>New York, New York
My Grandfather sang Sinatra’s old-time lines to me just before I headed off to this fabulous, chaotic, harmonic, City That Never Sleeps. Every story on Earth must be here, living in tiny apartments in Chelsea, lofts on the Lower East Side, brownstones in Brooklyn. I’ve been really enjoying dancing amongst such Diversity, Language, Fashion, Beauty, Sorrow that fills up every corner and overflows merciless onto streets, up ridiculously high buildings, as His Holiness Karmapa points out, that seem to be racing each other. I sigh at Bleecker and MacDougal, buy a postcard of Bob Dylan and imagine what the city was like in ’61, sweeter? Gentler? Or really just the same?
Since I was eight years old and bought my plastic rendition of The Statue of Liberty, clutching my Grandmother’s hand I swore I’d live here one day. My Grandmother, a New Yorker to the end, even if she did spend most of her life in Connecticut, her time in Hell’s Kitchen with the small but vibrant Hungarian community seemed the most potent in her life, as stories from that heyday collect in our family history. She told me then, two things which I’ll never forget: Always tip well, and There’s no place on Earth like New York. Well, she’s right, tipping well gains much awarded appreciation from cabbies and waiters alike and truly, there is no place like this town. As Life moves and changes, I think I’ve outgrown that intese desire to live here, but I do inmensely enjoy the time I spend here.
Oddly, or maybe not so, New York is more like India than any other place in the States. The people are louder, they tell you exactly what they think, they love to help and give directions and they know how to MOVE in the midst of thousands of streaming bodies onto subway cars and off, through the congested avenues of Midtown, crossing streets and sidwalks through the farmer’s market of Union Square. There is a flow here, like India, a flow and abundance that can be overwhelming to the Suburbanite, but since New York is in my bones (my Great-Grandmother spent sixty years here and is buried atop two others in Long Island), and after seven years abroad in one of the most dense countries on Earth, I feel wondefully at home here, flying through the subway channels from the L to the A train, seeking out odd and wondrous sites such as Alex Grey’s Chapel of Sacred Mirrors on W. 27th Street or the block long Halloween store which is next to Grace Church where you can hear Bach played on the organpipes every day from 12:20 to 12:50. How cool is that?
And, more potent than all of that, are the hours I was blessed to spend listening to the teachings of His Holiness, the 17th Karmapa, who descended American soil to welcome arms, his ‘return,’ from the days he spent here as the 16th Karmapa in his previous lifetime. During the sessions, which were held at Hammerstein Ballroom and then the Waldorf-Astoria, he stressed that indeed the mind of the 16th Karmapa has never left his students, that it has always remained, in Love. My eyes filled with tears as he radiated this golden warmth from the stage, a vessel of Love and Bearer of the deep Wisdom of Tibet, the Dharma, the Buddha. Tibetans and devotees consider the Karmapa to be a Living Buddha and I think each of us in those rooms felt that moving through us as he taught on compassion, practicing amongst the busyness of New York, and cutting through the delusions of desire that perpetually ensare us. I was blessed to be invited to volunteer, selling merchandise, T-shirts, caps and Dharma magazines to the American, Chinese, Tibetan people who feel the connection to His Holiness. Connecting with other American Sangha members was fulfilling especially upon my return back to the West, having (for the moment) left India. Check out www.karmpavisit.blogspot.com for more lovely stories and wisdom from His Holiness.
After spending a weekend surrounded by American Tibetan Buddhists, monks in their brilliant red robes, Tibetan, Chinese, Bhutanese, Singaporean, and others from South Africa and Europe all dedicated to the Dharma, I then glided into another, completely different World, as you can only do in New York. On Monday, I attended a lecture in Brooklyn given by Malidoma Patrice Some, an African shaman from Burkina Faso, who spent most of his childhood in a Jesuit white, Christian missionary. He escaped in his late teens and returned to his village of the Dagara people and went through the intense, life-threatening iniation. His oratory capabilities are astonishing and is truly a Bridge, as defined by his community, between ancient, ancestral knowledge and today’s modern world. He spoke of connecting with Spirit, of the massive changes that are happening in this world, of Transformation in this Year of Nature. We listened to his poetic speech and laughed with him in his humble way of approaching these deep concepts yet felt awe in his presence, as amidst the humility, the incredible Power that he holds is immense and breathtaking. We then did a simple but powerful ritual of casting off masks, turning three times in front of the ancestral altar, and receiving a butterfly of transformation all to the pounding, evocative rhthyms of West African drums. I felt completely welcome among this African American community and all the diversity that exists within such a group of people. Check out www.malidoma.com for more about Malidoma’s extraordinary work around America.
I left inspired and joyous, taking three subway trains to another area of Brooklyn to meet with a dear, old friend and call in Eagle for the full moon. From Tibetan to African to Incan culture in the matter of twenty-four hours is a unique experience to say the least. We cast our circle and honored the other Laika archetypes of Snake, Jaguar and Hummingbird and calling Eagle into the heart chakra, to spread his wings in golden flight, to enable us to see both the bigger picture and the tiniest details. I felt so fulfilled in that moment, with my tiny shaker, knowing that instead of fighting all these various paths in an effort to choose only one tradtion, that I can somehow Unite them inside of me, using the Right View of Buddha Dharma to honor the various traditions of Earth Knowledge and Magic that interconnects all of us as Human Beings. As Malidoma pointed out during the lecture, when we die, we have no skin color, we simply realize we belong to the same solar system. And as Karmapa whispered to his translator in mock secret, Actually, there are no traditions! I contemplate this idea now, sitting in a friend’s apartment overlooking east 12th street in Manhattan and know there is something deeper to this statement, something bigger than each of us as individuals, bigger than the small self and inhabiting the larger Self.
Yesterday, I was blessed to attend the Medicine Buddha Teachings and Empowerment from His Holiness in New Jersey. I was again surrounded by diverse Sangha, the glorious sunshine radiating green and gold amongst spring trees, the brilliant blue skies shining down, filled with clouds that looked like Buddha landing pads. My Heart swelled with Love and overflowed with the hope to remain in that Compassionate Space that Karmapa seems to evoke inside of me each time I see him. He gave teachings on communicating cross-culturally, using different languages, again the theme of Diversity simmering inside me like a rainbowed stew. He talked of honoring the cultures throughout the world and their traditions, then proceeded with his own view which he says is mostly Tibetan, having been born in Tibet and raised as a Tibetan reincarnate. Yet he seemed to also emphasize that we are all connected, similarly united in our humor, sorrow, love and attempt to find peace and happiness.
On that note, I leave you to enjoy the day as I will, go out into the beautiful sunshine and celebrate the abundance, the diversity, the beauty that this New York has to offer me.