Wednesday, March 20, 2024

singapore and a little work in malaysia

 20 march, 2024

I’m back in California now, again staying with Bob and Ellen Peck until next week. I must say, 15 hours hurtling through the sky at 30,000 feet 300+ miles per hour––our bodies are just not supposed to do that. But it was without incident, thanks God, and I picked up a day coming home.

            The last week was certainly a change of pace from the easy flow of ashram life in India. I flew into Singapore from Delhi early morning March 11, met by good friend Leonard, and stayed with him two nights. He and I met Mark Hansen down at Arab Street the second evening. It being the first nights of Ramadan, there was quite a lot going on down there. All kinds of extra food stalls were set up near the grand mosque for the iftar at the end of fast, as well as other booths and shops. We had a delicious Turkish-Lebanese meal and walked around enjoying the sights and sounds. I also got in my first run in several weeks early in the morning along the canal outside of Leonard’s apartment complex and a morning at the gym there too. 

And then I headed up to Kuala Lumpur by bus on Wednesday where I had some "work." I chose the bus rather than flying, because these are great comfortable air-conditioned buses, and it’s a beautiful relaxing five hour trip with one stop along the way. I was met by my faithful old friends Pat Por and Joe Lipp of the WCCM Malaysia, and Ian John, both of whom were sponsoring me for some work I was to do there. I stayed at the newly built parish house at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Cheras, where I have been two or three times in the past. The pastor there is Fr. Paul, OFM Capuchin, who I had also met a few times in the past. It was a very comfortable private lodging with three bedrooms. The Malaysians are marvelously hospitable. 

The schedule was pretty full from there on. The main thing I was there for was to do three Lenten reflections with music and speaking. The first one was at St Francis Xavier Jesuit Parish on the other side of town. An amazing turnout of about 200 people on a Thursday night. It went very well. Friday evening, I did a small music workshop for Ian’s choir back at SFA. That was more fun than I thought it was going to be. I sang some fun songs with them first just to break the ice, then gave them a bunch of theory about music being mainly a share in the ministry of the Word, and how liturgical music, from my standpoint anyway, ought to be “essentially vocal.” And then we spent about an hour and a half with me teaching them Psallitè pieces, almost all acapella. They loved it and though it was a lot of work, I was very pleased at how well they sang the pieces. Then Saturday I did my Lenten reflection there at SFA before the evening Mass and then presided and preached at that Mass. On Sunday morning I did the same thing at the Cathedral. The pastor there is Fr. Gerard who I had also met, worked and lodged with in the past.

In between that there were several lunches and dinners. Malaysians and Singaporeans eat out a lot. Some say it’s actually more economical to do so, especially at the famous “hawker stands.” Plus we had a brief visit with Archbishop Julian Cheow who again I had met some years before when he was living and working in the seminary in Penang. He was a runner back then and I was interested to see if he has kept in shape. I am pleased to report he has! I was also impressed that he seems to have remained a simple down-to-earth guy. We met him at his residence-office, and he came into the parlor wearing what we would call simple street clothes (I am not sure I have ever seen a priest in clerical garb in Malaysia) and barefoot. 

I took the bus back to Singapore on Sunday afternoon. That was a bit of a longer trip given that there was a long delay at the border on the end of the weekend. You have to do immigration on both sides as well as bring your luggage in to get inspected.

My friend Keith Toh had arranged for me to stay at a nice hotel for the two nights that I was to be in Singapore before heading home, since I was to be doing something that he had arranged at the Tanglin Trust School, which I wrote about before I headed to India. It was a late night and an early morning, since we didn’t get in until 10:30 PM, and then I was to meet some other friends for breakfast the next day––Jeff Plein and his son Luke, who did a father-and-son Ora et Labora with us a few years back. Actually, Luke was a surprise. He’s in school at Yale now but had flown in at the last minute for Spring Break. 

Then a kind of long day at the Tanglin Trust. I was in the same room all day, which made it easier. In the morning I met with students from year 12 and 13, theology and philosophy classes. Our topic was “exploring arguments for the existence of God” and I was to offer some insights into different conceptions of the nature of God from around the world and the role of contemplation in reasoning about God. They were not as interactive as we (the teachers and I) had hoped they would be, but it went okay. Keith said I should have sung for them. So the next class in the early afternoon, I did start with a song. It’s a required class that’s part of the International Baccalaureate Curriculum (IBC) which Tanglin follows (which I had never heard of) called “Theory of Knowledge.” It’s not epistemology per se but rather “how different ‘knowledge communities’ construct knowledge, methods they use and perspectives they develop” (according to the notes I was given). Pretty sophisticated curriculum for 16/17-year-olds. After surveying the notes that Keith had sent along to prepare me for those classes, I had gotten up earlier than I would have naturally that morning to jot prepare some notes of my own. Whether because of that or not, that class was more interactive. Keith teased me about sending him 8 pages of notes at 7 AM (with footnotes), but I had to remind him that he is the one who could crank out a spread sheet in the middle of a Financial Advisory Board meeting. But he was right: I was way, way over-prepared.

The array of backgrounds of the students is phenomenal: several with dual citizenship, often British plus somewhere else, China, Italy, India, Pakistan, Denmark, the US, New Zealand and Australia are the ones I remember, with only a handful of actual Singaporeans, due to government regulations, I believe. I imagine these are all children of highly professional parents in business or diplomacy of some sort. 

The late afternoon was more like a concert, open to parents and faculty as well. It was entitled “Universal Wisdom: The Sounds and Songs We Share.” Basically it was me sitting on a stool singing songs and telling stories. 

After that I had a nice relaxing evening in my hotel room, Keith had a delicious meal delivered to me and I went to bed early for the early morning departure. As I said, I find those long flights really strange. I was squeezed in the middle seat between two not-small young gentlemen who were polite enough but also not very interactive (which was fine with me). I found a really fun Taiwanese Sci-Fi TV series called (in translation from the Chinese) “Oh No: Here Comes Trouble.” I have now learned what people mean when they say they “binge watch.” There were 12 episodes, all about 45 minutes long, and I got to watch 10 and a half of them before we landed, which took up a lot of the flight. Customs and immigration were mercifully quick at that hour, my bag arrived, and Ellen picked me up at the SFO airport, and now I am safely ensconced at their home for the next week. 

I will be going up to Skyfarm in Sonoma to spend Palm Sunday with the Francis and Michaela, but other than that I have a very quiet week ahead of me: Bob and Ellen left for the east coast this morning and I have the house to myself ‘til Sunday! Then somehow I will be heading south to Big Sur just for the Triduum next week, rain and roads allowing. After that I am heading into a month-long solitude retreat at the Jesuit Retreat House in Los Altos, during which time I plan on being offline until May, so this may be the last you hear from me for a while.

Every blessing on the upcoming Holy Days. May the memory of the Passion and Death of Jesus, as well as the energy of Easter and the Eucharist, make us grow in our awareness of our place in this world so in need of mercy.

Some pics....

Music workshop at SFA Friday evening.
My Malaysian "handlers": Ian, Joe Lipp, Ann,
Pat Por, Fr. Gerard

Ian's family who I have known for some years, 
        brunch on Saturday morning after the gym. 

Beautiful St John's Cathedral, 
Kuala Lumpur.

Setting up at Tanglin before the students came.

Saturday, March 9, 2024

a natural upsurge of energySaurab

 March 7, 2024, from Sadhana Mandir Ashram, Rishikesh


The promenade along the Ganges is not far from my window. If I open my curtains people could basically watch me sleeping. It’s 4:30 AM and I already hear pretty distinct voices of folks walking along it. Every now and then you see someone jogging. I was planning on doing that myself but with the schedule for the day there hasn’t seemed to be an opportune moment to sneak in a run. I have enjoyed walking it myself though. The weather has been quite pleasant, not too darned cold at night (there is no heat) and very mild during the day. Like other places I’ve been in north India, the houses are built to retain the cool for the hot months so in the winter rooms such as mine are like meat lockers nearly all day long. They supply marvelous thick duvets of sorts on the bed though, so sleep is no problem, and I wrap up in blankets to do my meditations.

Sunrise over the Ganges from the window of my room.

If I have any disappointment about this week, it’s that I would have liked it to be a little more retreat-like. I suppose if I had not attended the Daily Ashram Program (DAP) and kept to myself, as many guests do, it would have been different. The ashram itself feels a little bit like a hubbub of activity some days, and even though there are signs all over the place saying “SILENCE,” it is not observed very much. There is even a sign on every table in the eating hall that says “SILENCE,” but many folks carry on conversations at about half volume, as if that counts. I was worried about playing my guitar, but my next-door neighbor practices scales on his flute, which is quite loud, each day at 11 AM, so no problem.


The DAP is not as formal as I thought it would be. Attendees at the sessions come and go and the residents don’t attend at all. (I’m such a rule follower! I was sticking to the agreement that I was to attend all the sessions the first three days.) In the early morning there is a session called “joints and glands,” which I thought was a humorous name, but it’s mostly breathing and stretching, no real asanas. Swami Rama, the late founder was very big on pranayama. So far, all but one of the sessions has been led by young Saurab, 23 years-old, recent graduate of the Yoga University near Dehradun and an intern here. His English is pretty good once you get used to his accent and vocabulary. One pranāyama session was led by another intern named Kunji, whose English was very limited so that was a bit of a trial. He kept saying, “The whole body are relax.” Hard to silence the discriminating mind and not sure whether or not to correct him. I did offer Saurab one correction the other evening: instead of “causal body” he kept referring to the “casual body.” When I explained the difference, he found the humor in it. I was trying to imagine myself teaching any class or leading a yoga session in Italian. My guess is it would be a lot worse, so hats off to them.


There is a philosophy class at 10:30, the first two days a survey of Samkhya and yoga philosophy. Saurab is very knowledgeable about the tradition, though it was hard to have a discussion with him since he does not seem to know much about any other tradition. But we did have a pleasant exchange about the difference between “spirit” and “soul,” and also the connection between mind and soul, the nerdy stuff I like (and the topic of my Masters Thesis and nearly unreadable second book). Then there is another pranāyama session right before lunch and a rigorous asana practice at 5 PM.


I wound up having a few sessions with Saurab by myself. He’s a very talented yogi––I found out later that he has been studying since he was 4 years old and seems to come from a family of yogis. I have been comparing him to a pipe cleaner which we used to play with as kids, a wire covered with fur that you could bend in any shape. A 23-year-old pipe cleaner without an ounce of fat on his body who can basically fold himself into a wallet––needless to say, the asana classes have been challenging. He has not yet learned the art of finding where his students are at and leading them beyond. We have had up to six people in the class, but some of them dropped out because it was too difficult, and I did hear a few of them grousing about it after class the other day. He also has an issue with counting. You can hear the clock ticking behind us but when he says “30 more seconds” it usually lasts over a minute, for example. (I suppose he could be using “yoga seconds.”) But he will also at times start counting up and you have no idea how far he is going to count, sometimes 8, sometimes 12. And then he will count backwards and stop to adjust someone and then start at the same number when he is done. So, some long holds! The variations on postures that I already know may be the most challenging thing. Thus far I have been able to get into at least a modified version of all but one asana, but my hips are pretty sore. 


Last night, not sure whether or not it is because of the unhappiness of the other ashramites, I wound up being the only one in the asana class. Saurab and I had had a few friendly conversations, and at the start of class he asked me if I had ever been to the aarathi up river at Triveni. I said no, and after some confusing exchange I finally figured out that he wanted me to go to the aarathi at Triveni with him that evening, which started at 6:30, which meant that we would cut short the asana class. I was absolutely fine with that, and he led me through some nice hip opening asanas, and we set out down the promenade at about 6. Along the way we told each other a little more about our backgrounds. He is bound and determined to be a yoga teacher in Singapore, of all places. But if I knew of a place in California that needed an Indian yoga teacher… His family comes from a village up near the source of the Ganges. He by that time had figured out that I was a monk and I explained that I was on a sabbatical after ten years in leadership. He asked me some questions about monastic life, and at one point asked, “Are you the pope of your church?”


The aarathi was indeed a sight to see. It’s done every night, similar to what I have experienced here in Haridwar/Rishikesh before. The main devotion is to Ganga Mata herself, Mother Ganges, and is led by young priests in training standing on platforms on the bank of the river, waving large ghee lamps while the music plays from behind, highly choreographed. There were thousands of people there. Saurab said it is very popular with tourists, but I did not see many, though I didn’t feel too conspicuous. When the aarathi was done people then gather in front of the musicians on what was like a dance floor and then the kirtans start up in earnest. He had asked me on the way if I dance, and I said maybe not, not sure what was going to happen. Well, as the music turned up to a fever pitch it really did break out into a kind of ecstatic dance, with lots of shouting and singing along. Everyone seemed to know the words. I did not want to be in the middle of it so let myself get squeezed to the outskirts of the dancing area near a pillar, all the while keeping my eye on Saurab. I think in the past I might have felt a little moment of panic in a situation like that––it feels like there is always the possibility of being trampled by a crowd in India––but this time I felt safe and Saurab was keeping an eye on me too. It was really fun to see him break loose in “praise and worship.” As we left, we stopped at a little Hanuman shrine (his main devotion, he told me shyly, is to Ram), and again very touching to see how devout he was.


This same school of yoga, Himalayan Yoga Tradition, has another ashram about 3 km down the road, Sadaka Gram Ashram, which is their main center (though this place is the original). It is very large, set up to host big conferences. Our Brother Axel, who is a very well-trained yogi in this same tradition, has already been there for some weeks. It is he who recommended this place to me. He and a delightful Italian woman named Lucia came to see me here earlier in the week, and then as planned I went down there yesterday afternoon after lunch for a full tour of the place and a long visit with Axel, which was a really fine meeting. Axel and I both had some “disappointments,” shall we say, at the Chapter at Camaldoli this past fall so it was healing to talk that through from this distance, physically and emotionally. He is opening a new chapter in his monastic life in that he is going to be moving from the Sacro Eremo in Italy to have a trial period with our fledgling community in Hildesheim, Germany, which is of course his country of origin. 


Again, the issue of the kavi robes came up. He has a couple of very nice sets and wears them everywhere in the ashram, as well as walking the road and back and forth along the river. He is often referred to as “Swami” and noted to me that people recognize the orange robes as the sign of a monk. I find the dhoti so comfortable, but I am just not there. I have this aversion to either seeming like I am going native (no Indians dress like that here at this ashram) and a real caution about cultural appropriation––a white Christian wearing the robes of a Hindu monk and then changing back into street clothes––especially in Nerendra Modi’s India. 


Now already making my plans for the next transitional phase, back down to Delhi Saturday, two nights at my old haunt, the YWCA Blue Triangle Family Hostel, and then fly to Singapore Monday. It’ll be nice to have a day to tramp around Connaught Place and see how Delhi has changed since I was there 15 years ago. Tomorrow, Friday, is Maha Shivaratri, a major festival here especially on the Ganges, so there will be no classes for which I am grateful.


Sunday, 10 March, 2024


It is nicer than I thought it was going to be to be back at the YWCA Blue Triangle Family Hostel here in Delhi. As I was coming here in the taxi yesterday, I recognized the Cathedral and the Archbishop’s House, then the big Gurudwara, and then I called out to the driver, “It’s here!” as we passed the YWCA Blue Triangle Family Hostel. He seemed surprised and apologetic and, though I asked him to let me out at the corner and I would walk back, he insisted on driving all the way around again, which took an additional ten minutes given the traffic in Delhi and the maddening array of one-way boulevards in this area. We passed the spot where I got hit by a car in 2009––well, grazed by the mirror of a passing taxi going the wrong way, but still… the memory of the fact that if I had been one second faster I might very well be road kill still gives me the shivers. 


This place is clean but more run down than I remember, but I’m very happy here. I have a huge room (they had no single rooms left but it is still eminently affordable from the perspective of the USD). And the food in the little canteen/restaurant is really good. I didn’t venture out last evening, but I plan on going to Mass at the cathedral this morning, then perhaps tromping up to Connaught Place. My nextdoor neighbor from the ashram, Dhruv, the flute player, told me about his school of music and a cultural center nearby and then offered to take me there if he is free. So I might do that in the late afternoon. It would be nice to see Delhi from the perspective of a native, and it will be interesting to see how much it has changed since I was last here which I think might have been 2009!


You knew it was a festival day by early morning Friday: there is often some music from loudspeakers playing in the early morning hours almost everywhere in India, but there was especially a lot of it that day. I spoke too soon about there not being classes on Shivaratri. At dinner Thursday night, young Saurab went up to each one of us and whispered that there would indeed be the 6:45 joints and glands class. I was actually looking forward to a morning to myself, maybe an early morning jog along the river and my own practice, but I felt somewhat impelled to attend and avail myself of every opportunity to get some input into my own practice. Saurab has been showing up every day in something like workout clothes, black sweats and a hoodie. But this day he was all in freshly pressed white kurta and pajamas, with his hair combed and beard trimmed. He was going to be going to the temple immediately after class. 


Saurab in his festal whites saluting
Ganga Mata after class on Shivaratri.

I didn’t realize the significance of the feast for yogis. All I had heard was it was the legendary day when Shiva married Parvati. But some people say it is the most significant event in India’s spiritual calendar. The fourteenth day of every lunar month or the day before the new moon is known as a Shivaratri. But among all the twelve that occur in a calendar year, the one that occurs in February-March is of the most spiritual significance and so is called Maha-Shivaratri. Aside from its mythical significance, on that night, the northern hemisphere of the planet is positioned in such a way that there is thought to be a natural upsurge of energy, “when nature is pushing us towards our spiritual peak.” That’s why many people celebrate it all night long. To allow this natural upsurge of energies to find their way you are supposed to stay awake with your spine erect all night long. I am very attracted to the idea of lining ourselves up with the natural gifts that nature has to offer, aligning ourselves with the cycle of the seasons. The indigenous peoples all over the world have a real gift to offer us in this way.


I did have the rest of the day free. There was a handful of extra guests at the ashram, some preparing for the evening puja which was to take place, others gathering early for a retreat that was to start on Saturday, so the place felt a little extra crowded. After lunch I ventured off on my own back down the same route to the big market and the ghats upriver at Triveni. So much going on there! I originally was going to walk back on the road instead of along the river but it was quite unpleasant with all the traffic and dust, so I had a lovely meditative walk back, passing lots of people prepping for the evening’s ceremonies, weaving garlands and cooking pastries.


I had a nice long exchange with Ma Tripuram, the youngish Dutch woman who is the main monastic and teacher there. She sought me out at teatime, wanting to hear about me (she already knew Axel) and I was fascinated to hear her story as well. She sees herself as a sannysini in the universal yoga lineage, not really as a Hindu. We spoke about the usual things––perennial philosophy, non-duality, the changing climate in India. I gave her my spiel about the energy and the container, and how I find yoga to be a marvelous container for my devotion to Jesus and my Christian spiritual life, which she really loved. She goes back to Holland each summer where she does not wear her kavi robes.


I did dress up and go to the puja that evening out of respect. It was held in a big hall, with many extra guests and visiting dignitaries of sort, mostly administrators from the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy in Dehradhun. The VIPs were seated in a semi-circle at the front with the portrait of Swami Rama and all the vessels and instruments for the ceremony. There was a line of about ten Brahmin priests on the right and of course the main pandit and pujari. It was supposed to start at 5:30, but it didn’t start until 6. The priests were chanting the entire time––something I was used to––and the pandit gently guiding the main participants through the ceremony, while the rest of us watched. After an hour there was a little break and I asked my neighbor Dhruv, who was seated next to me, if it would be rude to leave. He assured me, no, and so I went off to dinner and bed. Another great night’s sleep and this time I did have the morning all to myself, besides packing up, seeing if I have added any new skills to my own practice after this intense week immersed in another tradition. 


They needed my room for this new retreat coming in, but they had assured me that I could stay until breakfast. So I cleaned up, packed up and after breakfast went looking for a place I could store my stuff and kill a couple of hours doing my own lectio and prayers before I had to head out. This happens so often: the very last day I find the perfect spot. Upstairs from where we did our DAP was just marked “silent hall.” I stored my stuff under the staircase and ventured up there only to find out it was Swami Rama’s old rooms, now turned into a kind of shrine and meditation hall. I spent a very powerful two hours there wishing I had found the space earlier. It reminded me of staying in Swami Saccidananda’s rooms at the Divine Light Society in Kuala Lumpur with Mother Mangalam all those years ago, where and from whom John Main learned meditation. There was kind of a touching moment. I was to take an autorickshaw to meet Axel again back at Sadaka Gram at 10:30 and had told Saurab that that was my plan. As I was coming down the stairs from the Swami’s rooms, he was coming into the building. I asked him if he had philosophy class today, and he said no, he was coming to find me. Right behind him was old Vippi; the two of them just wanted to accompany me out and get me my autorickshaw, which they did. I would really like to return there someday for a longer stay, though they tell me it is beastly hot in the summer months.


I really do respect that tradition, and of course love the idea of yoga being a universal science, a part of the sanatana dharma. I also love the fact that Swami Rama sponsored medical facilities that serve the poorest of the poor, that there is social outreach from the practice. It was only later that I learned that from the 1970s onwards, there were persistent allegations of sexual abuse against him. In 1997 a woman won a lawsuit against him for multiple sexual assaults. Disappointed but not surprised. Obviously, this is not just a Catholic problem. Ken Wilber calls it, “the uneven development of spiritual leaders,” writing mainly about the Buddhist tradition. But (I was writing about this the other day), principles before personalities!


I fly in the morning back to Singapore, then almost immediately to Malaysia for a little work in Kuala Lumpur. 

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Haridwar and Rishikesh

 3 March 2024


I’m just outside of Rishikesh now at Sadhana Mandir Ashram which is, unbeknownst to me when I booked it, right on the north bank of the Ganga. Like the last two nights, in Delhi and Haridwar, there is tremendous thunder and lightning and intermittent heavy rains going on outside. I immediately have felt like this is the most pleasant place I’ve stayed here in India this time and after four nights in four different places to sleep, I’m happy that I can settle into this fifth place for a week.


Yesterday I got a ride to Haridwar, arranged by faithful Devin. That is Sri Ram Ashram, which is an orphanage founded by Baba Hari Das and the good people of Mount Madonna, that also has a school for about 1000 students. I had been there several times in early 2000s, the first time with John Pennington in 2005. He returned several times after that with students from Augustana College when he was teaching there. (Actually, a woman on the staff asked me, “Didn’t you come with John and the students from Augustana?”) Back in the day there would have been lots of folks from Mount Madonna here at this time of year, but things have changed a bit since Babaji died. Two old friends, Dayanand and SN were the only ones there from California, deeply engaged in laying out a new field hockey and football (soccer) field and building an addition onto the school. Very impressed especially with SN at 77 years old out there with a shovel showing the young guys how it’s done.


Dayanand gave me a tour of all the work going on and was explaining some of the new restrictions imposed in them by the government of India. For one thing, for all the amazing good work they have done there, the local government has always been a little suspicious of the Mount Madonna folks as foreigners. It was somewhat easier when Babaji was alive. Secondly, the government has forced them to be an adoption agency now, not just an orphanage, which somewhat diminishes Babaji’s dream of the place being a long-term family as it has been for at least two generations of children now. That being said, it is normally the youngest of the children who get adopted so there are still a good percentage of the older ones that stay through college age. The third challenge, which Shantivanam is also facing, is that institutions can only accept 25% of their income in foreign donations. Up until recently Babaji’s faithful disciples were donating a considerable amount more than that. Dayanand thinks that this is actually mainly in response to Saudi money that is pouring into India to support madrasas. Nothing wrong with madrasas per se, except that, according to Dayanand, they are not teaching much more than the Qur’an, and poor education and lack of adequate labor are a bad combination. At any rate, he and SN hope that the expanded school will now generate enough income through tuition to help pour back into the ashram itself. One last change is that there are considerably less children there than there used to be, especially boys, only between 6 and 9 of them (I heard different numbers and only counted five), and maybe twenty girls 


So it was a whole different atmosphere. Besides the fact that it was raining, there was no outside play time, of course no gathering in Babaji’s room at night for games and candy, and no real adult community to hang out with. On the other hand, the kids were great. Almost every one of them came right up to me––they must be trained for this––and said, “What is your name?” I remembered from before that I have to distinguish for them between Supriya (“But, uncle, that is a girl’s name!”) and Cyprian––and did. I sat in with them for their hysterical evening aarathi in the shrine room, the 10 minutes or so of the chants being led by a screaming 6 or 7-year-old girl with a young guy proudly offering the deafening blast of the conch shell at random intervals. One of the boys kept turning back and making sure I was on the right page of the songbook, asking me if I read Hindi. I also ate with the kids, sitting next to an enterprising 14-year-old named Rohit who was very keen to practice his English. 


Then a good night’s sleep amid the thunderstorms. And, in a much-appreciated improvement, there is now a “geezer” in each bathroom. (That’s the generic term for a water heater, kind of like “kleenix,” a mispronunciation of the brand name “Geyser.”) Back in the day I would stay wrapped up in my blankets until 7 AM when the chai was ready, crawl back under my blankets and do my prayers, readings and meditation until 9 when you could go downstairs and get a bucket of hot water for your pour-over “bath,” and then still wait until 10:45 for brunch. I ate breakfast with the staff and then waited and waited and waited for my taxi to Rishikesh, which was an hour late due to the literally thousands of people on the road walking to a special spot on the banks of the Ganges to get water to carry back to their villages for the feast of Shivaratri which is officially this Friday. (I posted phots on Facebook of the many of the colorful yokes that are carried, all by men, it seems.) And then we snaked out about five miles up the road back into Haridwar and onto the main road that leads to Rishikesh. 


Rishikesh was a bit of a letdown. I am far more attached to “back in the day” than I thought I was. So much has changed in all the spots in India that I knew so well. The main spots in Rishikesh, by the Ram Jhula bridge and the Lakshma Jhula bridge, were very crowded with tourists, a lot of them Indians, but more like for an amusement park than a spiritual destination. There were a lot more young guys there for sport, river rafting, and rowdy groups yelling up cheers and chants from the Ganga below. Of course, there are still dozens of yoga schools and ayurvedic clinics, and shops catering to spiritual tourism, etc. etc. I was hoping to see Ranjeet at his South Indian food stall “hotel,” and Ram Ram, who I studied yoga with, at his CD kiosk (as if anyone buys CDs anymore), and the place where I got the amazing ayurvedic hot oil massage. But I didn’t see any of them. I ran out of time and never made it to walk along the north bank, just the south bank between the two bridges, so I never got to the village of Tapovan and Jeevan Dhara Ashram (I’m not sure anyone is there anymore!) either, where I wrote a good deal of Prayer in the Cave of the Heart. It was pleasant enough in the end, and I ducked into a nice little food stall for a tali when it started raining hard, hoping against hope that it would be Ranjeet’s having just moved to a new location.


My daily schedule for the week. At least there's tea at 6!

And now I am settled in at Sadhana Mandir Ashram of the Himalayan School of Yoga founded by the late Swami Rama. My German brother Camaldolese and friend Axel has a long history with this lineage and the two ashrams here in Rishikesh. As a matter of fact, he is at the other facility 2 km away. I will see him on Wednesday since they are on retreat over there right now. I was greeted by a gaggle of young guys all trying to help me fill out the ubiquitous forms one fills out here as a foreign visitor, the main guy, Vipin, who insists on being called Vippi, especially wanting to engage about the guitar and America. He was familiar with San Francisco, where my passport was issued––“the place where the Boston Tea Party took place.” Every time I have seen him, he has reminded me that he wants guitar lessons. Two of the other young guys, who I took to be in their early twenties, are indeed recent graduates from the college the Swami Rama started and have got their BS in Yoga Studies and are on their internship. One of them, I found out, is leading the classes this week. He very officiously explained all the sessions to me. I had originally asked to just make a private retreat here and maybe sit in on a yoga class or two but was told according to their rules that, since it is my first time, I need to follow the ashram schedule for three days first and then I can be on my own. It’s okay. I think I will benefit from a new perspective and have got a good beginner’s mind going. I was just hoping for a little more time to myself. I was worried that I would not be allowed to play the guitar, but instead there seems to be not only no issue with that, but even a little encouragement to play a little for others, as well as give lessons to Vippi, both of which I am going to try to duck out of.


One other nice thing is that there is a beautiful paved promenade of sorts right outside the back gate that goes for a few miles along the Ganga, that is perfect for walks and even jogging, so I might get some cardio in for the first time in a month. There are only a handful of other guests here this week (I counted seven). There is a sign on every table in the eating hall that says “silence,” but at teatime (during which delicious samosas were served) and at dinner time (kitcharee!), there was no silence, so we shall see…

Friday, March 1, 2024

eucharistic coconuts

 2 March 2024


Two other things from my interaction with Jyoti that I forgot to mention. 


One of the things that occurred to me this time at Shantivanam––and I do not mean this as a criticism, just an observation––was that the use of the puja stone for the altar for me harkens a little too strongly to the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist and does not give much if any indication of a meal, only a kind of prasada, the food and drink offered to a deity during puja that, it is believed, the deity partakes of, thereby consecrating it, and then returns––the offering being distributed and eaten by the worshippers. (The other thing I missed this time was very little intercessory prayer.) Hence, the use of altars that more resemble tables (pace the detractors––the Vatican II documents talk about the two tables of the Word and Sacrament). And so I asked Jyoti about this in the context is wondering what of the Vatican II liturgical reform, besides inculturation, particularly influenced their work on the liturgy in India. He thought for a moment and then, not completely answering the question, said that, similar to other cultures I suppose, the Indian culture would have a particular revulsion to the idea of eating human flesh and drinking human blood. He then told me about a Hindu man, who never became an official Christian but started an ashram dedicated to Jesus. Instead of bread and wine he did a kind of a eucharist with a coconut. It is broken open, the flesh is consumed, and even its water is consumed. Once it is broken open (how I love this image!), it gives all of itself, like Jesus, for others. The suggestion being, I assume, that in spite of being historically representative of what Jesus did on that last day with his disciples, maybe bread and wine are not the only or the best eucharistic symbols for every culture.

The other thing was this. It’s taken from the second article of his that he asked me to read. We only touched on this briefly as well as on his own study of Aurobindo (via Fr. Bede, again, like myself). I was suggesting that the mystical, the apophatic does not have to be seen only as the ending point of the journey but, in keeping with my own theme of “from the ground up: rediscovering the divine,” maybe it’s the starting point for a new art (music, dance, painting), new forms of worship. Here is where the mystical intuition is not necessarily opposed to the artistic one, another debate that Bede had with Jyoti. Jyoti wrote this is the essence of Aurobindo’ integral yoga (and this of course opens up a whole ‘nother conversation; I got this more from the Mother than from Aurobindo himself): “… it is not only an ascent, as in the concept of attaining to higher states of being: it is also a descent, a way of going into the very material reality of the opaque world in which we live.” This is why it’s safe to say that the liturgy and sacramentality in general is so Tantric: it sees that material reality can be a conveyor of the divine. 


This launched into my whole theory that in the Protestant Reformation these things go together: distancing from liturgy, the contemplative life (and monasticism) and an anthropology that views the human condition as hopelessly fallen in need of being completely covered over by grace (taking Augustine to the extreme), like snow over a dung heap. As opposed to Thomas Aquinas’ famous, which could be on my own coat of arms, gratia non tollit naturam sed perfecit––“Grace does not destroy nature but perfects it.” This attitude, or lack of it, affected all of our missionary work as well as interreligious dialogue––again, or the lack of it––for centuries. In the other article Jyoti suggests, in keeping with this theme, that being sent on mission ought to be more like a pilgrimage than a campaign, an encounter with the sacramentality recognized as already there. At the risk of putting words into his mouth, this means meeting Christ already present in beauty, truth, and goodness already in the culture, Jacques Dupuis’ pro-Christian, not just pre-Christian. As Jyoti put it, “By recognizing that what is sacramental is a shared ‘common land’ we can come to this space in a spirit of dialogue and mutual respect.”*


It rained this morning here in Delhi, and it’s a cool 65 degrees. I slept very well and had a quiet morning in my hotel room doing all the things I do left to my own devices, waiting for my ride to Haridwar at noon.

*“Elemental Signs of the Sacramental: Sacramentality, Visual Arts, and the Earth,” Jyoti Sahi in Sacraments and Sacramentality, 110.

silvepuram and the art ashram

 1 March ‘24

Dorathick and Pinto escorted me to the Kulithallai train station Wednesday night and made sure I got on the right car and found the right bunk. As it turned out, though, someone else was already in my bunk. Each compartment has six bunks; I was supposed to have the bottom one (choice spot). But the gentleman who was occupying it asked me very nicely if I wouldn’t mind going to the next car and taking his lower bunk in another spot there since he was with his wife. With Dorathick and Pinto showing some signs of consternation out of the window, I agreed to it, and he led me there. Well, that bunk was already occupied as well, and it was now suggested that I take the middle bunk instead. After some confusion about where to put my luggage (it was 10:00 at night and pretty dark in there already), I stuffed my backpack and guitar under the bunks and somewhat gracefully crawled into the middle bunk. There was a pillow, a blanket and a sheet on the bed. Most bunks I saw already had the sheet on it, and the guy across from me did the sheet for his friend who was riding on top. No one offered to do mine and I decided just to cover myself with the blanket and call it a night. I fell almost immediately to sleep, comforted by the air-conditioned car, after all those sweaty nights at the ashram, and the quiet rocking of the train, and never wound up putting my sheet on. There was no interaction with anyone in my little compartment from then on out, except for the trio of snores around me. It’s a pretty undignified way to travel! I was hesitant to slip out of my middle bunk and go to the bathroom but at some point, I decided it was going to be a very arduous night if I didn’t, so I screwed up the energy and slipped out, to great success. There were no announcements as to what stops were coming up so I had my alarm set (as if I might sleep later than 4 AM somehow…) and started standing near the doors with my stuff and with some help managed to get off at the right stop in Bengaluru at around 6 AM. 


My host-to-be, Jyoti Sahi, who is also the only reason I had come to Bengaluru, had arranged reception for me at the nearby Union Theological College, in spite of the early morning, so I called my contact there, Abey George, when I got in my tuk-tuk from the station, who met me and showed me to a very nice room. UTC is an ecumenical seminary, mostly CSI (Church of South India of the Anglican Communion) and Methodists I believe. Abey was a really sharp guy, very polite and articulate, a fourth year student from Kerala studying for the CSI, having already done his graduate work in English literature, now the editor of the college magazine. He brought me to their worship service at 8:30 AM (introducing me like a visiting VIP), had a wonderful chat over breakfast in the canteen, and then he gave me a tour of the facility. Jyoti in the meantime had made his way to town in a taxi for some other business and met us around 10 AM.


There are a few encounters I have had in my life with particular people that I look back on as being among highly significant conversations. If I had to analyze it, they’ve usually been moments when I was able to locate myself on the map and even got a hint as to what lay ahead. One was sitting at a piano in the basement of the Jesuit novitiate in Saint Paul, Minnesota with John Foley in 1985, when I discovered what I would later call “essentially vocal music,” that totally changed the way I composed. One of course was hearing Fr. Bede Griffiths speak in our chapter room in September 1992 that completely turned my thinking around and set me on the course on which I remain to this day. One was the hour and a half I spent with Fr. Thomas Keating in 2017 at Snowmass, the notes of which I carry around in my Bible. Even in the midst of it I was thinking that this encounter with Jyoti Sahi yesterday was going to remain in that constellation as well.

Jyoti is considered to be the most famous living Indian Christian artist.I'll embed here some of his paintings that we in and around my guest room. You can find many things online.) He’s known for his paintings, murals and also design. Most notably he designed several churches, including the cathedral church of Varanasi. His distinctive style is incorporating what he unashamedly calls “Hindu” (and not the more generic “Indian”) symbol and style into his work. We had a good discussion about that as well. Like Raimondo Panikkar, Jyoti considers himself a “Hindu Christian,” his father being a Hindu. His mother was a Scottish Presbyterian but was later baptized Catholic bringing her teenage son with her, into the religion of Saint Francis of Assisi, their main inspiration. “Hindu” of course is a term invented by the British colonialists to describe not a religion, but the religions of the Indus Valley, and of course Jyoti considers his to be one of those religions (if I am not misunderstanding his explanation). He was raised in the north, Dehradun, where both of his parents were teachers, receiving the finest English education and then being sent off to study design in London. 


As he grew in his Catholicism, Jyoti gradually became more attracted to the Benedictines than the Franciscans and even at one time considered being a monk. Ironically it was Bede Griffiths who told him that he would “never be a monk” but encouraged him to live in a hermitage near the ashram. That was 1963 when Bede was still at Kurisumala in Kerala. I knew that he had a friendship with Bede, but I did not know how far back or how deep it went. Of course, being at Kurisumala he also knew Fr. Francis Archaya as well, the co-founder of that ashram along with Bede. He also knew Abhishiktananda pretty well, having also had many encounters with him, including spending some time living at Shantivanam with Abhishiktananda before Abhishiktananda re-located to the north and turned Shantivanam over to Bede. That was the jaw-dropper for me. I knew some of that history but to hear first-hand accounts of the interactions between the three of them––Francis, Bede and le Saux––during the transition from le Saux to Griffiths, was just fascinating to me. Jyoti told one story of sailing north up the coast of India from Kerala with Francis, arriving ultimately in Dehradun, where his parents still had their home, and Abhishiktananda coming down to meet them from Uttarkashi. I asked him point blank what he thought of Abhishiktananda as a person and he said he was impressed by him though he found him “extreme,” as did Bede, so he confirmed. Then when Bede moved to Shantivanam, he and his new English wife Jane lived there with Bede for two years before re-locating up to Bangalore, now Begaluru, where they have been ever since. 


In the years that followed, aside from his own art, Jyoti was deeply involved in the liturgical renewal in India, through the National Biblical & Liturgical Center (NBCLC) which is located there in Begaluru. As a matter of fact, he had had a meeting there that morning before he came to fetch me at the UTC. He knew all about the proposed Indian rite and he and Jane were proud to show me a worn-out copy of the provisional lectionary that had been put together for the Office of Readings that included a scriptural reading, an ecclesial (patristic) reading, and a reading from Universal Wisdom. We actually used the reading assigned for the day for our Eucharist later, from chapter 7 of the Bhagavad Gita––the very verses that I set to music in “Lead Me From Death Into Life.” Actually, little synchronistic moments like that came up all day long, mentioning Coomaraswamy’s book on “Dancing Śiva” which I was just quoting last week, for example.


As soon as we got in the taxi to make our way to his place at Silvepuram outside of town, totally unprovoked but perhaps assuming that is what I wanted to know, Jyoti began to tell me his history. I peppered it with a few questions, but his own narrative was enough to fill the cover. It took about an hour to get to Silvepuram where we met his absolutely lovely wife Jane and their friend Lucy, another Indian artist who now lives with her husband in Germany but at one time had run the art ashram that Jyoti founded there in the village. Jyoti and I continued to talk––I can’t begin to recount the list of related topics about art, inculturation, nationalism, the ashram movement, specifically liturgy and the arts, “the marriage of east and west,” , perennialism, some theology obviously, as well as more anecdotes about his interactions with the first generation of this whole legacy of which I find myself to be a part. He handed me a couple of books after lunch that contained articles that he had written and that he was interested to hear my thoughts about. So in the midst of an afternoon nap, I had a bit of homework, which I took to gladly, coming back for tea with a list of questions and comments. He then led me through the village up to The Land, the site of the art ashram, where is son Roshen now lives and works. He talked about his own disappointment that it has not really thrived and survived, and mused about his own legacy, which was fascinating to hear. 


Later it occurred to me that one of the reasons I was so interested in Thomas Merton when I first moved up to Santa Cruz was that he was someone who had to learn to live as a monk along with his talent for writing. There are religious, there are artists, there are religious artists who are not active religious and of course those who are. What Jyoti embodied for me, though not a professed religious, was someone so steeped in his faith with that added aspect of being so deeply involved in the specific ecosystem of the ashram movement in India, the legacy that has touched me so deeply. 


In the early evening we celebrated a very simple eucharist in the humble, comfortable chapel in their home, and then Jane asked me to sing for them, which I was only too happy to do. She called her son and daughters over as well at that point, and one grandson and a friend of their son Somo, who is a filmmaker. It was odd; it was one of those few times when I got a little self-conscious and was making some terrible flubs on the guitar on songs that I have played hundreds of times and have been practicing even recently. It’s so odd to me when those rare occasions nervousness come in. I suppose I really wanted to impress Jyoti and his friends and got self-conscious.


I had another beautiful night’s sleep with the gentle cool breeze blowing the curtains all night long in a very comfortable guest room, a real Indian bath at about 5 AM, meaning pouring the hot water over myself from a barrel that sits on a wood fire, so hot that you have to cool it down with cold water from another barrel. A little more conversation over breakfast and an exchange of movie and book recommendations with a promise to stay in touch. It was only then, at breakfast, that Jane asked me something about my opinion on liturgical music and I launched forth into a bit of a diatribe about the voice and the Word and the real meaning and purpose of chant, and Psallite, etc. etc., that was, luckily for them, cut short by the arrival of my taxi to the airport. All in all a fabulous memorable visit.


The offending pyx...
One funny thing happened in the airport in Bengaluru. Rather confusingly, the security had me drop my guitar at one spot, where baby carriages and full dressed women are checked, and sent me to another line. I was waiting for my backpack while watching across the way for my guitar. After a few minutes I rushed over to grab my guitar but was stopped by the man there who wanted to take away––and did––my favorite little tool, a string winder that is also a string cutter and confiscated. Though the cutter, as Grama Lucy used to say, was so dull “it couldn’t cut water,” it was deemed contraband. I rushed back over to find my backpack had also been sequestered. The suspect object there was, of all things, the round pyx I carry, with the Pie Pelicane on it, with a few consecrated hosts. The guy pulled it out, then opened it and said, “What is this?” I was trying to explain––it wasn’t clear how much English he spoke––“Catholic? Communion? Mass?” I made an eating motion, the sign of the cross. At some point he seemed to understand and waved me off and then suddenly a look of recognition crossed his face, and his eyes got big and he said, “You’re a priest?!” I nodded yes, and he seemed quite pleased, maybe just that he had figured it out. I would love to hear him tell his family that one tonight. A white priest with a knapsack, a guitar, and Holy Communion. (Mom, Isaiah, and Paul Ford, if you are reading, I thought you would enjoy that episode.)

After that an uneventful flight up to Delhi, with four Tibetan Buddhist monks, one elder, one middle aged and to younger, seated near me, the older of whom were very funny to watch, especially the middle-aged guy bugging the attendants for hot water for his instant ramen, in some language that none of the attendants knew. A long taxi ride again to my hotel for the night. I feel somewhat embarrassed by how nice a room I have. My friend Devin is here with the students from Mount Madonna, and we were to travel together to Haridwar tomorrow. So it was convenient, and the only room they had left was an deluxe suite of sorts, but it’s not a bad price in American dollars and it’s nice to treat myself to a little creature comfort before I head back into ashram life, this time up north, starting tomorrow. As it turns out, Devin cannot accompany me to Haridwar tomorrow after all, but I just spent some time with him now, and we talked about upcoming projects as well as about his upcoming wedding at the end of March, here in India. I remember why I don’t like Delhi: I usually feel trapped here. This neighborhood, for instance, there is nothing within walking distance. Even the man at the front desk, when I asked for direction to a nearby market, warned me not to try to walk it. And I just don’t feel like negotiating with the autorickshaw drivers tonight, so I am staying home, will treat myself to the buffet, repack and get ready for the next leg, blessing you all.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

walk in beauty

 28 feb 2024


The sixth chakra, on which people are most often advised to concentrate during meditation or the recitation of mantras, is situated between the eyes, at the root of the nose. There too is located the “third eye” of Shiva, his spiritual eye which looks within and sees everything with perfect truth in the light which alone shines inwardly––the light of the guha … (Prayer, 102)


They are doing a lectio continua of Abhishiktananda’s book Prayer here at midday prayer each day, which is great––the book itself and the fact that that is what they are reading. In the past it has been the often-lugubrious readings from the Liturgy of the Hours which were practically incomprehensible to some of the guys with English as a second (or third of fourth) language. This is much more practical as well as accessible and totally fitting the context. Reflecting back on my musings about Śiva, I don’t remember Abhishiktananda being so bold in mentioning Śiva in that book! Hence the above quotation among other places.

The groups here come and go. Several of the guys have mentioned how they feel like their hospitality (the main source of income) is still in recovery from Covid. There was quite a crowd here through the weekend, mostly Europeans, from England, France, Italy, Poland, Germany, more than Americans. The biggest part of them left last week––poor Fr. Martin, guest master, was wiped out––but a group of about a dozen, still very international remains for a week-long yoga retreat led by Dorathick. He came to us as a trained yogi already in his twenties, with also a good knowledge of Ayurveda. I pleased to see him still be able to offer things like this as well as keep up his own practice and study. He reminded me yesterday that it is part of the charter of Shantivanam to promote the practice of yoga and meditation. And it is a serious schedule. (I’ll attach a photo of it) starting with asana at 5:30 AM, two teaching sessions a day, and a session each on pranayama and yoga nidra, besides time for discussion and the regular liturgies of the ashram. Again, a very international crowd.

A friend of mine has a distinction that I had never heard of before (he thinks it comes from Czesław Miłosz), between the desert religions and the delta religions––not enough water and too much water, the former being what we would normally think of as the Judeo-Christian-Muslim monotheists as compared to the Asian traditions (or the prophetic traditions versus the mystical ones). He thinks that the religion itself is shaped by the landscape in which it was birthed. I was reflecting on that yesterday when again the day was swelteringly hot and the air was dusty. I wrote to him and said that in the same way I don’t think you can really understand Hinduism and the traditions that come out of India until you have experienced a day like that, or a lot of days like that. Somehow in the midst of that, not in spite of that, this great revelation occurs to the human psyche that there is a silent power within all that that is also the foundation of real human life, “the bliss of the consciousness of being.” And we are set free not because of comfortable conditions conducive to such enlightenment but by enduring the vicissitudes of a harsh landscape and seeing behind and before them.


Yesterday I got a tour of a beautiful little campus just down the road from us. It’s called the Swami Bede Dayanand Trust, and it contains an elder day care center, a kindergarten, a typing school and a tailoring school. It is all run efficiently by a little firecracker of a religious sister named Rosa. She came from another congregation but is now officially Camaldolese as well. I had remembered visiting an old folks’ home and tailoring center before. The former is still going, but these facilities have replaced the others. I was taken right away by how clean and organized everything is. (Gotta leave it to the women. It can be done, guys! Not that I am any shining example…) Sr. Rosa has been doing this since 1998 and has managed to get lots of foreign sponsorship. The buildings themselves are very sturdy and freshly painted, with the normal beautiful plat life all around. All that in the midst of real squalor in the village nearby. I went there with our Bro. Martin, and two other Camaldolese sisters from Andhra Pradesh, Rose and Lucy, who are down here visiting. I had half an idea to go and see their place too, somewhat near Indore about halfway between here and Delhi, but I decided not to complicate my trip anymore. Our Indian friends love to do that kind of thing, put us in chairs in front of a group of people and say something or do something–– or example they had me pass out cake to the old folks. Another one of those roles I feel uncomfortable in. I wouldn’t mind helping with the dishes, but being a visiting dignitary of some sort feels out of place for a monk in a backpack.

Rosa then had us all over at her house for lunch, and it was quite a feast. She had asked me the say before what I wanted for lunch, and I simply agreed to certain things without suggesting anything. So she made pasta (in addition to rice) and made me plain fish cooked with banana and curry leaves (besides making fish curry), plus three side dishes of vegetables, a sweet and sour soup, fruit salad custard and payasam, a tasty sweet made with jaggery (unrefined sugar) and some kind of cooling tisane plus buttermilk. She had worked very hard to prepare all that and we were all very appreciative. I for my part felt terribly overfed, though I kept my intake as low as I could without being offensive. Bro. Martin and I walked back home to burn off some calories and I slept the sleep of the overfed. That was when I was thinking about my friend’s idea of how landscapes effect our spiritualities. He’s convinced that we who have lived in the Santa Lucia Mountains on the central coast of California have a certain gift we bring. I was noticing of the other hand how I sleep so deeply after lunch here and wake up so groggy just as the real heat of the day is coming on. It takes even more discipline to get off my bed, face the sweltering heat and at least pretend to be reading, praying, or meditating.

This is actually my last day here in the Forest of Peace. I had my last English class with Arvind this morning and spent the rest of the day cleaning my room and re-packing my things. Tonight I have an overnight train to Bangalore, which could be an adventure, and then an elaborate plan of meeting someone who will give me breakfast (and maybe let me take a shower) and me wait until Jyoti Sahi comes to fetch me, the real goal of my side trip there. More on that and him later...

I’ve been working on two songs since I got to India. The first one is still kind of unformed, but this lyric has turned out nice and I keep strolling back over to my guitar to play it again, which is always a good sign. It’s a combination of the famous Navajo prayer, “Walk in beauty” that I have been carrying around for months wanting to set to music for John Pennington and my new collection that we hope to do in the spring, and a poem that I ran into recently by the English poet Charles Causley (husband of Sylvia Plath), and the two just seemed to go together. Here's a taste of it. I feel like I am so far on this sabbatical doing just that––“walking in beauty.” And ready for the next step.


today I will walk and

darkness will leave me

I will be as before

over my body 

cool breeze is blowing

nothing can hinder me 


I walk in beauty

I walk in beauty

I walk in beauty


I am the song that 

sings the bird the

leaf that grows the land

I am the tide that 

moves the moon the

stream that halts the sand.


I walk in beauty…


beauty before me

beauty behind me

beauty beauty below

beauty above me

and all around, my 

words will be beautiful


I walk in beauty…


I am the cloud that

dries the storm the

earth that lights the sun

I am the clay that

shapes the hand the

fire that strikes the stone


I walk in beauty…


wandering on a 

trail of beauty

lively lively I walk, in 

old age on a 

trail of beauty

living living again


I walk in beauty…