Walking the Walk

Walking the Walk

Oh, the snow! It will be quite some time before I become weary of it I think. There’s just something so intrinsically peaceful about it. It seems to soften the outside noise and really allow one to focus on their inner dialogue. Today is the third round of snow we have had since I’ve been here and it is forecasted for almost every day this week, ensuring a true white Christmas and an opportunity to do what you are supposed to do this time of year; retreat within and nurture your inner light.

With the flu bug behind me I have been busy, busy around here. Thus far I have learned to care for the peacocks, assisted in the (future) acquisition of a new truck and learned many of the policies and procedures such as picking up the food order, checking guests into the Dharmasala and helping in the Puja Dukan (gift shop).

A particular theme for me over the last week is the realization of just how limited resources are here. There are no malls, no retail, chain or box stores, no department stores other than the obligatory Wal Mart, a Tuesday Morning and an Ace Hardware. There are no car dealerships and no real fast food restaurants aside from one set of golden arches. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Now let me tell you how that translates.

This is not the land of materialism and waste, that’s for damn sure. More than one person has compared New Mexico to a third world country, and I get it. Want a new pair of shoes? You have two options – pay out the ass (read – tourist prices) or go to one of three consignment stores. Now, I came from the land of indulgence apparently because I recall shopping at a local Good Will and being tickled pink with the large selection of leather jackets, all for $10 each. Not here! The price for a used coat in Taos is the same as the retail price of a new coat in Dallas. So far I have ordered wool socks from China over the internet (they should get here by Spring) and paid $30 for a pair of used, wool, slip on shoes. And not to sound snooty, but I have never worn, let alone purchased, a stranger’s shoes.

Two of the younger girls here at the temple invited me to go shopping with them and I was delighted to be included. One of the consignment stores has a section called The Giving Tree which provides those in need with clothing and such free of charge, and let me tell you – these girls shopped it, seriously. Now, I am one to shop Good Will and am all about repurposing, reusing and recycling, but the majority of the clothes that were available were akin to what one would find at the end of a garage sale. While they rummaged through it all I became acutely aware of my inner dialogue and mounting conflicts.

The reality is that I am so very blessed. I have everything I need and truthfully, always have. To take something from this place, to me, felt like I was taking something from someone who was truly in need. I flashed back to all the perfectly good clothes I gave away just a few short months ago, just for the sake of having less. Then I remembered all the clothes I left behind and again was humbled in gratitude for the many blessings in my life. Yet, I was with the girls and, honestly, was not entirely sure that my attitude of gratitude was not my ego being a snob in disguise, so I made a point to find a few useful things such as a small jewelry box for my earrings and a long sleeved, button up, 100% cotton shirt.

The obtuse lack of resources was again emphasized in the searching for a new farm truck. Where there are pages and pages of Craig’s List adds in Dallas there is virtually nothing for the entire state of New Mexico. This makes buying a vehicle quite a process because it requires traveling out of the state, and while my day trip to Colorado Springs (and Santa Fe) was a lovely scenic adventure, it was rather disappointing to spend 10+ hours in the car to return with nothing – not to mention being that close to Pike’s Peak and not have the time to experience it.

Total side note – Downtown Colorado Springs has a rather hip, college town feel to it that was nice to witness, but the real treat for me was the outside skating rink! Again, just like something I have seen in the movies – people in their hats and mittens skating around, outside, in the middle of the day, in the middle of downtown! Nifty cool!

Ok, sorry – back on track!

So what’s the lesson? I came from a place where (some) people do their best to be mindful of resources and nifty catch phrases reminding people to repurpose things is a hip jargon to speak. Here, people live it – and they do so because they have to. The result, by my estimation, is a stronger sense of community, a genuine mentality of gratitude and a fierce connection to, and reverence for the planet.

In the reflection of my own inner light and truth, I can acknowledge that I have, in the past, talked the talk and am now being shown how to truly walk the walk. With each day that passes, I feel as though I lose a few more societal imprints and am constantly challenged with the release of my perceptions from such, but my new (used) shoes are warm, comfy and serve their purpose of a quick and easy removal without any attachment what-so-ever.

Purple Mountain Majesty



Sick of Being Sick

Sick of Being Sick

I am so over being sick. Done with it! Move along please!  I have much better things to do, thank you very much. After three days of sleep…okay, so on the third day of my plague, I decided I’d had enough of my bedroom and more than enough sleep for one person and became determined to persevere over the weakness that permeated every part of my being – so I went to the garden.

What? That’s what everybody does when they feel like complete shit, right?

There’s nothing like taking a shovel to some rich, damp, cool soil, putting your hands in it and singing, “Heal Mother, Mother Heals”. I set to the task of digging up baby beets, mustard, mizuna and sorrel for relocation into the greenhouse and found myself shedding layers of clothes in no time due to the abundance of sunshine which truly is always present here.

“Nourish the Mother and she will nourish you.”

That was the message I kept hearing. And so I sang and I dug and I sat when I was tired and I gave thanks and remembered my grandmother who bestowed upon me the love and magic of tending a garden – and then I found carrots!  Big, beautiful carrots!  And so the scavenger hunt began; the tops were mostly gone due to a few zero degree nights which occurred before my arrival, but with a careful eye they were recognizable. I would guess I dug up a good three to five pounds, which is pretty awesome for this time of year. They were certainly happy when I brought them to the kitchen.

Finding seva which somewhat quarantined me from the others has been a bit of a challenge, but I managed to make myself useful processing the dried herbs for teas and making oil blends for addition to our (now) all natural cleaning products – all of which are things I have wanted to do and/or learn. Now, the oils are likely responsible for the hives that came up on my hands the next day, but look what I learned – Gloves are, in fact, a good thing to use!

Keeping in line with my earthy, herbal loving practices, I have become a regular at a local hot-spot called Taos Herb. These people either really know their business or I am invested enough at this point to not believe otherwise. Two days with no voice has left me desperate, and while the weakness is gone, I recognize that this is/was likely the flu and I am thankful for the comparatively ‘light’ version I am enduring.  I have no doubt this is due to the massive amounts of chlorophyll, herbal supplements, teas, tinctures and syrups (made with 65-70% grain alcohol!) that I take every two hours. I even soaked in 16 pounds of Epsom salt this evening. Yes, 16 pounds.  The lady swore by it.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Heal Mother!  Mother Heals!

One of the many blessings which needs mentioning in all of this is how amazingly supportive the community here is. It’s wonderful, really, the way they rally and support those in need. The giving here is tremendous and I am ready to give back. I miss my time in the kitchen and at arti.

On positive note, I am 5 days completely caffeine free!  Woo hoo!

Can you become an alcoholic on tinctures?



Good night!

The Sigh of Relief

The Sigh of Relief

Saturday was a wonderful day for me. I helped with lunch in the kitchen by making chocolate walnut cookies then spent the remainder of the afternoon nesting in my room; hanging curtains and sari’s, fixing my bed, doing laundry. The open windows gave way to a pleasant breeze and spread the sandalwood incense throughout the room. Another resident here was busy getting in costume for a fashion show which led me to enjoying an old time custom for Taosites – The Lighting of Ledoux.

It was a brisk 10 minute walk from the ashram to Ledoux Street and I found it rather exhilarating. We don’t walk in Texas. Well, we do, but not often to a destination. Things are just to spread out for all that. Here it seems everyone walks or rides a bicycle, leaving the car driving for the tourists who come to town. Consequently (and a complete side note), I have not witnessed nearly as many overweight people here. Good news for me!

Ledoux Street is a skinny little street not much wider than an alley that runs into downtown and hosts an array of galleries, studios, merchants and museums – namely the Harwood. Luminaries were placed all along the street on both sides and sometimes atop of walls and buildings. Most businesses had a quaint fire burning just outside their entrance and served apple cider and finger food snacks. There were carolers singing Jingle Bells and a young girl with a guitar singing her song, an “ALL ONE” sticker on her guitar case. I wished her Namaste and shared a kinship of love and peace – a very common occurrence here.

At the end of Ledoux is a consignment store which hosts the aforementioned fashion show complete with catwalk, full of seasonally themed, re-purposed and recreated ensembles that showcased beauty, art and resourcefulness magnificently. There was a snow queen, a sugar plum fairy and a peppermint elf and a host of other creations that I have yet to label, but they all received their share of applause from the gathered crowd. I was rather pleased to find myself surrounded by satsang and we made quite the ruckus in support of our friend who was dressed in her interpretation of Persephone.

Just beyond the fashion show was the prized town square, lit up in its Holiday best. The Yule tree was at least 30’ tall by my estimation and was adorned in multi-colored lights. The entire thing was so enchanting really, I felt like I had set foot in a Hollywood movie.

My walk back to the ashram was equally enjoyable and I was pleased to make it in time for prasad, evening Arti and seva (helping with closing duties). Once back in my room I gave way to a sigh. You know the kind. Where your heart is full of bliss and everything is right and good. Where you know without a shadow of a doubt that all of your efforts, your struggles, your transgressions have all brought you to this exact, perfect place and you feel…relief. Yes, the sigh of relief.

And as it often happens when you push yourself, your body, beyond its realm of normalcy for over a month, when you stay strong and tough through emotional stress and turmoil, when you relocate to a desert climate and/or when you move to an altitude that is 6,500 feet higher than where you have lived your whole life – your body recognizes that ‘sigh’ as its time. So, the very next day I woke with a sore throat.

Of course Sunday is a big day around here because we offer prasad to all who come, and with the weather being a gorgeous 55 degrees – many came. I managed to help with the cooking and serving of the food, but about half way through serving I began to realize that my body was going to demand more than some chlorophyll water. Alternating waves of weakness and body aches left me praying I would not pass out in Maharaji’s kitchen and as soon as the task was complete I sought immediate refuge in my room – and slept.

Today marks day two of sleep and rest. I have acquired a host of immune boosting herbs and teas and am doing my best to surrender to my body’s needs. I was reminded by the staff that part of the mission of this place is to be a respite to those in need; a place of solace and refuge for rest and healing. And beyond what my body is currently demanding, in reality, that is exactly why I am here, but on a soul level.

Lighting of LedouxFashion ShowIMG_3754IMG_3755


Settling In and Letting Go

Settling In and Letting Go

Such graciousness has been extended to me. In less than 48 hours upon my arrival I was provided with a room in the caretaker’s house, complete with a private bath. Maharaji really knows how to make a girl feel welcome!

The room is a beautiful, roomy upstairs space that stays toasty warm (a theme for me) with lots of natural light that pours through its four windows. The previous tenant fancied plants and left behind a purple jew (a perennial back home), an angel wing begonia, a small ivy in water and a cactus planted in a rusty paint can. Oh, and some potting soil – how about the irony in that!

There’s a small dresser and a closet that provided more than enough room for my wardrobe and I admit it was nice to unpack my things. But I took the most delight in moving the furniture around and making the space my own. Well, as much of my own as I can in a place of such transience.   There is a fluidity here that is ever present and constantly warns against attachment.

Another luxury I have been provided is a bed. Yes, that is a luxury here. I am amazed by how many residents choose to sleep on the floor. I admit when that was suggested to me I panicked a bit and started counting funds in my head for purchasing a bed of some sort. The look on my face must have been something to behold because the caring people here managed to round up a futon mattress for me. It rests on a wooden bed frame similar to a tucket and is indeed, albeit slight, an upgrade from the floor.   Having the history of back/neck problems that I do, I was still a bit nervous I wouldn’t be able to move this morning. But what is there for me to do but surrender that too? Each time I woke from being uncomfortable I just chanted to Ganesh until I fell back asleep.

Today I plan to trek into town for a few supplies; coffee, a mop and a foam/eggshell pad of some sort. I find myself struggling just a bit with the reality of all the changes I have brought upon myself. There is one resident here who seems to look for reasons to be offended, which served as a reminder for me to maintain good boundaries and keep my eyes on the prize. During Arti I envisioned my time here as a return to the womb. While there is a part of me that battles with a need for perceived permanence; an income and a home of my own where I could have my sweet Odin with me, I am reminded that I am here to grow. A child knows not the details of its birth or life to come. Right now I am being nurtured by the Divine to eventually be reborn and taken down a path unknown. Worrying about the when’s and where’s will only deter my growth, so I surrender that too.

Divine Grace

Divine Grace

Some people would think me crazy, leaving everything the way I did. Well, everything but a wardrobe of clothes that guarantees I will not freeze to death. It sounds a bit melodramatic, I know, but this Texas girl has never experienced a winter out of her own state and the idea of zero degrees is something that I just can’t quite grasp – yet. All in due time no doubt.

The funny thing is, it’s actually warmer here in Taos than it was in Dallas when I left. And hitting the ground running the way I did when I got here helping in the kitchen, I found my cheeks flushed red in no time and had to go stand outside, barefoot none the less, to cool off a bit. I heard Baba laughingly ask me if I was warm enough. I chuckled. Silly girl, you are home now. You will no sooner be cold than hungry.

Home – that is exactly what I felt as soon as I walked into the temple. The smell of incense and chai that fills the air, a scent I had forgotten, was the first to greet me. Then the abundance of peace and love that permeates this place filled me. Hanuman was decked out in his best dressed, by my estimation anyway, clothed in purple and turquoise – my favorite colors.

Well received I was by everyone; staff, caretakers and visitors with hugs o’ plenty. I made myself handy in the kitchen and baked an egg-less pineapple upside down cake. Honestly, it was as if I’d never left. I fell into an easy rhythm working with the others, went right to everything I needed and assembled a fabulous desert, or so I was told by more than a few. What can I say? Baba is an excellent cook! It warmed my heart to serve the cake to so many and witness so.much.gratitude. With each thank you I heard I swear my heart grew bigger, and all the while I’m thinking, “I’m here. I’m really doing it and this is totally, completely and exactly where I belong.”

This morning I visited with a friend here and was told I came at the absolute perfect time. I laughed. That’s the way it works though, isn’t it? Divine grace. Two weeks ago I was trying to get my old job back, and thought I had, but the universe said nope, I don’t think so! So, I considered moving back to Tyler to be close to my pregnant daughter – nope, that’s not going to work either. Ok, well how about Taos? Bam – now you’re on it! But I don’t have any money? Bam – money manifested! But I don’t have the right clothes? Bam – here, have a ski suit! But isn’t home near my children? Bam – here are your words, written months ago about how you would always have a home at the ashram, written in their newsletter! And then…the icing on the cake – I hope to learn to play the harmonium while I’m there, I want to sing the Chalisa. Bam – here, have a harmonium! With each and every manifestation, I wept in joy and thought, “Holy Hanuman, I’m really going to Taos!”

That’s the surrendered life. I have laid everything at the feet of God – my goals, my desires, my intentions and my aspirations. I am but a vehicle being driven by a higher force and I feel more alive than I ever have in my life. What could possibly be crazy about that?