‘Dadaji’ Sculptor: An Anonymous, True Artist

It was my last day volunteering at Manav Sadhna, a non-profit partner organization of the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India. With the simple mission: “Love All, Serve All,” the organization serves thousands of slumdwellers through 38 health, hygiene education and employment projects. I had spent several months there, teaching yoga in schools, shelters and orphanages. I was sad to go. I shared this with one of the organization’s founders, Jayeshbhai, as we sat on the kitchen floor, having one last meal together.

From the first time I met him, Jayeshbhai touched me with his wisdom and compassion. “When the ego dies, the soul awakens,” he had shared during that first brief encounter two years before. An awakened soul, Jayeshbhai always has a smile on his face and insists upon having meaningful interactions with every person he meets. He greets each person with the kind of tenderness that parents display for their own children. Indeed, this man truly sees the whole world as his family.

“Whenever I want to meet you,” Jayeshbhai now spoke, “I just close my eyes, and see your beautiful face: patient, quiet, loving. I always think of four things when I think of you: your patience, love, passion and presence. You have a strong, peaceful vibration. It is very powerful.”

Though I did not believe I deserved such high compliments from a man I regard as a living saint, Jayeshbhai speaks with such sincerity and compassion that I was sure motivated to develop these qualities.

Jayeshbhai said the work of teaching yoga is an ‘invisible service,’ and how powerful it is, as it puts people in touch with God. He then told me about an 80-year-old artist who has made many amazing sculptures. “This man is also a yogi,” he shared. Jayeshbhai compared the work of creating art and teaching yoga, pointing out how both require tremendous patience and humility. “Dadaji [the sculptor] is a true artist because he creates without thought of reward. I think it would inspire you to meet him. I hope you will join us as a way to remember me when you go.” I went. It did. Continue reading

Life is Like a Ferris Wheel

“Gate gate paragate parasangate bodhi swaha,” we chanted slowly in a December yoga class in New York City. The Heart Sutra. It translates:

‘Gone gone real gone beyond even the most gone, only in going that gone is there awakening.’

The focus of the month was Presence. I remember lying on my mat during shavasana (final relaxation), learning that this was really a practice of dying. Going. Going. Gone.

My teacher shared how:

“Our beloved teacher Swami Nirmalananda often reminded us to ‘Practice dying every day of your life and when the time for your death arrives you will be ready for the great samadhi.’”

Samadhi is the state of bliss that all the other steps of yoga lead to. How can preparing for death lead to bliss, I wondered.

Next thing I knew, I found myself with my mentor.  Continue reading

…the Strongest Women in the World

People often ask me with great curiosity why on earth I would wish to live in India, to potentially subject myself to the horrible degradations of women that exist in the strongly patriarchal society of this developing country? How, as a feminist, can I possibly expect to have a voice in such a society?

Many years ago, as a young girl growing up in Toledo, Ohio, I could have never imagined myself poised upon making such a dramatic life transformation. As Henry B. Adams says, however,

“A teacher affects eternity; she can never tell where her influence stops.”

I have been blessed to have many influential teachers throughout my life. Continue reading