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.

Monday, November 15, 2010

5a.m. In India

It’s 5 a.m. and the scurry of the plastic slippers the anis use as their shoes is heard as they scamper to the sound calling them to their morning puja, the morning prayers that they recite, accompanied by drum and cymbals, chant and recitation. There is the slow banging of a gong that is gradually increased in frequency and this, this ritual and call to prayer, is how we begin our day here at Samtenling nunnery; in India. The noise of the clanging that first awakes the nuns at 4:30, the gong of the morning prayers, only competes soon enough with the sound from loud speakers as bajans begin in the Hindu temples, as the muezzin calls the faithful to prayer in the Muslim conclave of families that is part of our village, Nagal Hatnala.

All over India, the day begins with this call to prayer. Shrines and temples to deities and icons line the streets and colors compete as well with the costumes of custom, language, culture and tradition. But still, it is this call. It is why I am in India. I, too, heard a call. It began long ago and it began with the same clanging and banging of drums and cymbals and shocking sounds of grief and suffering and which eventually called me to awaken! This sound, this call, invited me to tread a path that countless other beings have walked and invited me to join them in going beyond the appearances of differences, language and to celebrate something that joins all beings! How great. I set out on pilgrimage.

I once asked a nun who is quite young if she liked to go to the long pujas, or prayers, that can last for days and she answered without hesitation, “Oh, yes; it is our duty to pray for those who are suffering.” How great is that? So, I am surrounded here by anis whose dharma or life purpose as Buddhist nuns is to answer their own call to pray and to find that place within our minds where everything comes back together.

Other anis are sweeping and brushing the courtyard with brooms that look like they are made of twigs; they work in a cadence and rhythm that matches the chants and incantations they mumble in Tibetan as they sweep the debris of the day and clear away the constant dust and leaves that accumulates. Someone, a lama I think, is doing, a walking contemplation as he circumambulates the Kalachackra Temple on our monastery grounds, close to the new nun’s hostel and just outside the entrance to the area where others stay in the traditional 3 year retreat in huts, holed in and Wholed up with stacks of Tibetan teachings, transmissions and practices.

Earlier, the 3 anis who are rotated for their service in the kitchen; their call came around 3 a.m. and in the kitchen they go and even now are preparing palips and butter tea for the teachers, called geylas here and the other contemplatives and staff. The palip or chapati, as the Hindu people call it, is a staple of this simple diet and consists of a flat bread that the nuns kneed each day and then shape like a flour tortilla, cooking each one on a small burner. I prefer the barley flour mixed with butter tea that was the great staple of a people who lived in the high altitudes of Tibet and which is known as tsampa, but we are out of it now as the woman who grounds the barley and prepares the flour and who lives close by in the Tibetan colony of Dykiling has taken sick.

My own day is now finding its own shape as well and as I go to bed quite early here, by 8 pm at the latest, I usually arise around 2 a.m. and begin to read and contemplate and savor, oh how I savor, the quiet and the light the darkness brings! I can make out only a few stars from my window but here in this region, without the city lights I’ve become used to in the states, the sky is more luminous. There are fires as well from the shrines along the mountains around us and all create this bowl and embrace. I can make a cup of instant coffee which tastes better than any latte I enjoyed back home and sitting here, I have hours to rest in that great peace; in this stillness; in this quiet. But only for a short time, for many will arise soon and the sweepings, cleaning and noise of the bathrooms and showers above will be heard as we all awaken to greet this day.

Last night, throughout the night, one could hear from the nearby village the loud celebratory bajans or chants coming from the Sai Baba Ashram as all of India begins to ready for the most important holiday of the year, The Festival of Lights; Diwali. Sikhs and Hindus alike boarded the plane in London that I took to Delhi and packing in luggage filled with treats and gifts, made their own pilgrimage home to join with family and clan in waving lights to God and in their own Christmas, return their lives and hearts to their devotions.

Going to Dehradun for errands yesterday was absurd and comical with the confusion of crowds and chaos made worse in the frenzy as families dressed up in colorful saris and students in the uniforms were grabbing the wrapped packages of nuts and dried fruit, lights and gifts to bring to family and friends. The atmosphere is filled with this spirit that seems to be increasing day by day as it builds to the culmination later this week for 2 days of puja and a crescendo of sounds and celebration in chants and in fireworks that mark the sky each night.

The call to prayer. It is our life. It has become mine. Writing this, I come home and sigh. To walk quietly with rosary or not, to just be where this purpose can be expressed and rooted within my heart it healing and calming; just that realization! How great.

The nuns in the temple and the sadhus in theirs. The lamas at Jangchubling, our brother monastery and the students of Kagyu College who follow in theirs an hour later. The Muslims beginning their invocations and the Christians who gather at the old Catholic Church in town; how great! This is India. These calls will soon compete with the sounds that will soon join us as the villagers all around begin to make their fires and sweeping their own courtyards and the small shops, the metal awnings are pushed up and the wares are sold off of the old roads here, pocked marked and graveling and dusty, crowded now with motorcycles and small cars and trucks. Other calls will become heard as vendors yell out their wares and bicycles and carts make their way up this old dusty and pockmarked road to sell to us and the surrounding villagers here. Even in our village where I saw so few vehicles, I see many more!

This is my second trip to India. The first time, I arrived in October of 2008 and remained until May 28, 2009, teaching English in this monastery as a volunteer as I tried to make sense of a 40 year process of healing and a spiritual pilgrimage that I call my life.

Even though it’s hard to get out of bed when that clanging first arouses us out of our deep slumber; even though we are snuggled in these sheets and on our fancy beds; even though we resist what calls to us - to answer at all guarantees great joy and completion. I know this now and although my own journey and path was often misunderstood and judged from the outside as absurd and not realistic, it has come to this deep and peaceful reservoir that I only realized over the past year and a half since I first left and returned to the states.

I didn’t know I was going to go back to India again although I might have mentioned it to some; I just didn’t know what my life had in store for me and I have come to trust this unknowing. I used to know a lot, so that is no small accomplishment! A great saint once said that only the past is known and that the present is always unknown! Makes such sense but only have much investigation and exploration. I have had to sweep out my own heart of so much attachment, what we might call projections and perceptions and assumptions and what I call, demographics. I have had to look at the very small and limited way in which I saw myself and how I saw the world and others and only through this investigation, have I come to realize this great peace.

In the tradition I was raised, Catholicism, the search for peace comes through Jesus and his life becomes the template. Jesus became known as the Christ, a word translated from Greek to be the “Anointed One.” In Buddhism, the man who is their Christ is known as the Buddha, which is translated to mean the “Awakened One,” and was the state a historical prince accomplished centuries before Jesus’ life and who was known in his time as Siddhartha. For some reason, these 2 have become my own brothers and it is their footsteps that led me here. In this monastery, I have come to know and appreciate the parallel paths of these masters who through their own lives, invite each of us to enjoy the peace they each found. The words might be different, but the states of awareness are, of course, the same.

Whenever I think of this I think of the Fred Astaire song that is iconic: “You say banana and I say baNAna!” The emphasis is on a different syllable but created such a humorous dichotomy as he sang to Ginger Rogers his reasons they can’t connect! We say the same words but differently! We describe the same states but owing to culture, language, time, region and many other variables, the words and pictures are all that are different. I wanted to go beyond all that. I wanted to find that peace and Samtenling seems to be the place I can rest in awareness of it. How great!

Now, again, the nunnery is so quiet and I can sit on this simple bed with the newly acquired spread I bought from a street vendor yesterday, venturing into Rajpur, the village behind us. My room is finally unpacked and I am ready to face my first day of teaching the 4 classes I have, 5 days a week. There is only the sound of birds riotously signing and crashing onto branches and tweeting their morning greeting. This rare quiet descends for this nunnery is not the quiet contemplative life I expected! What was I thinking? This is India after all!

The nuns make a lot of noise and their shoes slap plastic sticatto in the halls and often they are yelling to each other from the courtyard or from the roof where our clothes hang to dry and they can go to study and practice the dharma through loud repetitions! Even the first night I arrived in 2008, as we past on the dusty streets the collapsed buildings and the closed shops, even then, I could see the trash and the people and the masses of stimuli but I was deluded into thinking eventually the driver would bring me to a North Carolina kind of situation. Instead, I found myself facing a big red painted gate which opened onto the monastery grounds of our nunnery and I was quickly dispatched to a bare room with no water. I look back and laugh. I was in shock but I had enough spiritual practice and support to know that this was the chance and change I have waited for, for lifetimes! I got to wrestle with my own mind.

The noise out there I knew was only in my own mind and coming back, it is not so much a distraction as an embrace. The noise everywhere we go; it is just a background for something else that India offers, like refuge for the thousands of Tibetan refugees who fleeing the Chinese invasion of 1959, seek to re-establish the Buddhadharma in the country in which it was born!

The Tibetans came back and I came back. Maybe for the same reason. Maybe to go beyond all the difficulties at last. I think of their determination to cross the great altitudes of the Himalayas and I am inspired to continue my own crossing. How willing are we to awaken? What are we willing to do to find peace? I think I was desperate enough to do anything and those many years ago, after the pain of my childhood and the deaths of my parents, I was turned around and the outward seeking goals were abandoned and the inward journey began.

As I write this, the laborers contracted to assist Lama Tsewang in maintaining this monastery arrive and begin their own practice. Squatting all the way down, they work by hand crushing rock to make pathways. I have watched men gathering boulders by hand to build the bridge just beyond our walls to cross a washed out road. I watch them in wonder. I hear them just outside my own window here as Rakesh, our driver who lives on the hill above us with his family, turns on the noisy truck we are lucky to have and begins his own rounds carrying canisters to be filled with fuel for the nuns in the kitchen and the lamas. A huge truck, probably a Tata, is making its way up the road with a load of gravel and across this valley the smell of wood fires fill the air and the sounds of children stirring and this one universal family comes alive to face this day.

How Great!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Nellie Made It

Hi All-- I received a very brief email from Nellie saying she had arrived and had taught a couple classes. She was using a computer with a German keyboard??? Go figure. She said she had not yet been able to get to the internet shop to send a proper update. More to come I am sure. Blessings, k

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Airport Goodbye-- October 27, 2010

I am here again, sitting in an airport waiting for the departure for Heathrow Airport in London, and then, on to Delhi; back to India. Wow. I am exhausted, for the last minute details always seem to be too numerous, no matter how much I plan; exchanging currency; checking in online and seat selection; arrangements for transportation in India; flights to Nepal; packing; unpacking; packing; unpacking! Yet with each step, with every single one, there has been Help. So much Help - All of this help comes from my Friends; from each one of you. How do I thank you? You have supported this pilgrimage with your donations and generosity, with your beds that I stayed in and the cars I used! You have fed me and you have laughed with me and we have also cried together. How great!

My one big bag is checked now for this 747 British Air behemoth and my seat selection was changed to an exit row (yeah!), and now, I can sit and decompress and simply say my few words of thanks to the One that brings us all together and that holds us as one family! And, I can promise to hold you all in my thoughts, prayers and contemplations and to remember you to the lamas and masters that cover all the land in India from all traditions. I can remember you and will stay in touch with you through the blog Kay Wolf again is facilitating that is easy enough to remember:

NELLIE IN INDIA. Don’t you love it?

I have written a few drafts for the book, Buddhist Footprints in a Christian Heart and only after this 3rd draft did I hear my own voice and find the rhythm of my heart that sounds like me and it is this I hope to translate and edit and listen to as I teach the anis English and as I continue to seek peace!

Let’s promise each other that matter what the news describes, we will find the voice within our hearts, and remember love and compassion and mercy. Remember me and each other and as we begin and end each day, let’s try to say a few words of thanks and gratitude for our lives and what we call in Buddhism, the Precious Human Birth. We have the gifts and all the tools to practice compassion and we have the reminders of teachers from all times and from all places and traditions who tell us of a different Reality that does not fluctuate nor diminish nor distinguish between high and low, and rich and poor.

The speakers hear announce so many coming and goings and groups and individuals all pass me on their ways to destinations around this globe and sitting here it is as if I am watching my own constant and noisy thoughts! I have a few hours to just breathe again. I have a few hours to pray and to repeat the syllables on these rosary beads that remind me that all is well.

It is always and ever so. Peace.

Friday, October 1, 2010


I’m sitting in a cafe in Pendleton, South Carolina, having a blueberry scone and a latte -delicious! I look out at the town square and the shops and it is the quiet of the place that reminds me of how tired I was. The traffic jam was on I-187 and was about 8 cars slowly traveling behind the Pendleton High school bus. On either side of the car were fields; a bit different from life in Annapolis, Baltimore and DC! But leaving the area that I have called home since 1992 - was exhausting, because good-byes can be! The last day in Annapolis, I had a few sessions, a eulogy, and an airport pick-up before I began that evening the journey south to Miami, the city that will be my departure to India.

Sitting here and remembering this morning’s contemplation, the focus of the retreat I facilitate at the Unity Church of Creative Living in St. John’s (Jax), Florida this coming weekend I am refreshed and grateful for the gift of this congregation. I WILL BE HEALED AS HE TEACHES ME HOW TO HEAL, the words from the Course in Miracles is comforting. As I prepared the outline, there it was, spread before me like a garden and I can't wait to sit in the sanctuary again, where I have been so welcomed and supported, and hear the Teachings with so many Friends. Thank you UCCL. I am there Friday night and Saturday before I leave afterward for Gainesville, then, Miami!

Yesterday, I made the flight reservations for Delhi, through London, and I was surprised at the emotion I felt and the tears which quickly flowed. It is with both relief and with release- isn’t it always? I sopke with my sweet sister, Candy (thank you again, Candy-cane) who helped me in ways she doesn’t even know, being on the other end of the line and helping me select my seat for the flights from Miami and London. It’s done. I am going again.

Some ask me why I am returning if it was so hard and I had the opportunity to consider this as I answered: India was hard, but living back in the states, in some ways, is harder! Why?

In my own limited understanding, I haven’t quite learned how to be IN the world, but not of it! It looks different to me than to many others who see their circumstances and those of others as tragic and real and hard. When the reality of the dreamlike quality of what we call this outer world becomes clear, one can SEE the world passing before one’s eyes and the reaction is what is missing. One can’t drum up the same terror, I guess. It’s as if I can’t get the RPM’s on this old mind to spin as fast as it did in the past and my experience is of something central to me that is just still.... Still. All around me the whirling and the blur of activity; but inside - STILLNESS.

Now, you know me; I’m no accomplished master or guru! Just an ordinary person who pursued what others might see as an extraordinary path - that, or I’m just nuts! You choose!

So, in returning to Samtenling nunnery I know what to expect and making the arrangements is so much easier. I hope only to stabilize the changes and to rest longer in that Stillness and to write, and of course - to teach English to the nuns, my students there!

The gratitude I feel to all and each of you is honestly, a bit overwhelming. One of the things I finally really get is that no one can go it alone. Each of us holds a piece of the puzzle and a piece of the Universal Heart and only together, all of us without exception, can one experience this Holiness - this Wholeness! You have given me your love, your questions; even your doubts and some, have supported me with checks and cash given without attachment - all is part of the stones that build this path of pilgrimage.

I continue to work on the book BUDDHIST FOOTPRINTS IN A CHRISTIAN HEART and I am currently writing more chapters that I hope will better clarify this pilgrimage I am on to know God, to realize Buddha-nature; to rest in the Truth beyond lineages, cultures, languages and ritual! Why not? and why not now?

I have a blog: NELLIE IN INDIA that Kay has linked the website www.nellielauth.com.

Please don’t send anything to the PO BOX in Annapolis! I’M NOT THERE!! Email me if you need to send something!

Where will it end now? Where does it begin? NOW.

In THIS moment. With YOU. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.





Monday, September 20, 2010

Please join me in celebration of this next leg of pilgrimage!

My Dear Friends: I am going back to India! I have only just received a request to teach again at Samtenling Nunnery in Dehradun, where I was in 2008 - 2009. I leave Annapolis in 2 days, heading south to Miami and will return in May, 2011.

The Unity Church of Creative Living (UCCL) is again giving me a platform in which to teach and I am going to be in Jacksonville to facilitate retreat on Friday night OCTOBER 1 and 2. It is so helpful to have a way to articulate the teachings and I am most grateful to this congregation for their generosity and support.

I am making the final arrangements for this next leg of this pilgrimage. Having already given away everything, packing is much easier; having already been to India, the logistics of visa and passport is already completed. This time, I am a paid staff member teaching English to the nuns for a stipend, which is most generous of the Drikung Kagyu Institute and of Namgyal Tahkla, who oversees the operation of our monastery. I will be sending ongoing conversations to Kay who will post them on the blog: NELLIE IN INDIA.

All and all; it has been great and it is the most logical next step. The first time I went to India, I struggled much with my own mind and the fruits of that wrestling is a space inside my chest; just that - a space. I wrote a book called BUDDHIST FOOTPRINTS IN A CHRISTIAN HEART; It contains the journal and contemplations which describe the inner turmoil of facing one’s own mind! How great - for the resultant peace is beyond description, although we write volumes of words describing the wordless; we are a funny species.

In ancient Indian scriptures it is written:

The world is an illusion.
Brahman alone is real.
Brahman is the world.

The first 2 lines are realized as GOD ALONE IS; that is Brahman. The goal of this journey and of my life is to integrate is the third- to then see all as Brahman, as Buddha, as the Christ.

Wish me well, as I do you. I can only wish that we all awaken from this dream of birth, aging, suffering and death and realizing the Truth of our own nature, celebrate in great Joy.

You can easily google DKI Dehradun (Drikung Kagyu Institute) and you’ll find the official website and description of this lineage. The address there is: DKI Nunnery,
PO Kulhan, 248001, Dehradun, Uttarakhand, India.

The blog is NELLIE IN INDIA. Kay Wolf will manage this and I will send out one more email when I arrive in South Florida, along with Kay’s email address. Until then, I am packing and traveling! I will not be able to send and receive email as we do here; that is why I can send the information to Kay who will post the content; our internet access is limited in the village I live.

I thank each and all of you for your support and for the gifts of your Friendship. May the fruit of this and all journeys alleviate the suffering of all beings, without exception.

Finally, I thank the lama: Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche, for the teachings he gives without words. May I dive into That.

with Love