago Ram Dass gave us a metaphor for dealing with the inner lions that still works for me: Sitting by the banks of a river and watching your thoughts/emotions go by. The river isn’t going to stop flowing. The ego’s stream of desires and distractions is endless. But if I can remember to witness the flow instead of getting stuck in it, instead of drowning in hopes and fears, past and future, if I remember to watch the river while staying on the banks, resting in my faith in Maharajji, then it’s all okay.

Like loneliness. There are times we feel alone in the universe, whether or not we’re living with someone else. If we get trapped in the feeling, life sucks. If we can remember it’s only a wave that will wash over us and then leave, we can get through it. I asked Siddhi Ma about loneliness. She said, “Loneliness happens.” So does everything else—birth, death, love, hatred, peace, sorrow.

Siddhi Ma

Sit on the banks and watch the lions as they gracefully lope past.

Sep 11 2010

Light and Dark


I am having a very hard time finding the words I want to put on this page today.

I’d been feeling dragged down by the gravity of the events in this week’s news and disheartened by the tug of war  in words and deeds going on. I was letting myself carry that weight rather than making another decision….rather than changing my head. The minute I shined a light on the way I was letting my thoughts roll I began to …yet again…let it be instead of wanting/desiring it to be different.

I went back to pages 29-35 and was astounded at how relevant and helpful they suddenly were to me. The seemingly absurd,irrational statements and actions of some people eliciting some equally outrageous responses and polarization is duality doing its thing.

The yin and the yang. “The world most everybody is living in most of the time”

Page 30 says, “The only way out of that is to take the poles of every set of opposites and see the way in which THEY ARE ONE.

And if you can get into that place where you see the interrelatedness of EVERYTHING

and: you see the oneness in it all

then: no longer are you attached to your polarized position.”

Yesterday morning in my searching for wisdom to make sense of the madness in the world I came upon a quote by Albert Einstein that I think says so beautifully and simply what is true and echoes those word on page 30.

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest… a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

So I feel we have this opportunity as people on this planet during these extremely volatile and polarized times to make a different decision about how to BE here. Yes…we live in a world of desires and I do believe the desires are what keep the whole thing spinning and are a necessary note in the music of the dance. But I also believe there is a way to recognize the desires when they arise and to be at ease …accept that the desire  is there and move with it…let it come and go….the dance…rather than attaching to it and being thrashed about in the waves.

The yin and the yang, the light and the dark, it is all happening.

Today. September 11th is a day so much about just that.

There is sadness and hurt and there is huge compassion and goodness flowing.

There are acts of violence and statements of hatred and there are peaceful gatherings and beautiful tributes.

September 11th is also the date that Maharaj-ji left his body in 1973 and although I imagine the day might feel sad to those who were close to him, I know that it is also a beautiful day when many of those same people and many others gather together to remember him and share in his light and love.

And so while angry protestors at ground zero try to drown out the voices of the families mourning and reading the names of the loved ones they lost on September 11,2001 , I take heart in the fact that there are also thousands of people gathered in the desert of California at Bhakti Fest to sing love out into the air and that message of  love and light is being sung over the planet everyday in many ways.

I truly believe that all is well.

Sep 9 2010

Desire Is The Universe


Desire. I remember the moment Maharajji asked me if I had any questions. Before coming to India, I had read The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna so I knew the “right” answer to such an important question. After all, this was my chance to get all my loftiest desires fulfilled. I asked for a pure heart. He said, “Love all as Christ did.” Oh, is that all? That might be a little difficult, so I also asked for a pure mind. “Love all men as brothers.” Uh oh, I had some other desires in that direction.

I asked Maharajji to bless my parents. He said that when a daughter is born who is a devotee, the family becomes believers. He again said they would believe in God (still waiting on that one, which is the trouble with promises made by timeless beings), and that I hadn’t believed in God until I met Ram Dass (very true). And that sometimes I strayed from the path and sometimes I didn’t believe in Maharajji. Oh dear! So I asked him for faith. Acha.

Desire. What a tricky concept. No wonder it was #1 on Ram Dass’s slate board.

There are the desires that are the “golden chains”—the desire to be at One with it all, the desire to love all as Christ did—the “up-level” desires. And then there are the other desires—someone to love, a place to live with a washer and dryer, chocolate (the opposing desire to losing 20 pounds). The tricky part is not berating yourself for the “lower” desires. Desire is the creator. After all, if we didn’t have desires, we wouldn’t be here, on Earth, now. We wouldn’t have created the world, our world, the one each one of us lives in. Desire is the universe.

Desire is a trap. Of course it is. Someone once taught me to wend my way through my personal chaos by asking myself what did I really want versus what did I really need. It’s those wants that keep pulling us away from center, from the now (as Blake so wonderfully illustrated in his post “Enough!”). And forget giving up the desire to experience the bliss. I will gladly come back into duality, lifetime after lifetime, to be with Maharajji again.

What I want, and need, is to live in Spirit, in the ebb and flow of the yin and the yang. Slowly, slowly, I move along the path laid out in the great Gayatri Mantra: From the unreal, lead us to the Real; from darkness, lead us unto Light; from death, lead us to Immortality.

Om, shanti, shanti, shanti.

Sep 2 2010

Snake Knows Heart


I must be putting out Mercury retrograde vibrations. There’s so much bureaucratic b.s. to go through when moving from state to state, or in my case, from coast to coast. Like calling Medicare to give them my change of address, only to have them say to call Social Security, who in turn says oh we can’t do that, fill out form 8822 and mail it to the IRS. Huh?

Am I putting out chaos and getting back impediments? Is this why I can’t seem to find the right bed or right desk to put in the new place, when I finally do get the keys?


I feel like both Dakota (Coby), the crying kid that brings the shopping expedition to a halt, and her dad and RD and the rest of the crew who stop long enough to bring some peaceful vibes to the situation. At the same time.

Is this any way to celebrate Krishna’s birthday today? When we were with Maharajji this time of year in 1971, it was a lovely morning in love. We had put together a feast for the auspicious day—trays of sweets, a Jai Ram cake, fruits, garlands, a coconut—to bring to our living Krishna, who could easily be Shiva and Hanuman and Kali as well.

That same day, Maharajji told Ram Dass he had to delete the “lies” about Haridas Baba (in the Our Story part) before the next printing of Be Here Now—the start of a whole Lama drama that included a typical Maharajji miracle of the printer “losing” the one page that had to be changed so the printing had to be stopped, just long enough to include the fixes).

A while later that day, Maharajji called Radha and I into his room. He took sips from our clay cups of chai and gave the tea back to us as prasad. We were touching his feet, and Radha was kissing them. He asked her why she kissed his feet, and, as he usually did, Maharajji answered his own question: Because she gets lost in love sometimes. When I was alone in the room with him, he spoke to me in Hindi. Not knowing what he was saying, but with a heart filled with his grace, I simply replied, “I love you, Maharajji.”

How could I go from that space to being pissed off at the 10 phone calls and faxes it took to straighten out the transfer of auto insurance from California to Florida? From the same company! And why do you have to bring your passport and social security card and 5 other pieces of proof that you are who you are to get a driver’s license? Hippies create police; police create hippies. Or nowadays, immigrants create Homeland Security . . .

One of my favorite pithy teachings, which Haridas Baba wrote on Ram Dass’s slate board when RD was on silence (during his first trip to India) is “Snake knows heart.” Maybe today I’ll remember that, and be able to see Lord Krishna, the incarnation of love, in all His many aspects.

Aug 16 2010

The Culture of Mondays


“But you’re still only seeing hints. You’ve got a way to go yet”

Every Monday on my way to work I stop to get some coffee and a yogurt. Pretty routine operation. When I get inside the coffee place it’s like clockwork that one of the baristas comments on the bummer that is Monday. “How are you?” I reply, “Great. Thanks.” They reply back, “Glad to hear it. Yeah. It’s Monday though, don’t worry we’ll get through it. You want room for cream?”

And vice versa when it’s Friday, they comment on the humdrum of the week and that thank god we have the weekend to look forward to. It’s become such commonplace in America that it’s become a figure of speech – “thank god it’s Friday!”

Now if you really start to think about that, if you really let it settle in, you realize the insanity in all of that. It’s the complete opposite of being here now. We’ve created a culture that thrives on thinking about other times and other places. What’s wrong with “now” exactly? It’s interesting to think about.

The “culture of Mondays” is a bit of a trap. It implies that there is a destination, a place at which to arrive, and if we arrive at that destination, then we’ll be ok.

Of course we all love time to ourselves and not being tethered to some other person’s demands like in most day jobs. But if we can’t even be in the perfection of Monday then what chance do we stand at truly surrendering to the “now”?

I’ve found myself caught up in years of trying to arrive somewhere that would only be satisfying if some external condition was met. If I made this amount of money, if I had this new gadget, if I had, if I had, if I had, then I would be happy. An endless cycle of “if I had”. Based on my experience, I’ve reached quite a few of those “if I hads” and have still felt empty.

As I begin to internalize just a smidgen of what’s being taught in Be Here Now, I come to really settle into the idea that everything that is happening is part of the perfect journey. No arrivals, no destination – just constant flowing. Things come and go, emotions come and go, money comes and goes, etc etc. The grace of the guru shows me that it’s my job to not be attached, it’s up to me to see it all work perfectly. It’s all perfect, it’s my perception that gets in the way. That’s the place I want to hang out in.

The process unfolds so gracefully yet so cryptically on pages 8-14. “Beyond even conceiving of a place beyond which you can go beyond.” Try spending 5 minutes with that one. Wow.

I’ve learned from Ram Dass and Maharaj-ji that the adventure in each moment has it’s own unique perfection. Even Mondays with all of the “posturing” and all of the “games” I think I need to play, they all have a place. The essence of being here now requires such a strong commitment to acceptance and lack of attachment that it confirms a lifelong process, but if you’re in it you can shine with love.

For years I used to wonder where Ram Dass got all of that light from. What was there to love all the time? When I was in deep with my own shadow demons of addiction I used to see him from time to time and would get so uncomfortable. Here I was running from myself and I would see this guy smiling and beaming. Thought maybe it was an act, or a performance.

It’s powerful to know a little bit about that light source now. To finally be a real student. Open and willing to accept and love all of my imperfections and karmas.

Everything is changing. Like the caterpillar turning into the butterfly on Page 12. The butterfly really isn’t that much more beautiful than the caterpillar, it’s just in a different role. We see it as more beautiful because it flies and has all of these fabulous colors. Still, it’s no more cosmically perfect than it’s earlier role as a caterpillar, just doing it’s thing.

Here’s to loving Mondays and to do loving doing our thing, no matter what it is.

To quote my friend Kasey, a Californian Yogi, “Jai Monday!”

Aug 5 2010

The Source of Be Here Now


A message from Ram Dass…

For more from Ram Dass visit