There are a variety of points of view from which to write an account of the uniqueness of one’s life. I am sharing some events and values here that appear to be significantly transformational to me. If you are interested, read on!
I was born 2 years after the end of WWII. My Jewish grandparents and many in their families had fortunately emigrated from Europe and had thus survived the war and thus made this story possible. I grew up in a loving extended family hearing several languages. Mostly English was spoken directly to me. During my pre-teen and teen years I read many European accounts of the holocaust trying to understand how such a thing could happen and what I could do to “make a difference,” both in my own life and in the lives of others, if anything like the holocaust happened again. This lead to social activism starting in the 60’s as well as a degree and work in Social Work and counselling.
The death of my first husband when I was 27, just weeks after my father’s death, led me to a very conscious question in my grief: “Shall I live or die?” I made a clear choice to not only survive this experience but to live fully. I had a profound experience of commitment and the power of appreciating “what is” to enable me to engage in life, even within painful conditions. What followed was a deepening spiritual quest, continuing with my practices of meditation and yoga. I focused on the gifts of my life. I met a Jain master, Chitrabanuji with whom I studied for several years as a Jain nun with a focus on the reverence for life and self-discovery, and from whom I learned to trust my intrinsic awareness. One example of this was one evening just before his talk, when he invited me to go again with him on his yearly pilgrimage to India. I treasured my time traveling with him and his family, and being in India. It made no sense to me that I could not even hear his talk that evening as my inner voice loudly expressed “I do not want to go”. I had no clarity about why that would be, as it ran counter to what I saw as my mission at the time. I sought him out after his lecture and shared my experience, hoping he could help me to make sense of this. His message to me was clear: follow the voice from within as the master. As the ancient lojong teachings of Shantideva reflect: “Of the two witnesses, trust the first.” I had no idea how much my life would soon change.
During this time my mother and I had a school and bookstore where I taught astrology, meditation, and yoga. I was completing my second book, traveling, and lecturing. Within a few weeks after my “strange” inner message not to go to India, a student recommended a book, the Handbook to Higher Consciousness by Ken Keyes, for our bookstore. I read the copy given to me and learned there was a group of trainers coming from Kentucky to New York a few weeks later. I attended and was inspired to go to Kentucky to attend a 3-month series of retreats at Cornucopia, the training institute based on this work. This was 1978 and in the second month, I met Jim. Although I was not looking for a relationship at that time, my life path changed dramatically. We were married within months with a shared understanding that our relationship was a vehicle for our spiritual growth, an important principle that continues to guide our lives. With 3 vows that began with “In the spirit of love and oneness, in the eternal now moment…”, we set our intentions to – with ever increasing ability – be open and honest, honor and accept each other, and cooperate in the great adventure of life. This adventure also includes our children, Jiva Shanti and Jaya Deva, who have been two of my greatest teachers of the heart as I have stretch my capacity to love unconditionally beyond what I had ever imagined. Together our family circumnavigated the globe, as well as the practical and emotional landscapes of life. I revel in the gifts they bring to those whose lives they touch – including me!!
Jim and I enjoy mediating, facilitating, consulting, and training together through Peaceworks that we began in 1993. We also enjoy meditating, walking, snorkeling, playing, and traveling. We are gifted with many opportunities to nurture cooperative and creative communities and organizations, and to support joyful growth for many in the world. One of my favorite projects is Compassionate Leadership, a yearly program that brings people together from around the world by teleconference and in retreats, co-creating a supportive community focused on supporting each of us to lead our own lives and contribute to a world where we all thrive.