Luminous Kalyanamitras – Part 1

kalyanamitraLean on me when you’re in trouble, as that fabulous old hit goes, I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on….Right on, bro, when life administers yet another unkind kick to the butt, there’s nothing like a friend to dispel impending doom: a crabby aunt who gifts you hard cash when the mortgage is due; a stranger who points you in the right direction when you’re panicking in a new city; a muse who whispers encouragement at critical moments; the buddy who stays loyal, even after you tumble off your lofty pedestal, revealing frayed and dirty knickers.

Certainly everyone who supports us in this cold world is a treasure. And yet…to that rare human who ventures into the uncharted territory of inner worlds, a higher level of alliance becomes essential. This is the realm of the kalyanamitra, a friend who dances to subtle inner rhythms, refusing to conform to the standards of an insane world. If you’re lucky enough to attract a kalyanamitra to you, make sure you always give this precious one the right to hoist you out of the sulphurous quagmire of delusional thinking and hazardous habits—and be ready to return the favor! Continue reading

Luminous Kalyanamitras – Part 2

My own tumultuous life-path led me to break free of a marriage that was choking the joy out of me. Post-divorce, I severed my fifteen-year bond with Manhattan and fled to the other side of the planet, to Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan Buddhist community in exile, nestling in the foothills of Himalayas.

Jetsunma_in_caveAfter barely surviving my first brutal Himalayan winter, I had the amazing good fortune to meet Ani Tenzin Palmo, a Buddhist nun of English extraction. Ani-la had recently returned to the area from a small cave located way over the snow line—after a thirteen-year solitary retreat!

I asked Ani-la how she’d survived there for so long, alone, and often in sub-zero weather. She had held my gaze with soul-penetrating blue eyes: those years had been the happiest of her life, she had replied in her crisp British accent. Even when the fellow who had promised to transport her rations on a six-month basis did not arrive on his hardy donkey, and she was forced to stretch her little remaining food over the next half-year, Ani-la had not balked, having prepared herself to die in retreat if need be. It was the combination of a lapsed visa and a growing compulsion to serve others that had persuaded her to leave her icy refuge. Continue reading

Luminous Kalyanamitras – Part 3

images-ramana1Looking back, I guess my earliest kalyanamitras were Carol and Venu, who dispensed solace and help as I careened wildly in and out of their lives during my frenzied adolescence and twenties; without them, and without exaggeration, I may not have survived.

At a time in Manhattan when I could not see beyond the thicket of my personal problems, Joneve insisted I start writing again. Her persistence unleashed a force within me that soon began to roar like a tiger; simultaneously, a wellspring of courage began to flow, allowing me to grow to meet the challenges I faced.

Silver-haired and gracious talk-therapist Amy met with me once a week for years in her spacious office in lower Manhattan. As I listened to myself trot out a nauseating stream of excuses about why I could not change my domestic circumstances, I realized the sniveling coward in the mirror would have to die if I was to thrive again. Amy taught me how to cut through the babble of guilt, fear and social conditioning in order to hear the still small voice within. Continue reading