Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last Letter From India--Coming Home

O, Servant, where dost thou seek me?
Lo, I am beside thee.
I am neither in the temple, nor in the mosque,
neither am I in rites and ceremonies,
nor in Yoga, nor in renunciation.

If thou art a true seeker,
thou shall at once see me.
Thou shalt meet me in a moment’s time.

Songs of Kabir (Rbaindranath Tagore)

My dear Friends, I am preparing to leave India and to come home! In these few short months, there is too much that happened . I can’t express it all in an email; but I am coming Home. This long pilgrimage is over. It didn’t begin on October 28, 2010, when I departed Miami International, nor did it begin on the last trip to India in 2008. It was a 40 year search for what was already there within my own heart. What I was seeking, I was carrying. It is the perfect love given each of us as descendants of Love Itself.


This line could come from the Course in Miracles. It was what I experienced yesterday, in an accidental meeting with someone who owns a travel agency! In that embrace of recognition from 2008 when I was here in India, a miracle was demonstrated for what it really is. I saw Hanit the first time, in a bookstore 2 years ago. She is the President of a travel agency here in Dehradun and she came over to me where I was seated with a Khenpo, the principal of our college here, who was making his own travel arrangements. She remembered, as do I, our short encounter from 2 years back when she was in the depths of grief over he father’s death. Yesterday, Hanit was overwhelmed in finding me there, and holding my hands, tears unselfconsciously fell from her eyes. We had this instant greeting of heart to Heart which lifted her out of her grief over a death and which lifted me out of my own exhaustion and self-absorption that I was not able to conquer alone. In the moment that our eyes met, we both reached out and connected in the only way any of us can join - through extending love to one another. We were both the teacher and the student; we were both the patient and the medicine. Hanit stayed with me holding my hands and this very busy workplace was then engulfed in the Embrace of the One Love. I was overwhelmed that she remembered me and by the deep and honest way she reached out to me. We spoke of death and of grief but in speaking about this, we both remembered Something Beyond It. She asked me to lunch but I was already committed and I told her I was leaving for Delhi to return home on Friday-that was the other Miracle. She excitedly told me that she would be at her Delhi office later this week, and that she would have her driver pick me up at the train station in Delhi and we would have lunch. We will have what the Sufis call Sohbet and speak of the Friend, of This Divine Thread that runs through our hearts and that joins all beings. We will talk more of her own healing path to overcome grief and of our shared determination to find peace.

Mind you, this last detail, of getting to the airport from the insanity of the train station, was on my mind. That detail was lifted from me and I was shown very clearly what compassion and the at-one-ment really is; that instant we see the Beloved in the eyes that are looking back at us. Who was helping whom? One hand in Hanit and one hand in Nellie; both hands were joined at the sacred heart of Hearts and that Merciful One, that Compassionate One, the Christ, the One that holds all beings beyond words; it alone remained.

I experienced this as a lifting. The Miracle I asked for that morning, to help my own mind, was given to me in the only way it can be shown; through the “Other.” Each interaction has the capacity to teach us this when was are simply open to seeing the Truth in each other and forgetting who is giving what to whom, we become an empty vessel so that unlimited Love be exchanged and that vessel become fulfilled; it is full of the love we are seeking when we join with anyone.

I come home - to find a home, now. I return with a determination and a new stability and to find sustainable work. And, I thank each of you, and all of you, who have watched me over these years and who have supported me in the most specific and mundane ways and in the more subtle way of thinking such unconditionally loving thoughts for me. I dedicate this journey to you all and ask that any, and all, benefit be yours. May this love now extend to those we love in this instant. May it then extend to those we do not love, but in this instant overcome that separation. May it then extend beyond all distinctions; that we find ourselves in that Great Field of Love itself and in this New Year dedicate ourselves to being that Joyful Messenger of Peace.
May we all make the intention together of bringing peace; of being peace-filled; and may that peace descend on each of us in this very moment! How great

with Great Love and thanks!

PS- I leave 31 December for Delhi. I will be out of touch for a few days, until my arrival in Miami. My flight, the 1st of January (an auspicious day to begin anew!) I arrive in the US the same afternoon. I will stay in Hypoluxo, Florida, until I secure work and more permanent living arrangements! I will begin to find ways to use the Course in Miracles as our template for finding what Kabir found in this very great prayer and poem: THOU SHALT MEET ME IN A MOMENT’S TIME, and teaching only Love, hope to find you in a room with me soon, chanting and contemplating this Gift of Life.

Until then. PEACE

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Hello Dear Friends, and Merry Christmas from India!

The weather here has been really cold and I have to laugh for the last winter I stayed, in 08 to 09, it was so moderate. We have all been commenting on the cold and many are buying new blankets and jackets. Even one of the Khenpo’s from Ladakh came out last night in his new jacket that looked like it came from L.L. Bean and he was precious in that big coat and hat! He and I have been watching this full moon rise these past few evenings and practicing English. I bring a cushion to sit on so that the metal seat isn’t too cold and I am wrapped in layers; which, by the way is how I sleep!

The biggest news is that I am returning to the U.S. for many reasons. As we speak, there is a man named Alban, who happens to be in Delhi, and he is making the arrangements through the online service I used to book this flight originally. British Air, under the weight of all that snow in England has been swamped, but he’ll get through, I am sure. He also had the help of my dear and precious sister, Candy. The other morning, after trying for 4 days to get help, she happened to be online and she and I and Alban finally were able to change the flight booking. I could not have done it without Candy, but it wasn’t her help alone; it was the attitude that she sent me of such unconditional regard; no judgement.

I have had to face my own shadow and the many moves and the instability of my life and that isn’t easy, Talking about dharma or about how to make changes in our lives is easy. Doing it, isn’t! Physician heal thyself and it seems I came here to see these things that I am sure are obvious to anyone who knows me. The running! What was I running from, of course, but my own negative thoughts and feelings. Actually seeing this, with clarity, is healing but what I found was also necessary, was the love of friends and family.

I see it like this; I was finally able to demolish this idol of myself and some poor structuring of my own personality as one demolishes an old house. I thought it would finish me for sure, for my own judgement of myself was harsh. But, standing there, were friends and my sister Candy and of course, my brother, Ed.

Without question, they gave me support and in my life, there have been too many times to name when I have received this in so many ways from so many and today, despite a financial poverty, I have found that what makes me rich is this love. From the Friend who comes through these people who have had patience with me, when I had none!

This is my gift to myself. To come home. To see my friends and to be with my family.

I have a place to stay and the Keller’s who have housed me before and for more years than with my own biological family - they are there again for me.

I came to India to find Enlightenment. I found both my own weaknesses which were ready to be healed and the Love of others, that turned out to be the medicine. That is truly a Gift. That is the Birth of Love that I needed to experience in this season of Love and for this I am truly grateful. There are others out there and you know who you are; Rhonda, David, Kay, Val, Boo, Dear and Bags; there are more names than I can say- so let me say to you all; I am deeply grateful to the love, support and comfort that you have always given me! I remember saying to the congregation of UCCL in St. John’s before I left; “You didn’t need to hear me as much as I needed to speak and to hear myself. For that, I am so grateful.” May Peace be alive in each of you and in all of you, now and always.


Thursday, December 9, 2010


We are having a holiday here at Samtenling, a suspension of classes, and the nuns are enjoying the time to go to the market, to clean their rooms, to visit with friends and sometimes, even watching to movies in the dining hall! It is Ladakhi Losar or New Year for that area of Northern India where many monks and nuns come from, high on the border of the country. It’s quieter than most years as our prayers continue for those who perished in the terrible floods of August.

I was invited to tea yesterday at Khenpo Rangdol’s apartment at Kagyu College for the New Year and was invited into his wonderful. warm study filled with tankhas, which are the beautiful tapestries of Buddhas, and tons of food was laid out as we sipped tea that I think he makes especially nice. Meghan, an American who is a Tibetan translator and stays at Songsten Library and has so for many years, than joined us and we had a lovely visit in the afternoon.

Meghan and I then went down to the Tibetan settlement of Dykiling, enjoying an afternoon walk and visit and then stopped for lime soda at the Blossom, a restaurant in our village.

I did go downtown a few times to Dehradun, which always is filled with adventure, to find out why my internet connection had been disconnected within 2 1/2 weeks of service. For 5 days, I couldn’t get online, so thankfully, I grabbed the external drive I was given by TATA Photon, and headed to a shop to find out what happened. Guess why it was disconnected - they couldn’t make a welcome call to me! I laughed and said, if I am subscribing for an internet connection, why didn’t they email! The young woman who helped was awesome; she called the company office and they called her back on her cell and the deal was done and I was reinstated without further question.

Then, I admit it, I stopped at McDonald’s here at Astely Hall where Ronald the Clown sits outside on a big bench and little kids will climb on his statuesque self sculpted there and I can’t really believe what I am seeing with my own eyes. Even Kentucky Fried Chicken is down the road now and Dominoes Pizza. I had a cool soda, a veggie burger and fries and saw another American family there so that only made it a bit more surrealistic! Then, to the bus. What can I tell you! It shouldn’t be on the road, so tinny and decrepit was it. Two nuns from our convent then got on with me as they were leaving the market and as we made the first stop around the corner with the open drains running beside us and the dust and noise at its height, the bus completely filled up and off we went. Still, we kept filling up to a capacity unimaginable except in India and as we sped down the road (this is much slower speed understand than the U.S.) the bus would lurch and we would wave back and forth until I started laughing and saying, “Jai Hind! Jai Hind” which might mean Yeah India and we were soon all laughing and there was such an instant of just pure sharing and joy. We are all on this bus together and crowded there, such a sense of belonging. This is my humanity, all of it.

We stopped by the shop just outside our gate and there another nun is watching a terribly old T.V. with a movie or videos and we greeted the family who runs this stall attached to their home who is so good to us. The pictures are of them and I send this to you all with love, from Dehradun and from India!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ani Deki

Today, I received such a gift of healing. As many others here at the gompa have come down with sore throats and colds, I too, succumbed and yesterday, had to rest most of the day. I decided to try to get back into the swing and teach again, but the first class I could see it was an effort. One of the anis came up to me and told me that she could get me some medicine from some of the other nuns and that I only had to drink this Tibetan powder with boiled water. I was touched by her concern and agreed to take this but forgot about it, having another class and then, taking my lunch to my room, tried to rest and read.

Hearing a soft knock on my door, I opened it to Ani-la (the la added to the end of a name is a term of endearment and a natural way that many call each other here, in the monastery, or gompa, as it is called in Tibetan). She is tiny in stature but quite big in her compassion and does many things for people, I have noticed.

As I stood towering over this little nun, I felt her presence towering as well and I knew, this would help me, not because of this powder she collected and carried in a piece of torn newspaper, but because it is compassion that heals us. It matters not what the action or the herb or the medicine. It is the motivation of concern for others that heals.

I sit here in my room, drinking the powder in the boiled water, which, if I am honest, tastes a lot like dirt, as Tibetan medicine does to me! I rest after lunch and prepare to go to my next 2 classes, interrupted by the 3 p.m. tea break. In the last gathering, only 2 nuns are there as there is a special prayer, or puja, this afternoon and toward the end of this session, I am obviously wiped out and head back here to rest. The head is a bit more congested now and I’m spent and lay down to just rest and there’s another soft knock on the door! There’s Ani Kulsang Dolma (B we call her to distinguish here from Ani Kulsang Dolma A!) This nun is the store keeper and oversees all the food that comes in and out of Samtenling, as well as the meals, and there she is, heading to the puja but on a mission of mercy, for it seems that another nun, this one is Ngawang Chonzim who speaks very little Engish and is a student in my last class saw my distress and asked her to deliver more Tibetan medicine to me and explain how to prepare it.

Now, I’m just blown away. I am drinking more medicine now, this one has to cool and then sips taken between resting. That medicine that I told you about? Compassion? Well, it seems as if I’ve been given a heavy dose and should be quite well in no time, as compassion, it seems is not limited to time and space at all; like Love.

I’ve rested a bit and now sip good old familiar green tea and our dinner will soon be served, a hot soup we have in the winter, tukpa, and I am cradled, as are we all, in the Arms of Love, Compassion and Mercy. May we all be aware of such medicine and be healed of all pain and suffering and then, extend this to all others.

With Love, I send this -always -Nellie

Ani Ngawang is standing and the other photo is Deki-la! Bless them and all, without exception.

Monday, November 29, 2010


It is 6:48, a Monday morning, which means for this nunnery, the one full day off. The anis are back in their rooms with chapati and tea and I am sure, resting after their morning prayers. Yesterday, after the half-day of class, we spent the rest of the day cleaning. They go at this job as they do every chore, with devotion and hard work! The gekko, who is the disciplinarian, and the ani director are out there working just as diligently and the screeching sound of the sweeping was heard throughout the gompa (monastery). Plants were watered and the grounds renewed with weeding projects. They worked until dark.

I had my own clean up. The fixture below the sink was acting up for days and trying to signal this concern, I had finally gotten the store keeper’s attention as the leak was increasing in pressure and I had a vision of the pipe bursting behind the wall! We went to Tashi’s house, who lives on the grounds with his wife and daughter, to see if he could turn the water off, but he was sick and it was decided we would have to wait for a plumber. With some unease, I returned to my room and was reading when I heard the terrible pop from the bathroom and water gushing from the wall poured across to the opposite wall and began to flood the room! Who came to my rescue but Sangay Chodon again. This nun from Aranchal always seems to be there when I need her and with a singleminded strength, she went at it, eventually putting a large branch into the pipe, temporarily stopping the flood. However, we were laughing that now I had this potential javelin to worry about! Now, the water had to be turned off as 3 suites were affected. Out come the water buckets and the refillable water jugs from the filter pump by the kitchen and storeroom and the adventure of bathing with the bucket and a bottle of water. Having been here in 2008I knew that this doesn’t constitute an emergency; this is just India! It’s no big deal, no matter what the mind tries to make of it! The plumber arrived in the afternoon, as the switching of brooms made of twigs continued on the grounds and my own cleaning began as soon as he left and pouring hot water with lysol, my own interior cleaning once again ensued!

Having the leaks fixed so easily, I felt as if I was now at the Hilton. Living so simple, the simplest can be enough to bring contentment and I look across the still shiny floor, that will demand attention again by the day’s end, and smile at the absurdity!

I finished my breakfast in a wonderful solitude, as most of the other teachers are gone visiting for a night and the lamas that remain will come to eat around 7 a.m. Jenna, the volunteer English geyla (teacher) from California, left for Dharamsala with Claude, a young German woman who is staying at the nunnery deeply emmersed in her own program of mastering Tibetan. Jenna, only 20 years old, was happy for the break and the adventure of teachings with H.H. The Dalai Lama and off they went, getting the bus from the Tibetan village down the road, called Dykliling.

The nuns are off and I might join a few if they go downtown to Dehradun and splurge with a latte at LaVazza Barrista, the shop in front of the English Book Depot! The adventure continues as we prepare for the Ladakhi New Year, called Losar, and as each of you turn toward that madness of Christmas! No matter what we do, it’s nuts, but we can resolve this year to carry into each task of buying and shopping and traveling and visitng - a sense of Joy and of Peace. Why not! God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change -the madness there in the malls. The Courage to change the things I can - just my own approach to this season of Light. And the Wisdom to know the difference - herein lies the dilemma! I can change so little but it can mean the world to someone else. I can only change the motivation behind my own thoughs and actions, thinking of others with compassion and with love. It sounds so simple!

Winter is upon us as the days darken sooner and remain so longer, but the Truth of Who We Are, not diminished, shines ever in each of our Hearts.

With Great Love
and Appreciation!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It has been unusually cold since I arrived, although the days still become quite hot by mid morning. Today, the chill remained with an unusual cloud cover that began days ago with the first downpour. Today and yesterday, our holiday, I stayed put here at the nunnery, quietly in retreat and had such a glorious time! During the end of the week, after teaching 4 classes a day and having numerous other tutorials with lamas, (one on one session), and with some wonderful young visitors from Ladakh, I had it! I couldn’t speak one more sentence about “going to the shop” instead of “I go shop!” One lama, Khenpo Tsultim; he understood the most, I think and so, I have been hibernating as I end my third week in India. There is more contentment, I think and less need to go out just for the sake of moving and going somewhere. I remember a line from a dharma text,; the propensity for movement. That habitual need to move for the sake of moving itself; this phrase has come back to me as I watched myself make decisions as to what to do yesterday and today.

After breakfast, knowing that I had all this time off, I wisely chose to return to my room and wait for direction, for guidance, and receiving it, I simply stayed here, hardly leaving the nunnery gates. There was this moment of such clarity when I saw how much we move at such breakneck speed but aren’t really aware of why we’re going! Do we really need that much? In that moment, everything stopped. In that instant, something returned to my mind, something I thought had been lost or that I had been seeking. As if a simple and small puzzle piece moved into place, and I was whole. Here, in this moment and in this place, is everything. The Beloved is here in each face and in the eyes of everyone here at the nunnery. This kind of clarity is completely liberating.

I then, open the Course in Miracles to this, Text, Chapter 22, VI, para 6:

Child of peace, the light has come to you. The light you bring you do not recognize, and yet you will remember. Who can deny himself the vision that he brings to others? And who would fail to recognize a gift he let be laid in Heaven through himself? The gentle service that you give the Holy Spirit is service to yourself. You who are now his means must love all that he loves. And what you bring is your remembrance of everything that is eternal. No trace of anything in time can long remain in a mind that serves the timeless. And no illusion can disturb the peace of a relationship that has become the means of peace.

Such a Gift and such Grace.

I spend the morning writing and come to the place where I can stop, usually for the day and I read and I rest and I have found an inner sanctuary and peace I only dreamed of in the past.

Listening to the kyrie on my laptop I breathe into a contentment.

Clarity; that is the overwhelming feeling I have found about my life and my work and even the reason for being here in India. I’ve returned to the Course reading it daily and referring to it throughout the day, I have found even a greater wisdom than I knew that surpasses the teachings I have sought these many years. I return to the home of the Friend, Jesus, my elder brother, as one comes to sit in the kitchen of a great and true friend. So simple and so obvious, but the trek and pilgrimage I have pursued was apparently necessary for this very clarity. What a word, coming from the Latin word for clear. As if looking into water, pure and deep. What else to cherish; what else to give, but That?

Here is a picture of one of my students, also from Ladakh, Konchok Lhadon, who follows me as a child follows her mother. She loves to walk close to me so that I put my arms around her. She is too sweet. I have found this great welcoming and a word that I have never attributed to myself but has been spoken from a number of the nuns and people from the shops I have reconnected with here- “beautiful.” How funny is that. Here in this ani gompa, I feel beautiful at last and I see beauty in these teachers of mine. Attached is her photo from last year; still filled with her innocence!

May your Thanksgiving bring you peace and contentment as well, as some Westerners and I will head downtown tomorrow for a Thanksgiving of palek paneer and dal! What Joy..

May you all be well.
And may the beauty that
Transcends all appearances
Of separation
Be yours and mine always

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Amma's Language

Somewhere, there is a radio playing Ladakhi music on a small radio a lama here has and the gong is calling the evening prayers and the sound of conversation from the staff room is filled with Tibetan, English and German. Sounds. So diverse. So many languages and so many ways to connect. Here we make attempts to bridge the language divide with gestures and simple words and many expressions that cause us to laugh. During a recent English class that I had, an ani was apparently trying to tell me what the date was, but her heavy Indian accent made the sound of dead and I am then trying to find out who died! We had such a laugh.

Laughing is a language I use in India; it’s my favorite I think. That, and the hands in Namaskar and greeting into someone else’s eyes. A woman and her husband live in a small shack that is attached to our monastery, just to the left of the front gate and this Amma, as I call her, had recently lost her son and is still in a a terrible grief. I went up to her as her husband, squatting on the ground repeated “Hari Om” as he does, and I just looked into her eyes and said how sorry I was and she cried. She’s speaking in Hindi and I in English, but we understood through the language that we all share.

Even in this grieving, there is Joy, for somewhere we all remember and we all know that we are all one and when I am with someone who doesn’t speak my language nor I, theirs, I am astounded at how little it really matters. A nun standing behind me as I held Amma said, “She doesn’t understand,” and pointing to Amma’s heart, I said, “This is what we understand.”

Sitting with the lamas in our little staff eating room, I often become mesmerized by their voices and far from feeling left out of a conversation I cannot understand when they do speak Tibetan, I feel a quiet peace.

There are still fireworks in some parts of the valley around Kulhan, the district where I live even the festival of Lights, Diwali, is over by a week.

So many sounds. So much India. The gong is still playing its refrain; come and pray. Maybe all language is just that invitation!

Let’s all join in our own language and in our own way and send them off to the place they all meet in that Silent One Peace.