Have you ever been to the Four Corners Monument, marking the place where four states meet? The quadripoint where a corner of New Mexico, Utah, Arizona and Colorado meet also marks the boundary between two Native American governments, Navaho Nation and the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation. As you drive across the country, through hundreds of miles of stunning desert wilderness, signs begin to appear along the highway, saying, Four Corners! Four Corners! And the closer you get, the bigger the signs are, and the more often they pop up.
Do you remember the cartoon where a car driving through an empty countryside passes a billboard proclaiming, “Your own tedious thoughts next 200 miles”? In the sometimes monotony of long-distance driving, it’s easy to get excited: “I’m going to Four Corners! Can’t wait to get there!”
Then you get there. It is exactly the same rugged, remote, and isolated Southwestern desert landscape you’ve been driving through for hundreds of miles before. There’s nothing there! It’s an idea in emptiness, Four Corners. Just a bronze plaque and parking lot overlooking the vast sweep of mesa and mountains. It’s beautiful. But not more beautiful or any different from the sweeping land of boulder heaps, [...]
Last Saturday morning, we packed up the toys and food you donated for the Westside Children’s Center in cartons decorated with gold tinsel, red ribbons, and festive holiday cards. Then we all sat on the floor and talked about generosity. The children in our circle, aged 6–8, listened attentively as I described my puzzlement at hearing, “Tis better to give than to receive,” when I was their age. It seemed obvious to me then—it’s way more fun to receive than to give!
And yet, these young children astonished all of us with the depth of their wisdom. The 6-year-old appreciates a subtle reciprocity—people who don’t have enough to eat, or kids who have no toys to play with give her the chance to be generous. A 7-year-old talks about being someone that others can trust, so no one has to be afraid of you. Without knowing it, she’s echoing the Buddha, who calls that “the gift of fearlessness.” As they eagerly raised hands to voice their insights and observations, the children embodied clear, pure-hearted generosity.
This is the season of renewal of the light, celebrated in religious traditions and cultures around the world. With ever burning lamps, with enlightenment at seeing the [...]
I can’t stop staring at the birds. The ocean is wild early this morning. Whipped up by gusts of cold wind, the water is silver-grey. Bright white waves break way out beyond the shore. What captivates my attention is the birds, obviously playing in the wind.
Seagulls soaring, gliding, are strewn across the sky like blowing leaves. They hold out their strong wings and stay still, miraculously hanging in space, buoyed by the moving air. Alone, sometimes in pairs, wings extended, they float; every so often, they let themselves be swept sideways in a strange horizontal move. A few small birds try to join in the fun, but careen off in the powerful currents of air, unable to hover or hang glide. The gulls wheel and rise on their unmoving wings, then plummet down, flapping a few times to shoot up high again.
Do seagulls feel joy? I’m riveted by the pure, silent pleasure of their wildness. I imagine my arms outstretched, catching the wind, lifting off the ground and swirling over the beach with them. They fly as we do, coming close to each other, then veering away, just as we do, intersecting, separating, dancing in the whirlwind of life.
Often when [...]
Our annual retreat with Ram Dass ends at the beach under a soft grey sky; two Hawaiian healers lead a beautiful blessing ceremony in a sprinkle of raindrops. For the finale, Ram Dass is rolled across the sand into the ocean in his special wheelchair with big rubber wheels. He swims gently out in a sea of retreatants, steered by his companions. Soon, a big crowd is swimming together, offering flowers and following his lead in the Ocean Swim Chant: “Oh boy, oboyoboyoboy!” Followed by, “Oh joy, ohjoyojoyojoy!”
It’s a perfect expression of gratitude for the gift of opening our hearts, right in the midst of personal losses — people struggling with grief, bereavement, cancer, tough jobs like working with Syrian refugee children. Each evening, Krishna Das and his band play devotional music called kirtan. It’s an ancient, sacred practice of quieting the mind by connecting through music, chanting together in a moving, rollicking call and response sing-along. With each passing day, the powerful energy of love grows stronger, creating a poignant, joyful field of compassion.
In the same way, at InsightLA we create a field of caring that includes those in our greater community who are going through hard times. As [...]
The shockwaves from the election have dissolved, and while the feelings of heavy heartedness, bewilderment, and dread continue to visit me, the feelings are not as intense as they were several weeks ago. As a student of astrology, I am grateful for the full moon in Taurus and the Sun in Scorpio on November 14th. I feel this constellation is supporting us in focusing our intentions. Taurus is compelling us to reflect upon what we hold most dear, to ground ourselves in our bodies, and to take a stand. The vibrations of Scorpio are urging us to dig deeper, to look beneath the surface, to step out of our bubbles so that we may understand truths that have been buried. We are doing this on an individual and collective level. I am heeding the urges of these planetary callings in ways that resonate with me: mining for truths in my personal and planetary history, expressing my love of the mysteries of life in my art, and creating safe-enough spaces for people, especially people targeted by oppression, to share their voices.
The Dagara people of West Africa believe that every human being is born with innate gifts that if nurtured, can support [...]