Monday, 30 September 2013


It is that time of the year -- the horse chestnut trees are beginning to change the color of their leaves from green to all the shades of the lower end of the spectrum: reds, oranges, yellows, browns -- and floating down the air; There are many news birds here, on their way to warmer climates, and the   marauding monkeys, knowing the corn has ripened, have come here in hoards to have a feast.
When I went for my walk today the path was thick and lovely with fallen leaves. The oblique angle of the sun at this time of the year up here in the high Himalayas has a particular brightness edged with dark. One feels the light in ones bones and the body, like the trees, begins to sense the coming of winter, of darkness and cold. By the end of October the sun will cease for three months to shine on our home and the temperatures will plummet to below zero. I have been here at that time of the year, freezing, dark, depressing.  

The time of year is particularly poignant for me, for it is reminder that I am leaving this life that I love so much to go off to Southern California, which I also kind of love, though I miss several things about this place, my dogs (who I know will be very well taken care of by our chawkidar, Himmat, and his wife, Meera; I have them move into the house where there is a German wood stove and plenty of firewood for the winter), all the help that makes my life so easy, my family who are so close (eight hours away by car instead of thirty by plane), and the jungle/nature surrounding me here. There we have the Pacific Ocean which kind of makes up for it.

There is much to do before we batten down the hatches and leave for the season. It hurts my head to count the many ways. Payson and I do some hopping before returning to the US -- first to Chandigarh, then Delhi, then Ajanta and Ellora -- neither of us has been. I won't have internet now till the first week of November. But will write some more posts before I leave here.


Two of my favorite plays demonstrating how our ability to see through appearance and reach to the heart of a person transforms that person. In the first, Petruchio marries the shrew (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton is my favorite movie version), and by showing her her own appearance (in this case, a naggy, horrible one) in his own acting, changes her to the image of his desires; in the latter, Don Quixote sees Dulcinea -- a lowly prostitute -- as a lovely princess and by so seeing, changes her to a lovely being. The movie version with Peter O Toole and Sofia Lauren is the best.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


This is one of the greatest pieces I have read lately. I hope you will read it in its entirely. Briefly, the most salient features of this article:

Ravi Shankar's first wife, Roshanara, renamed Annapurna Devi after her conversion to Hinduism prior of her marriage to him, is from a long line of illustrious musicians, sister of Ali Ali Akbar Khan. They performed together, and she was more popular than Ravi Shankar and he didn't like it. To save her marriage she took a vow never to perform in public again. This is her story. 


This seems to be the most important of our tasks here on this planet -- to go beyond, see through, pierce through image -- facade, veneer, mask -- to the truth of things. We are all prisoners of appearances, mistaking them for reality. All of us project these images -- shielding, lying to ourselves -- and buy them, make up, clothes, expensive cars and houses, lock stock and barrel. To begin on this very essential work all we need to do is see photographs of us then and now, see the arc of our lives from infant to old age, envision ourselves dead, which we will be, on the pyre or in the ground. Since this is an important subject I'll do several posts on it.


I started turning grey and dyeing my hair while I was still in my thirties not because I really wanted to -- I thought the grey strands framing my face looked rather nice -- but because I let a friend of mine, Anjali, talk me into it. I was in between husbands, and subconsciously thought I would be more attractive if I showed no sign of grey. Who wanted a crone? And once I had begun, I couldn't stop, as all women who dye their hair know -- there is that interim period where one looks like a raccoon. I continued to put the poison in my hair every ten days, which is how long it took for the tell-tale roots to begin to show. I let myself grow grey again after Donald's death -- not with any particular intention -- but because I was grieving too much to think about it. Besides, I had thought I would probably never marry again. But life has its own agendas. Sometime before I met Payson I had started to dye my hair again -- perhaps as a subconscious acknowledgment of my emotional needs and an almost harrowing sense of loneliness. After Payson and I got together,  he read an article somewhere about how carcinogenic hair dye is, and wanted me to stop. I did, and it was a measure of my trust of Payson's ability to look beyond appearance that encouraged me. For over a year, perhaps even more, I was a happy raccoon.

To backtrack a bit: before I stopped dying my hair, every time I looked at myself in a mirror, I was very displeased. The words that repeated themselves through me were, who are you kidding? The black was altogether too harsh a color, and the brown didn't feel any better. I thought -- believe it or not! how stupid we humans are -- perhaps blonde would work? But though it was too wild an idea to implement it did tell me that I was looking for something lighter. After my grey had grown out -- I knew, this is it! So much camouflaging to let myself be natural!

Last night I had a dream that at a counter of a beauty shop the mother and daughter team threw some dark powder on my grey hair and turned it back to black. I was so pissed and angry that I shouted at them: I will sue you, bitches!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013


By Eugen Herrigel, is my all time favorite book. I have to read it once a year to get my head straight. It is not just about archery, but about life and living. As D.T. Suzuki says in his introduction to the book, the practice of archery is "meant to train the mind."
Some more quotes from Suzuki:
"Man is a thinking reed but his great works are done when he in not calculating and thinking. "Childlikeness has to be restored with long years of training in the art of self-forgetfulness. When this is attained, (Wo)man thinks yet (S)he does not think. (S)he thinks like the showers coming down from the sky; he thinks like the waves rolling in the ocean; he thinks like the stars illuminating the nightly heavens; he thinks like the green foliage shooting forth in the relaxing spring breeze. Indeed, he is the showers, the ocean, the stars, the foliage."

Archery here is a metaphor: we are all archers in that we have goals and targets we wish to achieve in our lives. How to do it in a way which teaches us, not so much to attain those goals, but how to be as one goes about attaining them, how to make the process instructional in the highest sense, is what this book is all about.

I recommend it highly

Sunday, 22 September 2013


 In my new way of being – not pushing myself – ‘go by going where I have to go,’ I have not woven the story for several days, and I’m writing here to convince myself that it is okay. My failures have one good spin off, at least – that I don’t disturb my comfort in a push to achieve my goals. Comfort, physical, mental, psychic, is paramount now. The weather has changed, bright, melancholic autumn light edged with darkness, the first piercing of the bones with the cold to come, in which everything sparkles. A season to take care, stay warm in the deluding warmth, bring out the jackets and the hats, begin to knit.  


Thursday, 19 September 2013


The chaos is beginning to curdle into order again, owing, I think, to my allowing myself to rest. Allowing, even when the mind started to call me names like ‘vegetable,’ and ‘lazy.’ Gently told my mind to make room for my body and to let it be. Rested all day yesterday, combining rest with being with mom. Lay on dad’s side of the bed and dozed/rested as she talked. Every once in a while she would say, are you sleeping? Are you listening? And I would repeat her last line and she would carry on telling me stories she has told me many, many, many times before. She needs to talk, to know someone is listening and I need to be silent and listen, so it works well. In the afternoon she was being negative and I found myself getting irritated but then realized that she needs to be negative, that it is healthy for her to expel the noxious fumes inside her, that she was tired from not being able to nap in the afternoon, and after some time she settled down. I want to write about NEGATIVITY because expressing it and being okay with it is new to me. 
But I have laid down limits to my interaction with her. Yesterday when she started on the whole Blank Blank subject, I just looked her in the eye and said I don’t want to get into this, okay? I didn’t explain why – I have done so thousands of times before, and explanations do nothing for her; I didn’t get into it, and said very calmly and forcefully, I don’t want to go there. She got it, and just laid off the topic and then even said, I don’t want to go there, either.


There’s excitement and peace in my heart this morning, a thrilling at the sight of my messy study, waiting to be tidied up, the books put away. The colors return to my soul as it turns upon the axis of the earth, and the wet, soggy monsoon turns to warm, brilliant sunshine upon the trees and the water. I feel gloriously returned to matter, this, here, now, life in all its immanent materiality and presence. I have left the house in my brain and returned to my body and my senses. Yes, this feels right. Not ‘I think’ but ‘I feel.’ I feel therefore I am. And this is what my depression did: it expelled me from thinking about life into living it.
Only as much thought as is needed to survive. Not survive through thought but survive through the heart, the body, and all its pulses. 



Tuesday, 17 September 2013



Image of a garden on a higher tier of ground with exquisite, miniaturized trees and plants. I water them to strengthen them so that they will be able to endure the drought and diminished supply of water later on.

The message here is: nurture the young saplings, strengthen them now while the water is plentiful so later, in scarcity, which is probable and inevitable, they will have within them the resources to endure. I think of Theresa of Avila’s image of praying while you can to strengthen yourself for the times when you cannot pray. The garden is the garden of my soul.


I am labeling all these posts on loving yourself as # 1 because it seems to me that they all come first. I also write them because the topic has become increasingly important to me as I age. It may, of course, not be important to you, but I can only write about my issues.

The essential thing here is NOT TO GIVE YOURSELF A HARD TIME. I have been a master at doing this. I cannot count the ways in which I beat up on myself. Of course, I would not have written as much as I have if I hadn't done so. But then again, perhaps I would have written even more if I had been kinder to myself. Above all being kind to myself consists of this: when I am tired, I do not question it, but rest; when I am hungry, I eat, moderately, of course, for being moderate is another way of loving and not abusing yourself; when I am sleepy, I put myself to be, to hell with what else needs doing; when I want to take days off from writing to play, hang out, be lazy, I do so; when I have too many social commitments and I want to get back to my study and into myself, I do so without apologies to anyone, etc, etc. Bottom line: being attuned to the needs of my soul and feeding them.

Saturday, 14 September 2013


The process of writing, when it isn’t so frustrating is truly amazing. I think this is the reason that writing fascinates me. Every word and idea and image presents me with many ways I can go. Sometimes, of course, I do explore many options, frequently getting entangled if not strangled on them. The paralysis that follows is an indication that I haven’t found the way. And then miraculously one day I know which one to take and how to go. This knowing always feels like grace.

Coercion, force, power doesn’t work.  Patience, waiting, working, an alert and conscious surrendering, so very difficult to do, is what produces results.  What makes it difficult is my impatience, my pushing too hard, forgetting that coercion won’t work, that the most difficult material is also the most fruitful in terms of plot and development.

It teaches me how to live.


My stomach has been upset lately (too much consuming! ) and I realize that appetite is all about the compulsions of the limbic brain. That is why we have so little control over it. There are severed social consequences to our other uncontrolled appetites, like sex and financial greed, but (we think) food is harmless, private, and therefore overindulge in them. Controlling this appetite is less a question of mind over matter than mind over older mind. Today, I have told myself, I will only eat fruit. I will lay out my rations on the kitchen table – this and no more; for my limbic brain, who wants to pounce on food, I will lay out a few things in the closet that it can legitimately pounce on. Consciousness must cater for the inevitable compulsion in a controlled way. I love this image because it takes into account our animalness and provides for it.    

These appetites that have their wellspring, or illspring, in us, are the strangest things. I will count a few ways, for the examples alone will say what I mean. For years and years I have known that caffeine does a number on my stomach and on my brain. But for years and years I have drunk it because my associations with tea have very long roots, in addition to tasting and feeling darn good for a few seconds or minutes. Ditto for chocolate. I have pounced on these mindlessly, instinctively. EVEN WHEN I KNEW THAT THE ILLNESS THEY CAUSE MIGHT KEEP ME FROM WRITING FOR DAYS AND DAYS. I think it has a lot to do with  failure of memory. I tell myself over and over that I must drink a glass of water before I eat, or during, and one after to curb the gobblin in me that keeps on eating once it has started to eat, but I forget it every time, and the gobblin wins each time.
Memory then is the root of wisdom.  Mimir, the giant in Norse Mythology that guards the well of wisdom, charges one eye for one sip of it.