4 AM ON THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE

b14516b6b40561bfe96c12b674d70118After the initial intense discomfort of leaving a marriage that was throttling me emotionally, and blocking my spiritual and creative progress, I was once again enjoying the richness of life. Soon I began to feel an exhilarating sense of freedom.

Now Manhattan is the perfect place for a single person to taste every flavor of liberation—a fabulous city that never sleeps and has something for everybody. (This was before the World Trade Center bombing). Brimming with exciting things to do, not just in the way of entertainment, Manhattan catered to the spiritual seeker as well as to the artist and could be a whole lot of fun.

Folks I knew at work were mostly workaholics; they put in long hours, but from Friday evening through Sunday, they generally partied a lot. There were many times, I confess, that the constant pressure got a bit too much and I felt like a monkey pedaling furiously on a wheel just to stay upright. But still, I relished my new life and would not have exchanged it for another.

Among my personal friends were writers and artists, photographers, painters, even the odd sculptor. One cool couple used to throw regular parties at their trendy loft in lower Manhattan. Their round dining table was spread with goodies, cheeses, pastries and whatnot. A motley crew of guests brought stuff too, bottles of French wine, key lime pies, and bags of crunchy chips. Not to forget that the conversations that sprung up all over that vast room were interesting.

It must have been about 3 am on a Saturday morning when a guy I barely knew asked me how I, as an Indian woman who had rebelled against my societal mores, dealt with fear. I said that when I had first begun to live alone, I was so terrified of being alone in the darkness that a friend had strung tiny lights all the way from my bedroom to the bathroom, just in case.

8411f515e5521a945a35e8d138ae0d27Another friend had given me two of his cats, and Lisa and Sweetie, my sweet feline protectors whom I will never forget, flanked me at night. But then, I added, I’d begun to dive into Eastern philosophy and to meditate seriously again, and the fear that lived inside of me—a grisly phantom that often had my knees knocking together—had fled due to my growing awareness of the constant presence of invisible beings of light and love.

So you’re tough now, eh? He demanded truculently. (What was his problem? I think an Asian woman must have given him hell.)

I guess so, I said, wary of where he was going.

Well then, I challenge you to walk all the way home from here, right now. Let’s see how brave you really are, ha ha ha.

I considered his proposal for a moment: I was a strong walker, as most Manhattanites are, and the walk home could be done in about an hour.

I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you do, he said. I saw he was anticipating a timid refusal, whereupon a devil got into me. Of course I can, I said, shocking him, but I don’t want your money. Before my hostess (she would have tried to stop me) could object, I said a quick goodbye and left.

Swiftly I made my way further downtown, and soon I saw the fantastic outline of the Brooklyn Bridge. That’s when Fear gripped me. All the way down here, there had been the occasional passerby, but now I could see no one. Tales I’d heard of homeless drunken or stoned drifters sleeping under the Bridge flashed through my head. It was a long walk over the Bridge, I realized, and I was utterly alone. Taking a deep breath, I started down the wooden length of it, chanting my mantra of protection nonstop.

My imagination was going wild, and I thought I heard someone stealthily following me. I didn’t turn around, just continued with the mantra. The footsteps became more distinct and my heart began to flutter with panic.

FB_IMG_1491232471157Then a cyclist, believe it or not, flew past me: Black ensemble with glittering lights circling the wheels of a superb racing bike. Another cyclist whizzed past me, dressed in exactly the same way, and then another, and another, until a long line of these beauties were riding silently down the bridge. I realized that they were probably a foreign group of pro cyclists on tour in Manhattan. I almost ran beside them on the other side of the walkway, and finally reached the end of the Bridge. I stopped to heave a huge sigh of relief, for my apartment was not that far, dawn was breaking, and there were already signs of life in lovely Brooklyn Heights. No one would dare to attack me now. I watched the last cyclist glide into the distance and walked rapidly home, thinking I’d been right all along—great beings were indeed watching over me.

I’ve told many friends this story over the years and all have been baffled that I’d take such a risk. You could have been raped and murdered, one said sternly, and he was right. So what made me do such a stupid thing? I could have laughed at the guy and told him to buzz off. The fact is that I did not. The answer probably is that I wanted to be Superwoman in the eyes of my friends, and a cut above the usual nervous woman from the East.

Today I’d laugh at anyone who asked me to risk my precious life in such a way, because wisdom and caution are essential to living on to accomplish my goals. But that night I was both a rebel and an idiot; still, looking back, perhaps because of the rare beauty of those cyclists flying over that gorgeous Bridge, I don’t regret my madness.

ece0e5efb7e69f25bae5daa7f08c1338Greetings from Arunachala, Shiva the Destroyer in the form of a hill of fire and light, who helps us realize that there is really nothing to fear, not even physical death, but only because our true nature is immortal and blissful!

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A PERMANENT SOLUTION TO A TEMPORARY PROBLEM

ece0e5efb7e69f25bae5daa7f08c1338A friend who once worked as a psychiatrist in a posh town in California once said to me that he saw the act of suicide as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Ironically, his own crazily hedonistic lifestyle militated against his innate wisdom and he himself later tried to commit suicide. But I never forgot his words, especially since I lost a few friends in this manner; every single time I heard someone had offed themselves the shock was great. The worst news was the suicide of a lovely woman I knew in New York. One fine day in fall, she had gone home and shot herself with a gun she had just bought, and that too before her beloved cat.  Since she lived alone on the top floor of a condo, her body was not found for several days, and that poor cat had to be a witness to the gradual decomposition of the body of his beloved mistress. I was in a restaurant enjoying brunch with a friend when I heard the news; I literally screamed—because I had once been close to her. She had been a strong Zen practitioner, calm, quiet and loving, and also the last person in the world I would have thought would have killed herself. Later I heard she left a note saying she was going over to the other side to see what it was like, or something asinine in that vein, which just goes to show that we should never go by a façade.

I love the teachings of the East because they tell us clearly that getting rid of the physical body, which is just a mix of the great elements of fire, air, earth, water and consciousness, and run by the three “gunas” of rajas, tamas and sattva, does not get rid of our suffering. Simply put, our immortal Spirit takes a new form and the suffering continues. This nugget of mystical information should be enough to stop us from ever contemplating suicide, but then, how many on the planet today give a damn for eastern philosophy, or even know that its ancient truths are priceless? Continue reading

ANGEL IN MANHATTAN

BODHI LEAVES IN COLORIt was a gorgeous fall morning and I woke up deliriously happy in my new apartment. The past couple of months had been crazy with all sorts of pressures, but finally the move from Carroll Gardens to Brooklyn Heights came; since this was post-divorce and I was on my own, the task of moving, then settling in, took up every bit of my remaining energy.

Now Saturday had dawned and all the grueling work was done, so I was free to enjoy my beautiful apartment in the St. George Tower, with its view of the Promenade, and beyond it, the regal Statue of Liberty, telling me I had made it against all odds in the land of the brave and the free.

In Manhattan, folks make plans way ahead of the weekend. I, however, had been too busy to do that; besides, my friends were in the city, and not in this beautiful suburb within walking distance of lower Manhattan. The sudden thought of my alone-ness struck me with the force of a blow to my gut! Continue reading

Circle of Light: Kali, Aghori & Unconditional Love #3/6

image-5It was twilight by the time the entire group had assembled in my Brooklyn Heights apartment. We sat in a circle on the floor of my candle-lit living room and held hands in silence in order to create the perfect atmosphere for sharing. Then Melissa produced her Talking Stick and a mantle of awe fell upon us—for the polished wooden rod really did seem to exude a magical aura all of its own.

As hostess, I explained how we were going to use the stick to explore the concept of Unconditional Love. A few groans were uttered, which subsided under a volley of glares from those who took our sharing mucho seriously. Briefly I spoke of the high ceremonial and spiritual value of such a stick in the context of aboriginal democracy—that a Talking Stick is passed around in a group, or used by a leader as a symbol of his/her authority. Only the person holding the stick is allowed to speak—a wise custom that allows all participants to be heard, including introverts. Consensus can force the stick to move along to assure that the pedantic and long-winded don’t dominate the discussion, while the person holding the stick may allow others to interject. Continue reading

Karmic Tranformation – Samsara’s Seven Flavors #8/12

paradigm-shift-cartoonFlavor #5: Transforming Problems. If a great chef and a lousy cook are given the exact same ingredients and asked to prepare a meal, chances are the chef would produce a feast, while the novice would offer up a mess. Well, Mahamudra says that the circumstances of our own life are like those ingredients — what we have on our plates is the result of our own past karma; what we do with them depends on our skill as chefs.

Flavor #6: Our Personal Karma Creates our Reality. According to Mahamudra, everything that happens in our lives is the result of past karma. Over a decade ago in a monastery in Dharamsala, a group of us listened to a high lama speaking on the nature of relative reality . “Everything you experience is only the result of your past thought, speech and action,” he pronounced. “You are the only one responsible for both your happiness as well as your suffering.” Continue reading

Angelica’s Brilliant Lama – Samsara’s Seven Flavors #1/12

opening-imagePeak of summer, Manhattan 1995….life was on the upswing, what with an admin gig at a top law firm a hop, skip and jump from Grand Central, and my very own co-op apartment in picturesque Brooklyn Heights, whose major attraction happened to be a fabulous roof garden with a scintillating nocturnal view of New York’s other three boroughs (Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island), and glimpses of the cool blue profile of the Lady of Liberty towering majestically over the horizon.

A swirl of friends — artists, musicians, writers, poets, sculptors, photographers, and the occasional lawyer or stockbroker befriended during my years of freelancing on Wall Street and in Manhattan’s law firms — added zest to the mix. And while the week was one crazy stretch of slogging to keep body and soul together, weekends allowed me to dip my soul into hatha yoga and meditation, an amazing novel, an off-Broadway show, or even a Shakespeare evening performance in Central Park, after which a bunch of us would troop over to some generous stranger’s penthouse on the upper west side to party beneath a canopy of stars. Continue reading