Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Leonard Cohen said there’s a crack in everything–how the light gets in. It came thru him & lit up a broken humanity.

September 10, 2017

True to the end, Leonard Cohen‘s work charted the arc of his career, between life and death (Sept 21, 1934 – Nov 7, 2016). His search for redemption also influenced his fans. Cohen’s evolving understanding of life, beautifully expressed through his music, shone a light through the cracks of a broken humanity in a dark suffering world. He never claimed to have found all the answers, but seemed to have reached a kind of inner peace toward the end of his life, between himself and his God.

There is a repeated stanza in one of his songs, Anthem, that conveys the redeeming acceptance of light illuminating the darkness, compassion and love overcoming bigotry and hatred: “Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”

There may be a crack in everything, but how does the light get in—from without, or is it released from within? I’ve often thought about the profundity of those lines, and there have been many interpretations of what he may be implying. See mine below.* I think he sang about finding that divinity within and among our broken humanity. I wrote this tanka in honor of Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen’s music lit up a dark world
A tanka in honor of the poet by Ken Chawkin

Leonard Cohen said
There’s a crack in everything
How the light gets in

It came through him and lit up
a broken humanity

Of course there is a kind of irony here when he says, “Forget your perfect offerings,” since he labored for months, sometimes years, on getting the lyrics to his songs perfect. At some point, though, he must’ve given up, admitted his imperfection, and sent them out into the world. As Leonardo da Vinci once said: Art is never finished, only abandoned. Other famous artists and writers have said and done the same thing.

Artistic Genius—Two Creative Approaches

There is a story about Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. They happened to be in Paris at the same time and decided to meet at a certain café. During their conversation, Dylan, one of the first to sing Cohen’s song “Hallelujah” in his concerts, asked Cohen how long it took him to write it. Cohen was embarrassed to tell him the truth so he lied and said 2 years. Then Leonard asked Bob how long it took him to write “I And I“, and he replied 15 minutes. I think he said he wrote it in the back of a cab. Cohen later told this story to an interviewer and confessed that it took him more like 5 years to write that song. He never could complete it, even after 30 verses! Their styles reflect the different philosophical approaches of ‘first thought, best thought’ versus ‘revise, revise, revise’.

You can read the fascinating history of that song in Alan Light’s book, The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of “Hallelujah”. Malcolm Gladwell, in Season 1, Episode 7 of his Revisionist History podcast, discusses the history of “Hallelujah” with Alan Light, around 20 minutes into the conversation, for about 10 minutes. The theme is about two kinds of artists—those who seem to create spontaneously, and others who labor for a very long time—the differences between Mozart and Beethoven, or Picasso and Cezanne.

See Leonard Cohen’s website www.leonardcohen.com with links to more.

As  a footnote, I just tweeted (9-19-2107) Leonard Cohen’s biographer, Sylvie Simmons, asking her what he meant about the light getting in through the cracks, and she pointed me to Allan Showalter’s website, Cohencentric: Leonard Cohen Considered, and this post: Leonard Cohen On “The Light” In Anthem That “Allows You To Live A Life And Embrace The Disasters And Sorrows And Joys”.

Leonard later spent time in Bombay, India having conversations with Ramesh Balseka, a teacher of Advaita Vedanta. It made a profound impression on him; his life-long depression had finally lifted. He also befriended an Indian gentlemen, a fan, Ratnesh Mathur. You can read about their relationship and see photos on Cohencentric. Also read this BBC report: When the light got in for Leonard Cohen.

*Quora posted this question: What did Leonard Cohen mean by his lyrics: “There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in?” About a dozen people posted their suggestions. Here is my reply:

I agree with a number of interpretations posted here, quoting William Blake, the Kabbalah, and other esoteric sources, to explain what Leonard Cohen may be referring to in that line. They all make good sense to me. I also think that the light, of clarity, understanding, call it what you will, comes from within, not without. Metaphorically we may imagine light coming into a dark broken place from outside. But it can also light up the darkness from inside, if one knows how to turn on the switch. Another interpretation then, is no matter how broken, incomplete we are, with the proper approach, meditation technique, one can transcend, go beyond our limitations and just Be, experience that unbroken inner light of pure consciousness. With repeated exposures to one’s inner divine nature, the outer vessel, our body, can begin to heal, mend the broken cracks, and become whole. One way to experience this inner and outer development is with the regular practice of Transcendental Meditation.

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David Whyte describes the mysterious way a poem starts inside you with the lightest touch

August 18, 2017

David Whyte on the physical act of writing poetry

David Whyte recites a poem to Krista Tippett and audience describing the physical bodily act of writing poetry during an interview hosted by Cambridge Forum about her book Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living.

The Lightest Touch

Good poetry begins with
the lightest touch,
a breeze arriving from nowhere,
a whispered healing arrival,
a word in your ear,
a settling into things,
then, like a hand in the dark,
it arrests the whole body,
steeling you for revelation.

In the silence that follows
a great line,
you can feel Lazarus,
deep inside
even the laziest, most deathly afraid
part of you,
lift up his hands
and walk toward the light.

River Flow: New and Selected Poems (RP)
© David Whyte and Many Rivers Press (2012)

In a similar vein, before New York poet laureate Marie Howe read “Annunciation” to Krista Tippett On Being, she described how, after tearing up several versions, she gave up, and then, it just came through her. This revelatory description of mystical conception, in Mary’s words, parallels that of poetic creation, in Marie’s words.

My first published poem, ODE TO THE ARTIST: Sketching Lotus Pads at Round Prairie Park, was a similar experience. After several attempts at writing a poem about the lotus pads in front of us, I got out of my self and wondered about their perspective. Much to my surprise the poem quickly wrote itself. Other parts of poems would present themselves while Being in Nature, which I would later complete.

This process of getting out of the way and allowing poetry to innocently come through you was expressed by my son after his class was assigned to write a poem for homework. He felt strongly that you couldn’t will a poem into existence; it had to be inspired. He was barely eleven years old when he wrote INSPIRATION, a poem by Nathanael Chawkin.

With reference to “the silence that follows a great line,” Billy Collins discusses the value of getting to the end of a poem and what can happen afterwards.

The Uncarved Blog selected among the Top 75 Consciousness Blogs and Websites on the web

July 27, 2017

Consciousness-Blogs

Fairfield, IA: Today (July 27, 2017) Feedspot selected The Uncarved Blog among the Top 75 Consciousness Blogs and Websites Winners on the web! This is the most comprehensive list of the Top 75 Consciousness Blogs on the internet chosen from thousands in their index using search and social metrics. Updated weekly, these blogs are ranked based on following criteria:

• Google reputation and Google search ranking
• Influence & popularity on Facebook, Twitter & other social media sites
• Quality and consistency of posts
• Feedspot’s editorial team and expert review

The Uncarved Blog was surprised and pleased to have been selected #24 among the Best 75 Consciousness Blogs on the planet! Thank you to Feedspot, and to all our loyal followers for making this happen.

For Us—a tanka honoring Sali and what we shared

June 30, 2017

Sali with MaharishiHere is a picture of Sally Peden showing Maharishi a photo that may have been taken during their trip To Jyotir Math with western scientists in the spring of 1975 to tell the Shankaracharya about the Dawn of the Age of Enlightenment. I think it was a picture of the 2,500-year-old banyan tree under which Adi Shankaracharya used to meditate. She had a blurry one of Jerry Jarvis sitting under the tree, but I never saw the framed photo.

Kenny & Sally in Columbia 2007This photo was taken in late May, 2007 at Sali’s step-mother, Petch Peden‘s house in Columbia, MO. I never would have imagined sharing a loving relationship with such a pure, brilliant devotee who had worked closely with Maharishi for so many years. There was obviously a very deep level of recognition between our souls. How else could such a thing have happened?

Sally+Ken bldg opening

At inauguration of Veda Bhavan May 27, 2003

These words, “We’re buddies,” had come into my head when we were introducing ourselves at MUM (another story) around 10 years after we had first met in Washington, DC, summer of 1993, but had both forgotten. She had registered some of us at a large group meditation course.

Years later, not long after she had to move into Parkview Care Center (January 19, 2010), I recalled that incident during one of my visits, and reminded her of it. I also shared the two thoughts that had entered my mind at the time, when she walked up to me to ask my name and check it on her list. I never forgot them—Too bad I just got married (again); Too bad she’s on Mother Divine. She paused, remembered it too, and smiled. What a surprise for both of us!

A Jyotishi, Indian astrologer, who came to town with ancient palm leaves, told us of our past lives together. He said we shared a deep bond of friendship and spirituality, this was a karmic repayment, I was now going to fulfill the promises I had made to her in ancient Vedic times, and that she should be with me at all times—her life depended on it. Many adverse situations would spring up over time to test that bond, but I was there for her, right up to the end, and beyond.

Adversity—she experiencing and me watching the challenging changes she would go through in her mind and body due to Dementia—drew us even closer together. I lovingly cared for her, and experienced joy when we were together, even as I continued to grieve and worry about her when we were apart. It also fulfilled a lifelong desire to experience what devotion, spiritual love, was about. It was transforming, to say the least!

I joked that she was making me look good because her friends were calling me a saint, and we both laughed. Early on, when she was going through neurological imbalances that affected her mental stability, I remember saying, “It’s so intense, Sal, what you’re going through, but look at it this way, you must be burning off a lot of karma; you’re evolving quickly.” She looked up at me and quipped, “Hello? So are you!” And we both cracked up laughing. She was my little munchkin.

Sali never lost her sense of humor. Years later, when she could no longer speak, she would still smile and giggle, bringing joy to some of the nurses and aides who looked after her. Her inner nature remained the same; it was always uplifting to be with her.

It will be 9 months on July 1st, 2017 since my sweetheart passed. Sali was a fellow devotee on the spiritual path, my best friend and muse. I have written many poems for, about, and because of her. Most of them are on this blog. They trace a lot of what we went through together. As difficult as it was at times, I would not change any of it.

Our friends would often say how lucky she was to have me in her life, but I always told them I was the lucky one. We both acknowledged the blessing we were given—loving each other at that transitional time in our lives. It’s summed up in this Haiku for Her, repeated here with the hoku from The Rare Gift of Love, now put together in a new tanka.

For Us
A tanka honoring Sali and what we shared

You gave me a taste
Of true Love and Unity
For Eternity

What we shared was glorious
A Gift from God and Guru

Jai Guru Dev

© Ken Chawkin
June 30, 2017
Fairfield, Iowa

Related: ‘In Our Loving Eyes’ a poem by @kenchawkin remembering a special love with Sally Peden

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Cliffhouse and Arbutus blossoms inspire haiku by Ken Chawkin and paintings by Betsy Randel

May 15, 2017

Today, I posted this haiku and the story behind it with these images on a website page about Arbutus Tree blossoms. I kept expanding and refining the story and decided to post it here as well. It’s approved and ready to be shared: Arbutus Flower Inspires Haiku.

The Cliffhouse Cottage deck

About 20 years ago, a friend of mine took me on a holiday weekend getaway to Galiano Island. We stayed at The Cliffhouse Cottage. It was beautiful there! I remember sitting on the deck at dusk looking out over the tranquil ocean. Everything was completely still. Quiet. I heard a small sound, like something had fallen from somewhere, and wondered what it was. I bent down and found a small white flower beside my chair. It resembled a tiny bell. I then looked up and saw a cluster of flower blossoms in the tree above me. My friend said it was an Arbutus Tree. That experience inspired this haiku.

Cliffhouse Deck at Dusk

Tiny bells call me
Arbutus blossoms falling
Sounding the Silence

© Ken Chawkin

The poem was later included in a grouping titled: 13 Ways to Write Haiku: A Poet’s Dozen, and published in The Dryland Fish, An Anthology of Contemporary Iowa Poets, December 12, 2003.

Galiano Island Art Cards by Betsy Randel

My friend, Betsy Randel, made these beautiful watercolor cards of the Arbutus Tree and Cliffhouse. You can see them, and more, with related poems, in the Island Life Art Cards section of her website, Art that Heals.

A Remembrance of Maharishi by James Powell

May 10, 2017
May 4, 2017 | Santa Barbara Independent | Opinion | In Memoriam
His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (photo by Al Bourdet)

His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi 1911*-2008
Thursday, March 13, 2008
By James Powell

The first time I met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was in Malibu, on the beach.

It was a typical summer day in Southern California. Not much was happening. There was a south swell. From time to time a sun worshiper atop a towel would flip over, a seagull would sail off into the fog, or a large set of waves would come crashing in.

As I recall, I stood on the beach with some of my surfing buddies. We were probably dressed in the surfer’s uniform of the era: corduroy pants and white Penney’s T-shirts covered by Pendeltons, not tucked in. Unlike most surfers on most beaches that day, however, we each held in our hands a bouquet of flowers.

Suddenly cars arrived. Doors were flung open. A cameraman emerged, and next some guys in suits. A brown, sandaled foot from within the car could be seen feeling for the ground, and then—bearded and wearing a long, flowing, white dhoti—an Indian man stepped out onto the dirt road. He seemed enveloped in a nimbus of such serenity and light that, seeing him, the effect was similar to what one feels deep in a canyon before dawn, when suddenly the sun bursts over the rim.

With the camera now trained on us—the surfer-boy extras in a documentary film—Maharishi approached, clearly enjoying the eternity in each step as he floated across the sand. As he drew near, something happened that I was not at all prepared for. My soul began to swoon. In place of the crashing of the waves, which now seemed far in the distance, was an immensely beautiful sea of silent consciousness. It was, to put it mildly, simply adorable. Lost in it, I could neither speak nor move. When Maharishi tugged on my flowers, I was unable to release my grip. He looked into my eyes, touched my hand, and my fingers opened.

It would be impossible to forget the blithe beauty of those eyes. He looked into each of ours, playfully. After accepting our flowers he looked out to sea, and then, regarding us again and smiling like the happiest man on earth, he asked, “Are you enjoying the ocean?”

Thus began my transcendental studies—lessons such as I had never known. The classroom was the Heart; the assignment was to locate the point within where the soul loses its boundaries and becomes absorbed in something infinite.

Typically, by the time Maharishi arrived at his seat in any of the countless lecture halls he spoke in around the world, he would be hugging to his chest hundreds of flowers accepted from students greeting him on his way in. And in each one of those exchanges was a moment as spiritually transforming as the one I had known on the beach. Yet, Maharishi’s aim was not to establish a personality cult. Each and every flower he accepted in each and every lecture hall he would place reverently before the image of his beloved teacher, Guru Dev, to whom he dedicated every instant of his life. And he tirelessly encouraged each of us to dive into the ocean of consciousness his Guru Dev embodied, by diving deep within our hearts during meditation.

Maharishi, in speaking of his teacher, always emphasized that the events in a spiritually illumined life are not so important. What is important is the state of his or her enlightenment. So I will not list all Maharishi’s many accomplishments throughout the world. Perhaps something of his level of presence can be felt through these few words.

Maharishi visited Santa Barbara on several occasions because some of his dearest friends lived here: Walter and Rae Koch, the family of Tom and Susan Headley, and Arthur and Christina Granville. Over the past few decades, teachers at Santa Barbara’s Transcendental Meditation center instructed more than 10,000 Santa Barbarans in meditation. In addition, Santa Barbara was at one time the home of the fledgling Maharishi International University, now located in Fairfield, Iowa.

“Are you enjoying the ocean?” Although those were the first words I had ever heard him speak, through the years I realized that they contained his entire teaching. For Maharishi was absolutely certain of one fact: His soul was forever floating within an ocean of unbounded bliss. He was well aware that the state of life he was living was adorable, and that anyone could begin to live it.

* The year of Maharishi’s birth is unknown but is believed to have been between 1911 and 1918.

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Personal note: I remember reading this beautifully written remembrance of Maharishi when it first appeared, March 13, 2008, in the Santa Barbara Independent. The film being made about Maharishi at the time was never completed. But Alan Waite, who brought out the film crew, would later go on to make, at Maharishi’s request, a film about him called, Sage for a New Generation (1968). It won an award in 1969 for best documentary film at the first Hollywood Film Festival. The judges said they liked the “patchwork style of film-making” when they gave Alan the award. Segments of the film were later included in the International History Channel documentary on Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that I helped produce.

I had attended Maharishi International University, MIU, in Goleta, California, in 1974, and moved to the Fairfield, Iowa campus to complete my last course before returning to Montreal, Canada. MIU would later change its name to Maharishi University of Management, MUM, www.mum.edu.

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Artist and writer Betsy Randel is featured in the Vancouver @TMwomen Centre Newsletter

May 10, 2017

Here is a self-reflective biographical introduction a friend of mine wrote that was published in the Vancouver TM for Women Centre Newsletter in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Each issue they introduce someone to the meditating community. Artist, writer and photographer Betsy Randel was featured in their May 2017 issue. Centre Director Deboragh Varnel said Betsy’s testimonial was really deep and authentic. I agree, which is why I reproduced it here with the accompanying photographs.

TM for Women logo

Swans Photo by Betsy Randel

Swans photo by Betsy Randel

Getting To Know You…Meet Betsy Randel

Betsy Randel at her artshow

Betsy Randel in front of her paintings at an art show

I was born in California to a middle class family but even as a child always found myself at odds with the interactions of people around me—the seeming superficiality of their concerns and lives. I found peace and solace in the beauty of nature—the skies, clouds, flowers and trees.

I left my family home to marry at the young age of 18 and by 20 found myself divorced, feeling adrift in my life. In the college I was halfheartedly attending, one teacher stood out for me and we became friends.

She suggested I start meditating with TM, which is what she had been practicing. I had never heard of it but found myself in the heart of L.A. being instructed in the practice in 1970 when I was 21.

I felt my life start to make sense for the first time from my first deep dive into consciousness through TM.

One month after being initiated, I was again guided by my friend to attend a one-month course with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at Humboldt State College in California.

There I experienced wisdom and great peace spoken of by Maharishi being lived by the many practitioners of all ages there. I was very moved to see and feel the harmony with many meditating together.

I became a teacher of TM in 1973 and continued my path of learning and experiencing more through advanced courses and attending MUM (Maharishi University of Management) in Iowa where I met my husband, a Canadian teacher of TM.

I went on to raise two children and to complete my Certificate in Fine Arts at Emily Carr University in Vancouver, B.C.

What I really want to let people know is that although the surface of my life hasn’t always been easy or smooth, having that underlying peace of twice a day meditation has kept me healthy and at peace through even the roughest times.

I have been meditating now for 47 years and I am so grateful for it and to Maharishi who made great efforts to bring this knowledge to the western world where the outer values are so strong and so focused on, but the inner value of life is mostly lost.

As one ages, if one’s attention is focused only on the outer body and life changes, one can feel regretful and despairing.

But if one has this technique that works like no other, to experience the deep peace within and eternal non-changing level of life, one feels safe with outer changes and more resilient. One also stays healthier and happier.

It is such a gift. The greatest gift one can give to oneself.

Best wishes,

Betsy

Betsy Randel is an artist and writer living in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Visit her website to see more of her beautiful artwork www.artthatheals.org.

Personal note: This is a longer version. When Betsy attended MUM it was known as MIU, Maharishi International University. See www.mum.edu.

Also see Cliffhouse and Arbutus blossoms inspire haiku by Ken Chawkin and paintings by Betsy Randel.

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Final entries leading up to and after Sali’s passing

March 1, 2017

Here are 4 entries—two leading up to Sali’s passing; a poem describing it, written 7 weeks later from India, 5 days after having spread her ashes in the holy Narmada River; and one poem composed a few days ago in remembrance of Sali, and the gift of love we shared together.

Ahead of the Game
Friday, September 23, 2016

You’ve been practicing for your next journey. With the dementia and a possible stroke that rendered you almost speechless, how can you communicate, except with inaudible sounds, and even those you no longer bother to form or utter.

But you can still smile and giggle, communicating great joy like the angels, with pure feeling and silence, where words are no longer needed or used.

You’ve been practicing for your upcoming journey. You’re way ahead of the game.

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Not the End Game
Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The nurse called this afternoon to tell me you seemed to stop swallowing. You haven’t been able to eat or drink. The Hospice nurse who knows you started putting things into action to get you back on Hospice care. Will know by tomorrow morning after their evaluation and direction from your doctor.

So it looks like this is it. No more rehearsals. You’re going for the final homerun sliding into heaven. I think we’re better prepared now, having read The Grace in Dying. We have a better understanding and appreciation for the end game, which, as it turns out, will not be the end.

To be continued…..

(Sali would soon pass, on Saturday night, 11:17 pm CT, Oct 1, 2016, first day of the Nine Days of Mother Divine. Her glorious Memorial Service and blissful Vedic Cremation Ceremony took place on the 5th day, Wed, Oct 5, 2016. See Celebrating the glorious life of Sally M Peden.)

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Five days after spreading Sali’s ashes from a boat on the Narmada River in India during a most auspicious day, I started to write about our final moments together back in Fairfield when she passed, around 7 weeks earlier, during the first night of the Nine Days of Mother Divine, Navratri. The answer to a question of what had happened came in one word during an evening meditation at the Brahmasthan. It became the title and last line of this poem.

UNDIFFERENTIATED
The Peace that Passeth Understanding

The final feeling
Between us was a Great Peace
Deep within the Heart

All that remained was Silence
After you took your last breath

Where was that Peace coming from
In your heart, mine, or ours
Beyond my comprehension

UNDIFFERENTIATED

©Ken Chawkin
Nov 19, 2016
Bijouri Campus
Brahmasthan of India

Contained within An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times. Included are some of the inspiring tributes to Sali we shared during her Memorial Service and Vedic Cremation Ceremony on that very special send-off.

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The Rare Gift of Love
A Tanka in Remembrance of Sali

Your heart opened up
Time and illness tempered you
Then, the Surrender

What we shared was glorious
A Gift from God and Guru

©Ken Chawkin
February 27, 2017
Fairfield, Iowa

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Addition on March 22, 2017

On March 12th, I wrote a new poem for Sali, Haiku for Her. Five years earlier, on the same day, I had written the two-tanka poem, Sali’s Shakti.

Celebrating the Glorious Life of Sally M Peden

January 17, 2017
Sally Peden - 1992

Sally Peden, May 26, 1947 – October 1, 201

A repost celebrating the glorious life of Sally M Peden, which includes descriptions of her peaceful and graceful transition, memorial service, and Vedic cremation ceremony. Many beautiful tributes were added that give a glimpse of how special she was. Included is a poem I wrote about Sali’s passing, and descriptions of the auspicious times of her death, and spreading of her ashes in India’s holy Narmada River. May she reside in the highest heaven.

Source: An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times 

Recently added: Final entries leading up to and after Sali’s passing

Most recently added, June 30, 2017, 9 months after Sali’s passing: For Us—a tanka honoring Sali and what we shared.

And ‘In Our Loving Eyes’ a poem by @kenchawkin remembering a special love with Sally Peden added August 31, 2017.

An early attempt at some kind of closure with a poem on Sali’s passing and auspicious times

December 28, 2016

Celebrating the Glorious Life of Sally Monroe Peden

Sally Peden, May 26, 1947 – October 1, 2016

Sally M. Peden, May 26, 1947 – October 1, 2016

This photo of Sali was taken in the summer of 1992, about a year before we would meet. She arrived to register us for a large advanced meditation course in Washington, DC. When Sali came up to me to ask my name and check it on her list, two thoughts immediately entered my mind: Too bad I just got married (again); Too bad she’s on Mother Divine (a course for single women). Our lives would drastically change—my second marriage would end and I would eventually return to Canada, later leave to join Purusha (a course for single men) and travel the world; she would leave her way of life and end up at MUM in Fairfield, Iowa working for John Hagelin’s ISTPP and the NLP. We would meet there 10 years later in the fall of 2003, as if for the first time. A beautiful friendship would grow and transform our lives, a story worth writing one day.

Sally M. Peden, passed peacefully and gracefully on Saturday, October 1, 2016, 11:17pm, during the evening of the first day of the Nine Days of Mother Divine, the start of a new moon. Her Memorial Service and Vedic Cremation Ceremony were held on Wednesday, October 5, 2016, at the Behner Funeral Home in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.

Sali had devoted her life in personal service to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi since 1971. She traveled the world with him as a personal assistant and lived for many years at the International Capital for the Transcendental Meditation movement in Seelisberg, Switzerland working on many important projects. Sali was very humble, the sign of a great soul. She accomplished untold tasks for Maharishi, which pleased him, but never felt the need to draw attention to herself, just pure dynamic devoted service.

Many emails from around the world poured in praising Sali. I’ll reference a few here.

Sheila Chalmers had worked closely with Sali at International on several projects. In her tribute to Sali, which was read aloud, Sheila described Sali’s brilliant mind, amazingly focussed work ethic, and how much she learned from her.

Emily Levin, a close friend of Sali’s, sent this wonderful tribute to Sali, which was also read aloud. Maharishi had paired them up early on, and Emily shines a glorious light on Sali and their fun-filled friendship.

Some other people who used to work with Sali spoke at her Memorial Service. Alarik Arenander, a neuroscientist from the early days of Maharishi Eureopean Research University in Seelisberg, described an incident when they were recording an EEG of a meditating subject. Maharishi happened to enter the lab with an important guest. The scientists showed Maharishi the EEG brainwaves being printed out from the moving ink pens. Maharishi asked, “What is that?” Researchers again explained the brainwaves. After asking several times, since the researchers were not ‘getting it,’ Maharishi pulled apart the long ream of neatly folded EEG paper emphatically pointing to the long non-fluctuating line at the bottom below the EEG. The researchers had an ‘aha’ moment when they examined the breath rate signal, which indicated extended periods of no breathing. They had been looking to find a marker for transcending in meditation and there it was, right in front of them, unnoticed, until Maharishi pointed it out. Sali was meditating in the next room, and it was her clear orderly mind and refined nervous system that brought out the understanding of breath suspension during Transcendental Meditation as an indicator of transcendence! That, along with the orderliness of coherent brain functioning producing relaxed alpha waves. The rest is history!

Gerry Geer, an MUM faculty member and ISTPP director of publications, described her extraordinary personality and some of the amazing things she had accomplished early on in her career. Gerry first met Sali around 1970 when he dropped into the Cambridge TM Center to find out what it was all about. She inspired him to learn TM and to become a teacher. Decades later they would work together at the ISTPP. Read Gerry Geer’s tribute to Sali. In it he mentions a very special incident he witnessed between her and Maharishi. It speaks volumes!

Valerie Gangas, a friend and author, posted a personal reaction to that very special day celebrating Sali, and our relationship, on her blog: Life in Love with You. It was a powerful revelation for her! I am so thankful she wrote it. Also definitely worth reading!

Dying, Dharma and Devotion

In the weeks leading up to Sali’s transition, I was reading two books to her. The first was an enlightened description of the nearing death experience, clearly delineated by Kathleen Dowling Singh in her reassuring book, The Grace in Dying: How We Are Transformed Spiritually as We Die. I believe this book prepared us for what was to come, to both let go and allow it to happen naturally.

Sali would soon be put back on Hospice for added care, and moved to a private room, which gave us the needed privacy for such an intimate experience. She would pass within a few days, at an auspicious time in the Vedic calendar.

The second book was The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic–Complete and Comprehensive, written by Linda Egenes, a friend, and Kumuda Reddy. It is an inspiring story as relevant today as it has been throughout the ages, of dharma, duty, triumphing over evil; enlightened leadership; and an ideal love between an evolved man and woman. Listening to that story kept our attention focused on something spiritually elevating during her final days.

I got as far as the end of Chapter 36, where Hanuman, after finding Sita, consoles and reassures her that Rama is preparing an army to free her from her abductor, Ravana, king of the rakshasas. This comes as a great relief to Sita who was at her lowest with no hope in sight.

For the previous two days and nights, Sali’s breathing pattern consisted of short quick breaths, in and out. It was at this point in the story that her breathing began to change. It became softer, slower, and then, stopped. I waited for another, very feeble attempt, then put one hand over her heart and the other on her head. Not finding any sign of life in the body, these words came into my mind: “It’s done. The karma is over.” With a sense of relief and finality, I said: “Peace, Peace, Shanti, Shanti,” and lovingly kissed her forehead, our last goodbye. I felt a profound peacefulness deep within me, which I could not fully comprehend. The answer would come later, in a word, while meditating in India, where I wrote this poem.

UNDIFFERENTIATED
The Peace that Passeth Understanding

The final feeling
Between us was a Great Peace
Deep within the Heart

All that remained was Silence
After you took your last breath

Where was that Peace coming from
In your heart, mine, or ours
Beyond my comprehension

UNDIFFERENTIATED

As promised, I did continue reading the rest of The Ramayana to Sali, wherever she might be, that evening and the following morning, finishing it at the funeral home, after they had picked up her body and brought it there. Her memorial and cremation would take place a few days later, still within the auspicious Nine Days.

Narmada River, Brahmasthan, Atirudrabhishek

At the luncheon in Revelations following Sali’s cremation, one of our friends, Sheila Ross, suggested I take the cremains to the holy Narmada River, where some of Maharishi’s ashes had been placed. She said it was also close to the Brahmasthan, geographic center of India, where meditation courses were being held, and thousands of Maharishi Vedic Pandits were reciting Atirudrabhishek, an ancient Vedic performance to create world peace.

At the invitation of my family, I did go to India, a little over a month after Sali’s cremation, to spread her ashes from a boat at that location near the Gwari Ghat. It turned out to be during a most auspicious time—a celebration of the holy day of Kartika Poornimah, November 14, 2016, also known as Devi Dipavali, the Festival of Lights of the Gods—one of the most spiritually significant days in the Vedic calendar, during the biggest full moon in 70 years, the supermoon! Truly befitting someone of Sali’s spiritual merit.

Staying at the Brahmasthan afterwards for three weeks was healing for me. It was a powerful and blissful experience visiting the Maharishi Vedic Pandits in their large meditation hall, listening to them perform their Vedic recitations! You can sample some of them in these eCards, enhanced with audios, videos and slideshows.

To get an example of Sali’s sweetness and our special relationship, see this previous post from December 8, 2016—Capturing an authentic moment in writing—about Being with Sali on August 1, 2012, during another full moon.

I am so thankful for the support of our families, the Slusers, Kaplans, Mitchells, and Petch Peden and Robert Harper, and for many of our friends who helped handle so many details, especially Kate Ross and Jennifer Hamilton! I also appreciate acupuncturist Sarah Brooks, the staff at Parkview Care Center and Hospice Compassus for their tireless care of Sali, and sometimes me.

Recently Added

Celebrating the Glorious Life of Sally M Peden; Final entries leading up to and after Sali’s passing; and this new poem, Haiku for Her. Added, June 30, 2017, 9 months after Sali’s passing: For Us—a tanka honoring Sali and what we shared. Added Sept 1, 2017: ‘In Our Loving Eyes’ a poem by @kenchawkin remembering a special love with Sally Peden.

 

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