Friday, 29 November 2013


I ask myself as I move through the house, what do I want to do? I walk past the jewelry table, past the music corner, past the bookshelves that need organizing so I can pick out books that speak to me, past the half read DREAMLAND, Adventures in the Science of Sleep, past the computer table, past the library that needs sorely to be reorganized, into and out of the kitchen, past the shawl I meant to embroider, past the 4 inches of scarf I have taken one month to knit, and the answer is, nothing. And yet, its not a very satisfying ‘nothing,’ there is a barb in it. I wonder where there is to go from here? Will things change? They haven’t for what seems like a long time. Is it the weather, the season, where all gets ready to hibernate for the winter? The fig tree is shedding its leaves, the asparagus has been cut back, the hydrangea bush is bare of flowers. Guavas are ripening, however, and the lettuce, kale and broccoli are growing strongly in their beds. Is there any solace in this comparison? Hibernating sounds right, for perhaps I am not a winter vegetable or fruit, but then, neither am I entirely a summer one. Why can’t I learn from the vegetable world, however? Because as a human I like to think of myself as an evergreen, or beyond this analogy, something other than the natural. Don’t I have a will? And cannot I not steer by it? If yes, why is my will not working to give a direction to my days? If I wait trustingly, will something move me? I have loosened the reins of my Rosanante (she is Don Quixote's mare, and whenever he couldn't decide which way to go, he loosened her reins and let her decide) and she has just been standing like a rocking horse in the crossroads. Since nothing is working, rest is best. Or perhaps, I might say, a restful way of being.

I must give myself credit for an enormous development in my life (or is it grace?): unlike in the past where I have let this lack of direction drive me crazy and insane, I have held my mind steady on the course to peace. It is peace I am steering by now. I’m not getting anything done and am a bit restless and unhappy about it, but I am not insane, and that is saying a lot. But because this is a time of questioning, I wonder where I shouldn’t at least allow myself to get agitated? A sort of controlled agitation, as it were. Perhaps the agitation serves a purpose and helps me find a direction? In the past I have grown so crazy that I have had to throw myself into something to keep from going insane. Will peace keep me from my goal?

This is undoubtedly a complex issue. Most of us think the agitation itself is purpose enough for it makes us feel alive. We are so afraid to allow ourselves to sink into peace. It feels like growing old. It feels like the end of the road.

Okay, peacefully, slowly, sleepily, even, I’ll make a new file and review the music for BBS: small, baby steps, Kamla. Make a beginning, take the first step, falter if your must, be patient, scribble something, never mind that it is mindless, useless, piddly; never mind that it doesn't matter to anyone but you; remember, you are the audience of your own life; don’t judge your performance. Proceed, fumblingly, but proceed . . . word by word, sentence by sentence, small thought by small thought . . . onward.    


There has to be a healthy balance between organizing and tolerating chaos. The latter, too, is a great skill, when the time calls for it. It's called not being anal.


We drove to Marina Del Rey on Tuesday to go sailing with Steve Mandel, who is an experienced sailor. He lived with his family in a 71 foot boat for years, going all over the world. For the first time in my life I took the helm and steered us on the open waters. I had a hard time of it in the beginning, not knowing what I was doing, and feeling thoroughly old and incompetent. But when Steve gave me a goal: keep it moving towards that ridge in the mountains, I got it. I also had to realize I wasn't riding a horse -- you don't pull the rein on the opposite direction that you want the horse to turn -- but turn left to turn left. Of course, it was easy, on account of it being such a gentle, warm, almost windless day. 

Payson knew Steve when he was 18, and recently renewed his contact with him again. How marvelous the internet is! 

Will post a photo as soon as Steve sends them to us. 

Monday, 25 November 2013


Ah, this is the hard one, but it must be done, one's jumble of feelings parsed down, looked at (one can do this excellently when gets into the habit of keeping an honest journal and not be ashamed/afraid/reluctant about them) unflinchingly, and putting them in their place. Believe me, all feelings have their place and unless they are in them, they can wreck havoc and chaos in your life.

Oh, something comes before doing all this, and that is letting ourselves feel them first. How will would we know what it is we have to organize?


I have been half-hearted about the blog for several reasons but the most relevant here has to do about my mind set when I don't organize.  Organization -- I have been talking about organizing one's space so far -- applies to the mind, too, and to the heart. In both these place everything is all jumbled up together causing a deep confusion (clutter will cause that) if not despair. And the reason why I don't organize these latter spaces is because of some limiting and narrow IDEA I have about what should be happening. For example, I have not been able to get into writing since my return from India, it simply isn't happening. What has been happening is a knowledge and a half-hearted desire (again, because I thought it was second best, not worth doing, etc, why aren't I writing) to organize my files. I have been doing some, unhappily, feeling bad that SOMETHING MORE IMPORTANT (like brilliant ideas, or new compositions for my songs) weren't happening. I have been a junkie of sorts: wanting new ideas daily, new compositions, something new and exciting all the time. First, I had to become okay with this IMPORTANT thing not happening, not thinking it was my fault somehow, not giving myself a hard time about it. Second I had to get into what was happening NOW, and that was: clean your fucking mess up!

Take my compositions for example: I have at least 20 that I haven't worked out the rhythm or the fingerings or the interludes, or the beginnings and endings for. All I want to do when I sit down at the synthesizer is sing like a bird soaring to heaven. NOT HAPPENING. YOUR VOICE IS STUCK IN YOUR THROAT BECAUSE YOU AREN'T EVEN CONSCIOUS IT IS STUCK; your wings are weighed down by the oil spill of your messes. I have been sitting on a lot of such half-chewed stuff because I haven't been ready for the hard work and patience and acceptance that cleaning up entails. I have been more interested in writing than doing something about it, and then moaning that nothing was happening with it.

Recognizing how fucked up one is, is Grace (though the conscious choice of being okay with what is, accepting it, moving with it, even being grateful for it, prepares the ground for it). Chopping wood and carrying water applies to this as well as to all else. Gird your loins, go to it, and pick up your goddamn loads!

Friday, 22 November 2013


While Payson was away for five days for the memorial for his sister, I had several friends stop by and visit: Liz, Diane, and Phyllis. Nirmala was supposed to come by, too, but couldn't, and that was okay too, since the connection was renewed. And my friend, Jori, from 30 years ago, connected via email and the blog. And Susan Schenk, returned from her many wandering in Ecuador, connected, too. Thank you, friends. Sisters. Thank you for being in my life. Your presence enriches it, makes me feel connected, loved.

It seems to me that friendships have to be cultivated like food -- once the meeting has happened, like the sowing of a seed, it has to be watered, nurtured, fertilized, the weeds and knots removed periodically. Even when we wander far and wide, it is important to maintain the connections with a thread. The thread has to be in your consciousness and heart, and then it vibrates and lives. And the responsibility for the maintenance is always ours alone. We have to reach out, and find it there. It is like stretching the arm to reach for a fruit.

Thursday, 21 November 2013


Last year our neighbor, Larry, who nobody knew because he was so solitary and reclusive, died. Nobody knew for days that he had passed away, since the only sign of his existence was a crate full of empty vodka bottles every garbage day. I had a glimpse of him one day, climbing the steps through his overgrown garden to his home after having deposited the empty bottles -- tall, lanky, slow, all awkward limbs in a pair of boxer shorts. He left his house and money, all 15 million of it, to the Zoo.

I also know many other wealthy Americans who don't even think about getting help with the kitchen, for example. One of them has cancer and needs to eat healthy foods and drink fresh juice, but the wife, in addition to care taking, has to do it all. There is no tradition of getting help. It is the old puritanical ethic of doing it all yourself -- this post is to balance the last one -- to the point of making yourself sick and unwell. Larry's house, infested with rats and other vermin, could have hired help, or even a companion to visit him for a couple of hours a day. The second example can employ someone in the kitchen so the wife can spend quality time with her husband.

I am eternally grateful to our cleaning ladies -- I could kiss their feet! It is a symbiotic relationship. I enjoy their presence in the house when they come, and I enjoy inhabiting the house that they have cleaned so well.


A man asked a Zen Master how to get enlightened: the answer, Chop wood, carry water. This is one of Payson's favorite saying and he embodies this wisdom. I have never seen him shirk any sort of work that needs doing, whether it is washing the dishes, doing the laundry, or sweeping and cleaning the floors. He is my guru in this. I have always thought certain tasks are best done by others, that some tasks were more worth doing and had more intrinsic value: writing, for instance, or making music, exercising. Coming from India, where we always had 'servants' (who are now, politely called 'help' in educated circles, but whose tasks have remained unchanged) I have been stuck, rather whiningly, in this hierarchy. But I have learned from Payson the necessity of doing all that needs doing -- not only because they are necessary for one's physical existence -- but more, for one's mental survival as well. One can never get depressed or lonely if one pays attention to all that needs to be done to keep one's immediate environment -- in this case, one's house, which is a second skin -- clean, and in order.

Which doesn't mean I don't have days -- tired days when I haven't got enough sleep -- when I don't wish someone else would do it for me! When I wish I could import my India staff just for that day, beam them here to help me.

And here is another reason this post is for Payson, who has made our India life possible, for consenting, happily, to live half his life there with me; for making it physically possible by building our home in a place where there were no architects and engineers; for taking care of it financially; for providing a lovely home here in Del Mar where the ocean is just a glance away.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Didn't realize there is so much I own that I have outgrown -- and not just clothes. Things I saved and hoarded for God alone knows what purpose need to be pitched and/or given away. Every stage of life has its own needs and that makes hoarding so very redundant. I used to like to own things -- still do! But the difference now is that I love owning empty space. An empty shelf or drawer thrills me! How easy it is to clean and organize! How it reminds me of the beauty of emptiness! A door leads to it, and it is called, organizing for relevance, pitching, or giving away.

Don't get me wrong -- I am still a very material being. I am still buying according to my new needs. But a new space opens up now, like a flower about to bloom.


Dropped off P at the airport -- he was going for the family get together for his sister's memorial. I didn't go -- it would have been more energy than I have right now. When you are used to being with someone it takes some getting used to to be alone. I am at a loss the entire morning, wondering if I should go to the Cathedral (The Mall) and buy things I don't need, till the words surface: DO THE NECESSARY. Marvelous words, really. It got me out of the house for a walk, into the kitchen to make myself some healthy food, rice and steamed vegetables, and into the study and the piles of work that need to be done. Organizing, mainly. This morning, my music, which is piles of my Sikh music, Kirtan, which I adore, listen to all the time, and cannot live without. Not organizing it means not having a direction to the listening, or listening to the same things over and over (most of the time, when the music is good, and it is, terribly good, especially Bhai Balbir Singh's series, Dhan So Raag Sorangrhe, I can). I didn't know till I started organizing that I have many more of his CD's that I haven't listened to, so I am quite stoked with the pile of music to look forward to. This was a serious thing not to have organized.

Organizing opens doors!

Friday, 15 November 2013


Edith Piaff, the legendary French singer, as I mentioned earlier, used to sleep in a coffin. Though I wouldn't like to do that literally -- no wriggle room!-- I have been doing it lately metaphorically. It is the tiny space, no larger than my body, a cell, a monk's cell, a cell in a prison, a narrow, confined space, as in asylum or convent, a small, very humble abode. I find it hugely comforting, secure, holy, healing, calming. I return here often during the day, and have made it a habit to remember I have it. Remember, if you don't know you have it, you don't. It is a place where all the teeming, jostling ideas, feelings, dreams in my head find rest and I fall into a dreamless sleep while being awake.

Thursday, 14 November 2013


I stumbled upon the literal and metaphoric truth of this as I went through the cupboards and saw that I had many things I had written on my list to buy. If I don't know or remember where something is, then it's as good as not having it. This applies to things, knowledge, wisdom, truth and is deeply connected with memory and consciousness. We have not only to know something, but to know we know it. Here is an example: you might have powers of endurance, courage, love, strength, wisdom, insight, creativity, etc, but if you don't know where they are (in you, easily accessible, just a thought, a memory away) you'll feel and worry you don't have them.


“I am truly a lone traveler and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have never lost a sense of distance and a need for solitude – feelings which increase with the years.” 
The world as I see it, by Einstein, trns Alan Harris 


I'll tell you wherein my blindness consists -- when I am in state, say, feeling low, down, dirty, I forget it is only a state, a single point on the arc of my ever-changing, shifting existence; that it will change, just as joyful moments change and shift. I know this, but can't practice it much of the time. I think this is my definition of enlightenment: Knowing and remembering knowing, that Truth, a series of unfolding, contrary processes, transcends them.

In short, I am in a different place -- the earth has moved in its orbit and on its axis, the solar system, the galaxies have moved on their way to God alone knows where.


The daily rotation of the earth on its axis is 1000 miles an hour.
Its annual revolution about the sun is at 72000 miles an hour
The solar system is moves within the local star system at 46800 miles an hour
The local star system moves within the Milky Way at 720, 000 miles an hour
The entire milk way is drifting with respect to the remote external  galaxies  at 360,000 miles an hour.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


The web of life is all around and in us -- a bird feeding outside the window, a plant on a window sill, a tree, lettuce growing in the garden -- these are deep connections. We mistakenly think that only 'talking' or 'touching' is connection. Our community extends far and wide, near and deep. I have mind and heart-linked with spiders in my bathroom, ants, dolphins out at sea. A neighbor's cat who come whenever she feels like it, striding noisily through the cat door I still have from ten years ago when staying-at-one-place allowed me to have pets in the US, which I leave open just for her, just for that moment of delight and joy when she comes, sometimes not for weeks. We have to teach ourselves to get out of the habitual definition of connection to see how everything belongs to us, and we to everything.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013


One distinct advantage of our dual life -- 6 months in the US and 6 months in India  (apart from the 10 days of jet lag hell flying west; by the way, does anyone else experience this other than me? Do tell!) -- is ORGANIZATION. In order to reclaim  my territory in both homes I have to re-organize the study, home, kitchen almost each time. Memory lapses, the need to know where everything is, the inevitable atrophy of 6 months, demands it. That, and the process of reclaiming a past life, making it present and relevant now, for one's needs have invariably changed over the course of 6 months: I'm reading different books, working on a different project, eating a different diet, depending on the state of my body that asserts itself strongly as I age, as its shelf-life decreases, as it grows feebler and more in need of care and nurturing, the other end of the spectrum from infancy where the unfolding line of time joins up with itself again.

I love organization. I am reminded each time I reorganize of the word, ORGAN. Our body functions because it differentiates, adapts 'organs' for specific functions; we live and breathe because of such organization; society functions through it. Without it there would be anarchy, chaos, death. The words 'work,' 'action,' 'energy,' come from the same root. One cannot do much without it. With it, however, one can become the organ through which the wind makes music.

Friday, 8 November 2013


Looking at the fig tree, still full of leaves, the filled birdfeeder, painted a madder red, with its first bird, a finch, head and back the color of madder, feeding, and after a week of ‘hell,’ I’m here, back, in our lovely home in Del Mar. Word is getting out in the bird world: the feeder is filled! The feeder is filled! The lady is back for the winter!

This is what it means to be back, to be here, not in some space-less spaces in the head where one cannot get beyond one’s own biology. Biology is everything. It is either kind, or not, and right now it is kind, and my belief that the kindness and unkindness should both be one notwithstanding, I am relieved it is kind this morning. I am at rest and ready, in my own slow and slumbering way, to do or not do as I am moved or not.