Left Coast – part one

the painting above is “Incoming Tide” by Chiura Obata

(a slightly variant version of this post is found under the “about” page on this site.)

life-long Left Coast beach & mountain forest lover & defender
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area & San Diego area, and have live up & down the Coast throughout much of my life. Though I have also lived several other places as well, sometimes for years at a time, the West Coast always still feels most like home, emotionally, aesthetically, culturally, bio-regionally.

Although most of my activism has been concerned with global, planetary issues related to establishing world peace through inner peace, some has also been closely & more directly connected to efforts to sustain a present-&-future for the forests, wetlands, beaches, mountains, and communities of California and elsewhere up the Coast. It’s an ongoing struggle to save one of the most beautiful, uplifting natural eco-geo realities and cultural realities the world has probably ever known.

The Left Coast is, of course, a diverse but somewhat distinctive bio-cultural region as well as a diverse but somewhat distinctive bio-physical region. Many people & many social factors have contributed, & continue to contribute, to a sometimes quite astonishingly inspiring progressive (“Left”) cultural mix. And much of Left Coast culture, especially “California culture” has spread throughout the world, helping shape and define much of what now exists as a planet-wide mix of spiritual, creative, political, environmental, and pop-cultural elements on the forward side of human mind-sets, outlooks, lifestyles, and values. Much of the world now lives by creative ideas, values, & expressions pioneered in San Francisco, Berkeley, LA, San Diego and numerous smaller towns, villages, and rural communities along the California coast.

It’s often impossible to say, of course, which factors had the most influence on others. Did the distinctive spiritual & ecological laws of nature already lively in California & elsewhere along the Coast most influence the people who have populated the region, inspiring them to create this distinctive contribution to planetary human consciousness, or did the human values, perceptions & expressions contribute most to the tremendously palpable “atmosphere” we tend so often to associate also with the region? Obviously there is some of both.

It’s a very “habit-forming” bio-geo-cultural regional milieu for those who grew up within it, find it deeply appealing, and who have helped contribute to growing & sustaining it, in whatever large or small ways. There are just so many aspects of the distinctive living spirit & ambiance of (the best of) the Left Coast, which make it uniquely significant to people like myself. I love many other cultural-&-bio-geo-regional places on Earth also, but none so well, over all, as the beloved Coast. At least the Coast I grew up on. There always were aspects of the geo-cultural regional experience that were just horrible, and increasingly there are more of these all the time. A good deal of what was best & most beloved about the reality of Coastal Life is gone now, of course, transmogrified (trans-smog-refried), or lost—killed off, choked-off, & in any case now long dead & gone. But what remains of the best, both in outer reality & also in my mind, is mostly quite lovely indeed. It is worth preserving.

presently daydreaming under a high desert sky…                                                                    Been here ten years now. Moved here from Marin (San Francisco Bay Area) with my now-late sweetheart-wife. Why here? A largely inexplicable legerdemain of Fate. Since residing here, have continued to enjoy some traveling, much of it repeated once or twice every year or two: Santa Fe, Taos, Southwest variance; back to California, up & down the Coast, the Northwest—Ashland, Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Port Townsend, Vancouver, Vancouver Island; across country, Boulder, Colorado Rockies, Midwest, NYC, Boston; back to Holland, back to India. Most are places we’d been to before, most I’d love to see again, some I’d love to see once or twice every year or two if possible. There are many more also desirable places, near & far, I’ve yet to explore. Though there is much beauty here, I still resonate with the Coast as my emotional home. Would be happiest to relocate there perhaps, or possibly move on to some new magical place[s] (—but where?)….If I had the dough. Yet for the Now, this High Desert eyrie continues to be my redoubt.










just to be amongst, and to enjoy it all.

Random Possible Bag (*)

some possibly useful random little items collected during my foraging over the weekend and tossed in here:

“As you get into your 50s, you start realizing
you have to think about what you’re doing.
And if it still feels good, you keep doing it.

“I’m not trying to be the best at anything.
I just want to be amongst, and to enjoy it all.”
—Richie Van der Wyk

Richie Van der Wyk of Ventura made me think of Eddie van Halen (for the first time in my life), who I learn today was born (in Netherlands!) on January 26, 1955, which makes him 60 years old, 61 next month.

“Let me respectfully remind you
who engage in deep practice:
time passes swiftly;
do not squander your life.” (**)

—Shítóu Xīqiān [Japanese: Sekito Kisen] (700-790),
from his poem Cāntóngqì [Sandōkai] (Identity of Relative and Absolute)

Shítóu: Chinese Chán Buddhist teacher and author.
All existing branches of Zen throughout the world
are said to descend either from Shítóu Xīqiān
or from his contemporary Mazu Daoyi (709–788).

(**) tr. Kazuaki Tanahachi.
Zen Chants: Thirty-Five Essential Texts with Commentary. Copyright 2015

Ventura: “Keep LA 65 miles away!”

Topatopa Mountains
Santa Ynez Mountains

Santa Barbara: 100 miles north of LA with 41 sq mi of coastline and 90,000 residents.
I lived in “Santa Babylon” for a year, once. Goleta really. Such a lovely place.
Years later we used to stay-over in SB fairly regularly. Visited Goleta & SB on our way up and down the coast last time together in 2012.

So many wonderful SB & SB area memories:
One from long ago: We were hiking up on the summit ridgeline trail. Lovely day. No one anywhere for miles in all directions. To the west, far down below, the town and the Pacific with the islands shimmering in the sun. Inland, ripples of hills roll away down off into the distant east.
Suddenly along the trail, kicking up a trailing dust-stream comes a slightly beat up little Datsun sedan. Stops.
Inside, a lovely 25-ish hippie chick with her trusty huge alsatian shepherd—both warmly friendly, both wearing bandannas. She’s in bluejeans, hiking boots, a loose funky sweater. Long, loose hair. She’s been on a back-country car-camping trip. “You two are the first folks I’ve seen in days.” She’s been bushwhacking on dirt fire-roads and horse-riding trails in her car for almost a week, running low on water, grub and gas now, though.

The ridge summit is only about 15 feet wide at this point, the trail only 2-3 feet wide. “How’d you get your car up here?” “Well, just haven’t wanted to turn around yet, I guess…Seems I’ll have to now, though.” She doesn’t seem the least bit sketch. Bright and alert yet relaxed. Affable. No tent, a few good books, some literary, some scholarly, well-thumbed, in the back seat with her sleeping bag. Long hair, lithe, fit, smiling clear eyes, good smile, she’s very pretty.
As she rolls on out of sight, we both say, “Wow, now she’s someone we’d like to have along sometime as a hiking/camping companion…” “Yeah, but all the food for that dog would be a lot for everyone to help carry.”

^^^  ^^^
Ojai: population 7,500.
We came very close to living there once. Another lovely, very special place. Learned a few days ago that the open-air bookstore is still there. It seems the family Indian restaurant in an old Victorian-era ranch house with wrap-around veranda porch is gone, though. A shame. It was excellent.

Beato Wood’s house, once so magically decorated with every inch draped in her eclectic collection of textiles, mostly Asian, now a museum of her work. Not of her lifestyle: all surfaces stripped clean like any sterile museum…not so bad, but sad. She and L loved each other at first sight—L was reminded of her own late grandmother, born a few years off from B.

I always say: if there’s anyone you admire and would like to meet, go for it. Just go for it. They may really like you! Magic things may happen!

Here (from a long lost essay) is Reginald Pole, who broke B’s heart:

“ ‘Art and Religion mutually condition each other,’ wrote Wagner; ‘these two form but one single organism.’ Every true artist knows this in his soul. The mission of Art, as that of Life itself, is to regenerate, or to fulfill, the Life of Man. Only with such aim is the greatest in art achieved. Only with such aim shall the Theatre fulfill itself, that man may be one with Nature, likest God.”

(Somewhat as RH Blyth wrote also… “Poetry is Religion and Zen is Poetry. And these three are one thing.”)

Pole’s son, Rupert, became sweethearts with, and bigamously married to, B’s friend Anaïs Nin. Married in Quartzite Arizona! —though she secretly remained married to Hugo Guiler. She eventually annulled her marriage to Pole, though they remained romantic/domestic partners until her death. Pole described his experience for the Daily Telegraph in 1998, saying:

“I was jealous, yes. But I played the same games as Hugo, pretending to believe her. In a way, I did not care. My idea of marriage is different. We had a wonderful, deep relationship, and that is what counted. I was not interested in conventional women or in conventional marriage.”

Well, right on, y’all.
^^^  ^^^
sweet, petite, great to eat:
Ojai pixies
^^^ ^^^
Ojai avos pretty great to eat, too.

^^^  ^^^

Cold Spring Tavern, up behind Santa B, was built in 1865 as a stage coach station. Now a beloved cafe and mountain inn. Still going strong in 2015!
(road in and out has long been paved-over for cars, not horses.

^^^ ^^^
(Let me respectfully remind you who engage in deep practice🙂
create new ambiances, psychic possibilities

^^^ ^^^

We , the mighty primates of Planet Earth, are shaped by the regions we call home.”

“A little ways down the coast lies the sprawling, concrete-covered heart of darkness best known as Los Angeles, and to the east is a series of mild-to-medium mountain ranges, meandering rivers, national forests, oak-and-sycamore-dappled pastures, seas of avocado trees, and century-old ranches. It is a land of confluences and transition, timelessness and warm golden light. Here, there is still room to roam in these parts, space to be alone, opportunities to be with nature, and abundant examples of life unmolested by the hand of modernity.”
—Ethan Stewart, 3 Topa Topa

^^^ ^^^
Chipper ‘Bro’ Bell, front door man of Patagonia: photo op: behind his desk chair, above his head, hangs giant framed print of El Cap, woodblock print (1925), by Hiroshi Yoshida (1876 – April 5, 1950).

When my Lady L first saw the woodblock prints of Yosemite by Yoshida and Chiura Obata, she cried.

^^^  ^^^
Jeff Johnson (?) : “…years spent living in my truck on $5,000 a year, Yosemite in summer, Joshua Tree in winter…”

Jay Tree:
We got the car stuck in the sand out there once, miles from anyone, anywhere. We started walking back to where we last saw some campers, miles ago. 90 degrees. Noonday sun. No shade anywhere, of course. Big desert. Along the dirt track came a VW bug full of nice young high school kids. No room inside, we stood on the little side rails. And bounced along. They couldn’t pull the car out so went into town and came back with a truck and strap. Success. We gave them our food. We were on our way to visit Ruth D. for an extended weekend private retreat. So lovely. Ruth Denison. She passed away ten months ago, February 26, 2015, age 92. This visit was over 28 or so years ago, when she was mid-60s then.

^^^ ^^^
Bhutan: (some real mountains)

“…up inclines that never seem to end, through forests of white pine and fir, of holly, oak, and mountain laurel, and along alpine-flowered roadsides that do end, sometimes unexpectedly in sheer-drop precipices.
…Unspoilt by mass tourism, Bhutan has taken a sideways glance at Nepal, to learn what not to do. The rest of the world seems very far away.
…Plastic bags, billboards, smoking, and traffic lights are banned, as is killing a crow—as great an atrocity as slaughtering a thousand monks—and climbing a mountain over 6,000 meters.
—Robin Muir, World of Interiors

^^^ ^^^

Had lunch the other day with a writer I admire (and yes, I admire you, K!—but this was someone else, not sayin who), and she showed up without a book. Not only without a book, but without a notebook and pen. Maybe it’s a compliment to the rich conversation she looked forward to having with yours truly 😉 , and she’s very schtwaab, so of course I had a great time as she seemed to as well. So that’s fine. But you know what Lemony Snicket says:

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

(She won’t read this the wrong way, so don’t worry, dear ones.)

She did have her trusty smartphone handy, of course. And I know everyone these days makes notes as phone texts. So you, and she, may say, “So what, then? We don’t need no dead paper, Old Dude Man!—Save a tree, for pity’s sake.”

Maybe. Still, when I realized she was without pen and notebook, I flashed, as I always do in such situations, on Kerouac’s rule #1: always carry a little pocket-size flip notebook and pen or pencil. Carry them in your shirt’s “cigarette-pack” pocket (“breast pocket”). Good grief, does anyone remember when T-shirt pockets most often carried cigarette packs? How gross. Well, gotta have your pen & notepad handy at all times. At ALL times, friend. Never know when you’ll need to note down that fleeting flitting thought/little string of invisible words. Sure, birds leave no tracks in the sky,

“The wild geese do not intend to cast their reflection,
and the water has no mind to retain their image”

But if you’re a writer, especially a poet, then…

Still, I understand the need, also, to be free of all capture-contraptions, at least across certain vast swaths of time-&-intense-experience-of-the-NOW: to live directly, with no interface, no intermediators, utilize no devices. Such as cameras. My late sweetie and I never carried cameras, except on very rare occasions. But a photographer who shows up without her camera? A poet/novelist who shows up without her…ah, yes that phone is also a camera as well as a notebook and perhaps even an audio recorder. Wonderful. Ready at all times to record spoken words, text-save textual words, take and file photograph images, make videographic recordings of moving images. Wonderful.

Gotta get me one of those gizmos one a’ these days. Toss it in my possible bag, carry it around always. Like every other person on the planet today. Even the Swami now living in Tat Wale Baba’s cave. Yep, Dude’s got his smartphone. Calls Jerry J in LA. Guess I’ll have to finally break down and get one. But the shirt pocket, the old smoke-pack pocket won’t work. And I’d still want to carry a handy paper notebook.

^^^  ^^^

I never drink or smoke. Never have. Don’t smoke dope either, just no interest whatsoever; vastly prefer my own well-meditated mind. Pre-meditative and post-meditated mind. I’ve never been drunk, or even close. I’m basic ecstatically chill already. And drink or dope or smoke would just be such a downer, anyway. They obscure clarity of mind. Make consciousness cloudy. As in mirky.

Cigarette secondhand smoke makes me acutely ill these days. But I used to be able to tolerate it, though I always found it deeply distasteful at best. But in my early years I could handle side-stream smoke pretty well, some of the time. If necessary.

So, even though I’d been in bars only maybe twice before my mid-twenties, at that point, newly living in Chicago where I’d gone for more grad school after being out and about in various parts of the world for some years—Europe and Beyond, mostly on long retreats, I found that everyone went to bars in Chicago.

There was almost literally nowhere else to go. Many of the bars served a little food, and most of the restaurants had bars along one wall or were just bars, also. So, it being too hot and muggy during the summerish half of the year and too freezing cold during the wintery half of the year to be outside for long, everyone just lived in bars, at night, anyway. I never hung out in such places more than once a week at most. Yucky, silly places, mostly, but it’s where people were.

Still, how to solve (partly) the problem of the stench of stale secondhand cigarette smoke (and alcohol fumes) inside any night-time venue for social interaction? Burn incense! Yep, carry some sawed-off incense sticks and a little brass incense burner—a brazier, or thurible, as it were. Get your side seat in the house, along an outer wall, not at the bar itself of course. Light up.

Worked wonders. (Did nothing to cut the deadly ill-health effects, but upgraded the overall smell considerably.) And this was in the early days of the clove cigarette fad. So most everyone was happy with an even more exotic smell pervading the smoke. Those who couldn’t stand it, or were made nervous, were cleansed from my little public temple corner. When some uptight management types were a little freaked, I got a small new old-fashioned burlwood smoking pipe with a little prop-stand so it could sit upright on the tabletop. Started using little pieces of incense-burning charcoal-brickettes for incense powder or granules. Sometimes used tiny cone incense or sticks crumbled into the pipe-bowl. Good to go. Managers got it—Okay, you’re smoking weird stuff, but it’s not pot, so alright, then. And of course I didn’t puff on the pipe stem!

The luscious good natural incense smells wrapped around my head, filling my aura-space with something tolerable. Attracted the ladies, too. The only ones I’d care to chat with: those who also didn’t really like cigarette smoke & who were drawn to the subtle smoke signals hinting of something “better, spiritual-istic.” Ambiance-purifying temple and church incense. In neighbourhood pick-up bars. In Chicago. Quality Indian, Bhutanese, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese natural traditional rare incense goodness. Used as dispelling-agent against secondhand smoke demons. And as unsuspected chick magnet.

But after awhile I learned of the very, very few well-hidden places in the city where smoking was not allowed or simply not bothered with. I could sit there in such quiet places all day and read, write, sketch, or chat, drinking my own brew of rare tea blends. Bring my girl there for dinner dates any nights in the week. Maybe some very select good friends, too. Sworn to secrecy. Owners got to know me, took good care of me. That took care of my brief sojourn hanging out at icky deathly smoky dive bars.

^^^ ^^^

Silly beings, uninterested in this meaning,
Are always carried away by the river
of endless birth-death-and-rebirth and are finished.
—Tilopa (988-1069)
“There are some who do not have much trust in the deep Reality that is always present as the source of thought, Transcendental Pure Consciousness, the essential nature of life. Here, Mahasiddha Tilopa does not mean all sentient beings in general, but rather some who cling to tenet systems—those with attachment to their own system. There are quite a few such intellectual logicians. Such intransigent stubborn “silly ones” who lack the eye of wisdom….
—comment by Nyenpa Rinpoche (b1965) [adapted]

adapted from Tilopa’s Mahamudra Upadesha: The Gangama Instructions with Commentary, by Sangyes Nyenpa Rinpoche. Copyright Shambhala.

^^^  ^^^

(*) “Possible Bag”: The Flag in American Indian Art p 70:
” ‘Possible bag’ was the name given by early nineteenth-century traders to rectangular soft-skin bags. The term is a direct translation from the Indian word meaning ‘a bag for every possible thing’ (Conn 1979, p.152 ^). A more accurate term might be storage or tipi bag, as these containers held personal items and were placed around the inside of the tipi where they doubled as pillows. When moving camp, possible bags were hung in pairs on either side of a saddle where their sumptuous decoration could be admired.”

^ Richard Conn. Native Art in the Denver Art Museum. Denver Art Museum in association with University of Washington Press, 1979.
Possible bags vary in size but are typically about 15-22″ wide and 10-15″ high. They were almost always made in matching pairs. They seem to be most prevalent among the Northern Plains tribes.





St Wynnebald

Saint Wynnebald (702-18 December 768),                                         generation 43 cousin-uncle
(aka Winnibald, Winibald, Winebald, Wunebald, Wunibald) Anglo-Saxon English prince, pilgrim, and missionary abbot in Germany.

Prince Saint Wynnebald was one of three children born to King Saint Richard (d722), an under-king of Wessex (West Saxons, England), and his co-ruler, Queen Saint Wynne (Wunna, d740), who was a sister of Saint Boniface (born Wynfryth, c675-754), West-Saxon missionary Archbishop of Mainz in Germany.

Wynnebald’s sister was Saint Walpurga (c710-779) and his brother was Saint Willibald (c700-787); the nun Hygeburg (Huneberc, Hugeburc), famous as a traveler and author of a joint biography of the brothers and their saintly family, was a cousin.

In 721, when Wynnebald was about 19, his parents abdicated their thrones to go on a pilgrimage and retire in Rome. Leaving their 11 year old daughter Walpurga to the care of an abbey convent school, the former king and queen set sail for France with their two sons. The party traveled slowly, spending a great deal of time praying at many pilgrimage sites along their route. In Lucca, northern Italy, Richard died suddenly of a fever and was buried there in the Irish-founded abbey church. The former king’s tomb quickly became a shrine known throughout Europe as Richard already had been regarded as a living saint. His widow and sons continued on to Rome where Queen Saint Wynne settled and eventually died in 740.

This part of Wynnebald’s family story is part of a pattern prevalent in their time and land. About thirty-three years before the family had left for Rome, the high king of Wessex, St Cædwalla (c. 659 –689) had also abdicated in order to be baptized in Rome by the Pope and then retire into a monastery there. He had died within a few days, still wearing his white baptismal gowns and was soon canonized a saint. Five years after Richard and Wynne abdicated, St Ine and St Æthelburg, Cædwalla’s successors as co-ruling high king and queen of Wessex, also abdicated and journeyed to Rome where they settled and eventually died.

With their mother St Wynne duly settled in Rome, the two brothers, Wynnebald and Willibald, spent some time further traveling in Italy, visiting and studying in monasteries. Willibald, a year or two older than Wynnebald, had spend most his childhood and youth as a monastic scholar in Wessex. When he was three years old his parents had promised to dedicate him to the religious life if he recovered from a near fatal illness in answer to their prayers. Now, in Italy, both brothers became ill with the Black Plague. This episode was later recorded by their cousin, the nun Hygeburg, based on Willibald’s oral account:

“Then with the passing of the days and the increasing heat of the summer, which is usually a sign of future fever, they were struck down with sickness. They found it difficult to breathe, fever set in, and at one moment they were shivering with cold, the next burning with heat. They had caught the black plague. So great a hold had it got on them that, scarcely able to move, worn out with fever and almost at the point of death, the breath of life had practically left their bodies. But God in His never failing providence and fatherly love deigned to listen to their prayers and come to their aid, so that each of them rested in turn for one week whilst they attended to each other’s needs.”

The brothers eventually fully recovered from the illness and shortly thereafter traveled to the Holy Land, approximately three years after first having left England.

Along the way, they visited Sicily and Greece. At Ephesus they visited the tomb of St John the Evangelist, and at Patara, where they waited out the winter, they visited the shrines of St Nicholas (c280-343). At one point, while crossing a mountain range they almost died of hunger and thirst, but were able to continue, eventually sailing to Cyprus, then to Tartus near the Syrian coast, where they visited the pilgrim church of St John the Baptist. Here the saint’s severed head was enshrined as a sacred relic.

After spending some time in Jerusalem, Wynnebald became ill again and returned to Rome without Willibald who stayed on in the East for the next several years. In Rome Wynnebald recovered, and then spent the next seven years living and studying there in a monastery.

In 730 he visited his native England, returning later that year with a group of fellow Wessex men and women who wished to join him in the monastic life in Rome. Nine years later, he accepted a request from his uncle St Boniface to join the missionary work among the pagan Saxons of Germany, bringing with him some of the English monks and nuns he earlier had brought back with him to Rome.

Boniface ordained Wynnebald to the priesthood and for many years Wynnebald worked with his uncle’s mission to the Saxons. In the meantime, his brother Willibald had spent many years in continued travels before establishing a church and monastery in Eichstatt, Holland as the area’s first missionary bishop and founding abbot.

Wynnebald joined Willibald at Eichstatt for some years, then together in 752, the brothers established a double monastery and abbey church at Heidenheim am Hahnenkamm in Germany. There they were joined by their sister Saint Walpurga who was made abbess of the nuns while Wynnebald became abbot of the men. Portions of their sainted parents’ relics were translated to Heidenheim and to Willibald’s abbey church in Eichstatt. Both abbeys thereafter became popular pilgrimage sites for the cultus of St Richard and St Wynne. In spite of limited success among the local pagan population, Wynnebald and Walpurga succeeding in leading their double monastery during the years in which it went from an obscure frontier outpost to becoming one of the leading ecclesiastical centers in Germany.

Saint Wynnebald died in 768 and Walpurga then served as Abbess both of the nuns and the monks of their double abbey. Saint Wulpurga died there in 777 or 779 while Saint Willibald, the eldest of the three holy siblings, lived on as abbot-bishop at Eichstatt until 787. Before Willibald died he recounted to their cousin, the well-traveled nun Hygeburg, the narrative of his long life and his own many adventures as a decades-long wandering monastic pilgrim throughout much of Christian West Asia and Europe.

Eighteen years after St Wynnebald’s death, when his crypt at Heidenheim was opened to gather his relics, his body was found to be incorrupt.

St Wynnebald’s iconography sometimes depicts him together with his parents and siblings, holding his abbot’s staff, and a bricklayer’s trowel, signifying the churches and abbey he built.

He is a patron saint of construction workers and engaged couples.

Guru Dev’s birthday

Sunday 12/20/2015
Today is the birthday anniversary of my paramguru (teacher’s teacher), widely known as Guru Dev. His full monastic name is His Divinity Swami Brahmananda Saraswati Maharaj (c1868-1953). My own principal teacher, His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (c1917-2008) was Guru Dev’s favoured personal disciple for the last thirteen years of Guru Dev’s life. (Due to various traditional Indian calendars, Swami Brahmananda’s birthdate is sometimes alternately given as December 21, 1870 or 1871.)

Guru Dev was born into a traditional religiously devout family and at a very young age left home in search of a suitable spiritual teacher. At age fourteen he found his master at a remote Himalayan hermitage. Guru Dev quickly attained enlightenment and spent some years as his master’s closest disciple, then retired for the next several decades into silent solitude deep in the forests and mountains of central India. Only in his seventies did he agree to come out of silence and reclusion and begin to train disciples and teach in public.

Widely regarded as India’s greatest living Vedic sage, Guru Dev held the highest position of teaching authority in the Yoga and Vedanta philosophical tradition for the last thirteen years of his life as the senior monastic lineage-holder, or Jagadguru (world-teacher), within North India’s 2,500 year old Vedic Shankaracharya Tradition, an office somewhat parallel to that of pope in Christianity. Guru Dev gave teachings to the public, and to personal disciples alike, regardless of religious or non-religious identity. Among his initiates and devoted students were prominent scientists and philosophers, and several persons revered as living saints within India’s Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist and other communities as well various Hindu traditions. He was also highly respected by political leaders of all parties who felt that his guidance had helped result in India’s (largely peaceful) independence from centuries of British imperialist rule.

Maharishi always taught in the name and spirit of his master, Guru Dev, who inspired him to bring Transcendental Meditation and the restored entirety of Vedic science to all interested people of the world, regardless of religious, cultural or other identification or background.

Those of us who long and closely studied and trained personally with Maharishi over the decades of his own fifty-plus years of teaching around the world, have always felt extremely close to Guru Dev, even without most of us having met or known him in an outward historical sense. By virtue of Guru Dev being Maharishi’s deeply revered and beloved master, we naturally also feel especially devoted and intimately close to Guru Dev, honouring and loving him, virtually as if, along with Maharishi, he also is our own direct personal teacher.

yoga adventuring


“Yoga means ‘unity’—it means living unified wholeness in the field of diversity. My advice is to continue practicing Yoga on the physical level—but also to start and continue to practice Yoga on all other levels—mental, intellectual, and on the level of self-referral, Transcendental consciousness. On all levels, Yoga will help you to progress in every way, in every field of life. Transcendental Meditation is Yoga. I had to give it a new name— ‘Transcendental Meditation’—because I felt Yoga has been commonly misunderstood in terms of the physical level alone. A great Yoga truth is that, ‘Yoga is superior action.’ When you want a superior quality of action, then you should practice Yoga on all levels. Yoga is a good word, but it should be properly understood and practiced beyond the physical level. The result will be a rapid, holistic evolution of life.”
—His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (c1917-2008)

Life, someone has said, is either an adventure, or it is nothing. And the famous outdoor adventurer Yvon Chouinard (b1938) insightfully states, “It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.”

Life itself is certainly the best adventure! And I agree that adventure, on the conventional level, often begins when challenges come along. But I would balance this by saying that in a much more substantial way life becomes an adventure when things start to go deeply “right”—when holistic unified consciousness begins to organically unfold and stabilize at the innermost level of one’s mind. Living life enhanced by the direct experience of this inner unified quality of consciousness is the most basic level of the adventure of Yoga.

When this expanding inner consciousness begins to also unify with all the great and small challenges of life—whether “outdoor adventure” expeditions, or anything else that may transpire under any given circumstances on any given day,—this is a higher quality of adventure, a larger adventure, and the beginning of the next major stage of Yoga—Karma Yoga, in which Yoga becomes skill in action (“yogah karmasu kaushalam: Yoga is skill in action.”—Gita 2:50). This is the adventure of experiencing one’s inwardly unified consciousness being creatively applied to ongoing growth in more and more emotionally-, intellectually-, and socially-engaged arenas of life. In this exploration of transpersonal, personal, and interpersonal growth, one’s daily thinking and feeling, one’s actions and interactions with others and with the natural and cultural environment, begin to be increasingly joyful, meaningful, effective, creative, and universally life-supporting and life-enhancing. This is when all of daily life really becomes an exciting adventure in transformative happiness, peace, insightful comprehensive wisdom, and spontaneously creative compassion and loving-kindness.

As this organic process of integration of the inner and outer aspects of life—of subjective and objective reality—advances, one’s awareness fully unfolds and stabilizes, harmonizing and unifying with all of life.

This is the ultimate goal of Yoga, in which the fullest permanent state of enlightenment, Unity Consciousness, is effortlessly lived in terms of one’s own daily activities and rest, one’s own likes and dislikes. In this state, the nature of reality is simply lived as the holistic unified continuum of infinite Being. Reality is naturally and spontaneously enjoyed as the Ever-Present Fullness of one’s own continuously unified experience. One blissfully experiences one’s Self in all beings and situations, and all beings and situations are experienced as united with one’s Self at the most intimate level. In this natural ongoing state, the adventure of Yoga is experienced and enjoyed as the great Unity in the midst of all diversity. Daily life in this exciting and fulfilling state of Unity Consciousness is the greatest adventure of all.

A yogi, when spelled with lower case “y”, is anyone who practices Yoga (ancient science and technology of holistic unified consciousness). Traditionally, when spelled with an upper case “Y”, the word “Yogi” is an honorific title or name denoting a person who has attained permanent full enlightenment,—Unity Consciousness,—the goal of Yoga at the personal level. I had the amazing great good fortune to became a personal student of Maharishi, one of the truly great Yogis of all time, in San Francisco during his first world teaching tour in 1959 and to continue to study and train with His Holiness until his passing in 2008.

In 1967 I began a five year individualized teacher training course with Maharishi, involving several months-long retreats, daily practice and study, and extensive fieldwork. Along the way, Maharishi certified me as an instructor of yoga (in its sense as physical exercise), and upon completion of the course in 1972, he certified me as a teacher of his Transcendental Meditation (TM) Program, as a retreat leader, and as a spiritual guide in his ancient Vedic teaching lineage. This unbroken living lineage of teachers is honoured as the source of the original knowledge of Yoga, Ayurveda, Vastu, and Vedanta. In 1976-77, during a six-month intensive retreat with Maharishi, he trained and certified me as a practitioner and teacher of his advanced TM-Sidhi program.

Saint Desiderius of Fontenelle

another one of my family’s ancestral saints whose feast falls on December 18

Saint Desiderius of Fontenelle (died c. 700),                                                   generation 44 uncle

Desiderius was a Frankish nobleman of the late 7th century. His father was Saint Waningus, a nobleman and a royal official under King Chlothar III, who renounced his wealth and position following a vision and became a monk and the founding abbot of Fécamp Abbey. St Desiderius became a Benedictine monk at Fontenelle Abbey in present-day Normandy, France. His relics are venerated at Ghent, Belgium.

About Desiderius’ father, Saint Waningus (also Vaneng) (born in Rouen, died c. 683), it is said: “One night Waningus had a dream in which Saint Eulalia of Barcelona reminded him of the difficulties the rich had in entering Heaven, so he gave up the privileged life to become a Benedictine monk. He founded Fécamp Abbey and is also said to have had a hand, in conjunction with Saint Wandrille, in the foundation of Fontenelle Abbey.” (wikipedia)

grandparents St Bodo & St Oda

the photo above is of one of the reliquaries for relics of St Oda [Chrodoara] of Amay (c560-c634) , wife of St Bodegesil (c565-c610)

December 18th: traditional annual memorial feast day (festival) of
Saint Bodegesil II Duke of Aquitaine (c565-c610),
(aka Baudgise, Borogiso, Boggis, Bodo, Boso, Bobo)                                                                       

my ancestral grandfather of 46 generations by direct descent

Not many verified particulars are extant concerning Saint Bodegesil and his wife St Chrodoara (Oda) of Amay (c560-c634). What is known is understandably sometimes confused with details of their relatives of almost a century later, Boggis I (607-632) Duke of Aquitaine and his wife St Oda of Amay (628-720). This latter couple are also among my direct ancestral grandparents, through related but divergent lines of descent.

Even aside from the similarity and confusion with the later couple, many details of the life of St Bodegesil and St Chrodoara remain somewhat uncertain. Part of the trouble is that some contemporary records fail to indicate clearly, when ancestry was being listed, whether it is that of Bodegesil or that of his wife. This seems a common problem with other Frankish couples from this time period, leading to continuing efforts to sort out the correct lineages of several rulers, scholars, and saints among the Franks, many of whom are closely interrelated by birth, marriage, and remarriage and in which persons were as likely to be named after their uncles and aunts, as after their parents or grandparents.

One piece of St Bogedesil’s life story that is well attested to is that he was sent as an ambassador from the Frankish court to that of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire in Constantinople, and on his way back to France was assassinated in Carthage, Tunisia. Even the year of his death however, is variously recorded as 583, 588 or 610. Beyond that, many other details of his life are somewhat tangled up with that of the later couple.

St Bodegesil was the second among the early Frankish dukes of Aquitaine to rule under that name. It seems possible that Bodegesil I was the father of Saint Bodegesil’s wife, St Chrodoara, or that it is a dynastic name for an uncle of his who was also Duke.

St Bodegesil’s own parentage has been variously reported. It seems most likely that he was the child of St Gondulfus, Bishop of Tongeren-Maastricht (d c614) and his wife, Palatina of Troyes (b c547). Many contemporary records list St Bodegesil and St Chrodoara as the parents of St Arnoul (Arnulf), Bishop of Metz, the father of St Ansegesil who married St Begga. This seems to be the most likely case.

Following St Bodegesil’s death, his widow St Chrodoare became a nun at the abbey of Amay (Hamaye), which she seems to have founded some years earlier. Although she seems not to have served as actual abbess, her status as the foundress led to her being regarded as a sort of honorary abbess. In 1977, St Chrodoara’s sarcophagus was rediscovered buried in Amay Abbey’s Church of Saint George and Sainte Ode.

the wikepedia entry on St Chrodoara (linked below) contains a photo of the coffin:



The article below includes photos of the bejeweled silver and gold caskets for relics of St Chrodoara:



Some holiday thoughts from last year

Last year, my traditional holiday season newsletter contained the following passages. My words shared then also express much of my mood this year as well.

Late November 2014:

Dear Friends whom I so admire & appreciate,
May this holiday season find you enjoying the best of health, the juiciest of joys, and the warmest of company. May your winter days & evenings be filled with the delights of: fresh new snow, spicey-sweet-pungent Jeffrey pine, blue spruce, & fir, frankincense & myrrh, winter campfires & cozy hearthfires, mulled cider, cardamom coffee, cloudy tilk (hot milky tea—whether spicey Indian masala chai, smoky lapsang souchang, Russian caravan, or Tibetan brick tea churned w/ dzomo ghee & a pinch of soda-rock salt), chestnuts roasting by an open fire, hot Mexican chocolate-with-cinnamon, apple brown betty warm from the oven, and so many more seasonal sensory delights.

Here’s to lots and lots of love, softening & soothing of tired & calloused hearts, & to conscious inner light-energy illuminating the darkness of this time of year, & of this moment in our human history.

I love the Winter holiday season! It can certainly get way, way wacky weird & even deep-deep-creepy, it’s true, but basically I love all the schmaltzy, smarmy glitzy tinsely good cheer jingle bell frosty razzmatazz Santa Clausy jazz—real & phoney (up to a point)! But then, I choose to sit at some comfy remove from much of it, so I can afford, perhaps more than many, to simply dig on it all.

Over the years, I’ve thrown so much Christmastide-related stuff into the stocking of this threadbare, patched, darned, re-darned, be-darned ol’ newsletter, that I feel a little funny at this late point revisiting most any of those items. Even though perhaps half the current tribe of my readers are new/newish—having been added to my acquaintance & mailing list only since the death of my late beloved sweetheart close to two years ago. Since her transition, I’ve thrown myself out there into the world of making new friends & acquaintances—as she insisted that I should do—such that the number of persons to whom I send-forth these personal musings & reports has just about doubled during this most recent-ongoing major phase of my life. One day, perhaps, I should try to collect the best of everything about Christmas, Hanukkah, & related topics I’ve passed along here in this newsletter from the past many years…but not for now at least….

Suffice it to say, that I feel quite “free” of most painful poignancy that for so many surrounds the winter holidays, and thus am able to sink joyfully into what I find best about the season; and I do find there is something very special about it all. Maybe it is simply that we, as a community, have made it so—and that’s a very wonderful thing. Yet, many societies for millennia have sensitively responded to the winter solstice & other astro-celestial subtle energy patterns occurring at this time of year & have long built-up spiritual insights & other cultural riches based largely on human awareness & experience of those natural & more-than-human energies.

To me, it doesn’t much matter at all just what makes this winter holiday season what it is, except of course as a rather intriguing, rich academic study giving off hints of a deep spiritual/cultural/celestial-influence-pattern-cluster redolent of spicey goodness, extreme oddment and some not-too-little mystery.

But, believe me, I’m also well aware (if mostly only at second-hand) of some of the dark side of winter holiday weirdness—especially family holiday weirdness (never much in my family, but in so many others), & sorrow (plenty of that to go around for all of us), but I’m not going to go into any of that here. At this time of year, almost everyone feels invited & uplifted to indulge in good cheer, peace & goodwill to all humankind, and I wish only to support everyone in this & also to revel in a bit of it myself.

So happy holidays! And much love from me to everyone who receives and reads this. Blessings through and through from me to you, and you, and you…

…With apologies for annual holiday repetitions/redundancies.
I’m sorry, dear readers, for sending yet another version of this same/almost identical explanation year after year of my perhaps quite idiosyncratic personal take on some of these major fall & winter holidays so widely celebrated in the American (& even planetary) context. I’d like to hope that something in what I write inspires you to think about some of the things I mention, at least once at this time of year. But don’t worry about any of it; please just enjoy the holidays in your own custom & be of good cheer & goodwill toward all (all year round!). Nobody is likely to understand & celebrate the winter holidays in exactly the same way as anyone else, anyway. So enjoy whatever you may find useful or interesting, and please don’t mind the rest.

“With those who are sympathetic, let us have discussion on spiritual matters.
As for those whose point of view differs from ours, let us treat them politely and thus make them happy.
But disputes are alien to our School, for they are incompatible with its doctrine.”
—Hui Neng (638–713) 6th Patriarch of Chinese Cha’n (Zen) Buddhism

“Philosophers never argue; students of philosophy may argue, but philosophers never argue.”
—His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (c1917-2008)

“A true saint never argues; a true philosopher always argues.”
—traditional Tibetan saying

“We regard no one’s religion as contrary to ours;
True love is born where all faiths remain united at the Source
as one whole of unity-in-diversity and diversity-in-unity.”
—Yunus Emre (1240-1321) Turkish Sufi mystic poet

Three ancestor saints, 12/17

(the photo is of a silver reliquary containing relics of St Judicaël – see below)

Three historical ancestors of my family who are celebrated as Christian saints with commemorative feast days on December 17: St Begga of Landen, St Judicaël of Brittany, and St Tydecho of Brittany and Wales.

St Begga of Landen (615-698), generation 44 grandmother

St Begga (aka Bega, Begge, Beggue, Beggule, also Dode) was born and died in what is now Belgium.

Begga’s parents were Saint Itta (Ida, Itte or Iduberga) of Nivelles (592–652) and Blessed Pepin of Landen (580-640). Bl. Pepin (aka Pippin, Pepin the Elder) was Mayor of the Palace of Austrasia, the de facto ruler the Frankish kingdom. He held this most powerful position under Kings Clothaire II (584-629), Dagobert I (c. 603–639), and King Saint Sigebert III (c. 630–c660).

Saint Itta, was the daughter of Arnoldus, Bishop of Metz, niece of St. Modoald, Bishop of Treves (Trier), and sister of St Severa. The sisters’ grandfather was Ansbertus, a famous and powerful Gallo-Roman Senator. Itta founded a double abbey at Nivelles with both convent and monastery under the abbess. Following her husband Bl. Pepin’s death, St Itta became a nun at this convent.

St Itta and Bl Pepin’s children include St Begga, the hermit St Bavo of Ghent (Bavon, Allowin, Bavonius, Baaf, 622–659); Grimoald I; and the famous St Getrude of Nivelles, among others. Gertrude (626-659) refused to marry and became abbess of her mother’s foundation at Nivelles. Gertrude, in turn, passed the office of abbess on to her niece St Wulfetrude, daughter of Grimoald.

St Begga married her first cousin, St Ansegisel (Angise), son of her mother’s brother St. Arnulf, Bishop of Metz, and his wife St Dode (Clotilde) of Metz. (In those days, priests and even bishops were allowed to marry and have children, and most did so). St Ansegisel’s siblings include: St Martin of Metz, St Cloud (Chlodulf) of Metz, and St Basina of Thurgovie.

With the death of St Begga’s father Bl Pepin, her husband St Ansegisel became Mayor of the Palace, and the couple lived as virtual rulers of the kingdom. Begga and Ansegisel’s children include Martin of Loan; Clotilde of Landen, first wife of King Theudoric III; and Pepin II of Heristal (c635-714), regarded as the founder of the Carolingian dynasty.

Through their son Pepin II, St Begga and St Ansegisel were the grandparents of Charles Martel and the great, great grandparents of Emperor Blessed Charlemagne. (I know, who would have thought Charlemagne was canonized as beatified? But he was, together with his wife, Empress Blessed Hildegarde; beatification is one official step below full canonization as saints; some sources list Charlemagne and Hildegarde as fully canonized saints).

After St Ansegisel was killed in 691, either by accident or in a plot by usurpatious enemies at the court, St Begga took the veil and went on a pilgrimage to Rome. Upon her return later the same year, she founded a ring of seven churches near the Meuse River between Huy and Namur, Belgium, in imitation of the seven principal churches in Rome. At the center of these institutions, she established an abbey church and convent at Andenne on the Meuse (Andenne sur Meuse).

This arrangement, and the site of the first church, is said to have been indicated to her by seeing seven small birds grouped around their mother. In portraits of the Saint, these are usually represented as a duck and her ducklings floating on the Meuse River, or by a hen gathering her chicks under her wings. Sometimes a boar or bear is also shown with the saint, as the abbey’s site at it founding was the forested home of such wild animals. Two generations later, Begga’s grandson, Charles Martel killed a wild bear near the abbey.

The first nuns to form the new community came from St Gertrude’s abbey at Nivelles, the convent founded by Gertrude and Begga’s mother St Itta. St Gertrude had been dead for over forty years and St Wulfetrude also was dead. Agnes, the third abbess of Nivelles, took care to see that her nuns helped St Begga’s convent at Andenne begin with all the benefits learned under Sts Gertrude and Wulfetrude. The Nivelles nuns introduced the Irish monastic customs they followed. They also brought with them a piece of St Gertrude’s bed and placed it near the main altar at Andenne, dedicated to St Genovefa (Geneviève of Paris, c420-c512, daughter of a Gallo-Roman nobleman like St Begga’s great-grandfather Ansbertus). Here, the relic worked miraculous cures and was adorned with votive offerings of gold and precious stones.

Sometime afterwards, the double abbey of Andenne was converted into a collegiate church of 32 canonesses of noble families, with 10 canons to officiate at the altar. The Lateran Canons Regular continue to commemorate St. Begga as belonging to their Order. Having built the ring of seven churches and established her monastic house, Begga lived out the last seven years of her life as abbess. She is buried in Saint Begga’s Collegiate Church in Andenne, which still preserves her remains.

She is invoked for the cure of hernias and of infants’ diseases. She is the patron saint of Andenne, one of the patrons of Belgium, and from the 14th century, the chosen patron of the Beguines.

St Begga and the Beguine Movement
Although Begga is venerated by the Beguines of Belgium as their patroness, the once-common assumption that she founded this lay-order is a mistake, based on the similarity of the names. The term beguinae (original meaning unknown), first encountered about the year 1200, was originally a term of reproach used by detractors, perhaps the Albigenses. In later centuries, it came to be believed even among Beguines themselves, that St Begga had founded their community.

This unofficial, semi-monastic lay movement, first noted in the 12th century, consisted of cloistered women, both contemplative and active, sharing a common residential communal life, usually in urban centers. Though they did not renounce their private ownership of property, and lived under no formal vows, these unmarried and widowed woman agreed to forgo marriage, leading celibate lives for as long as they resided within their shared communities, but were free to re-enter conventional life at any time, taking up marriage if they so desired.

The church in the beguinage of Lier, Belgium, has a statue of St. Begga standing above the inscription: “St. Begga, our foundress.” However, the Lier beguinage seems to date from the 13th century, and the Beguines seem to derive their name from some other, uncertain source. However, St Begga was indeed venerated within the movement, originally as an historical exemplar and patron saint, rather than as its historical founder.

“A few béguinages persisted until the early 20th century in parts of Belgium, including those of Bruges, Lier, Mechelin, Leuven and Ghent, which last numbered nearly a thousand members in 1905.
“Marcella Pattyn, the last traditional Beguine, died on 14 April 2013 in Kortrijk at the age of 92. Born in the Belgian Congo in 1920, she was accepted into the Béguinage of St Elisabeth at Sint-Amandsberg, Ghent in 1941 and moved to the Béguinage of St Elisabeth at Kortrijk in 1960, where she became one of a community of nine.
“The community of the Amsterdam Begijnhof (Beguine House), credited with having considerably influenced the development of what was the city’s southern edge in the late Middle Ages, survived the Protestant Reformation staunchly Catholic. Their parish church was confiscated and given over to exiled English Puritans. The last Amsterdam Beguine died in 1971, but the Begijnhof remains one of the city’s best-known landmarks” (wikipedia).                                                                                               Today communities in several countries are reviving the Beguine order.

St Begga, one of my ancestral saintly grandmothers and family patrons, is commemorated also on her other feast day, September 6.

King Saint Judicaël (c. 590 – 16 or 17 December 658), generation 46 grandfather
St Judicaël was the son of King Hoel III (Judhaël) and himself became high king of the Bretons (the Celtic peoples of Northwest France who had immigrated from Cornwall and Wales). This dynastic line descends directly from two sisters of St Patrick, Sts Darerca and Tigridia, and contains many saints within its family. After founding numerous abbeys, and surviving numerous political turns, Judicaël retired to the monastery of his mentor and friend St Meën, where he lived as a humble monk. At one point he was called back to take the throne again, but eventually retired a second time, ending his life as a monk. At least some of his years as a monk were spent as a solitary hermit. He was succeeded as king temporarily by his younger brother Saint Judoc (Josse) who also had retired to a monastery and returned there after serving briefly as king. Eventually, St Judicaël’s son, Alain II ascended the throne. St Judicaël’s third generation uncle-cousin, St Tydecho, is also celebrated on this date.


Saint Tydecho (exact dates unknown, 6th c.),                     generation 49 uncle
St Tydecho is said to be the brother or half-brother of the more famous St Cadfan; both brothers were were sons of Princess St Gwen Teirbron by either her first husband St Fragan, or by her second husband Eneas Ledewig.  St Gwen was a daughter of King Budic II; her Celtic Briton family ruled variously at different times parts of northern England, Wales and Cornwall and then Brittany. Their line of descent is traced to St Patrick’s sisters, Sts Darerca and Tigridia, whose uncle or great uncle was St Martin of Tours. There were a very large number saints within their immediate and somewhat extended family.
St Tydecho, like his brother St Cadfan, was a priest and a Benedictine monk, and seems to have founded several churches in both Wales and Brittany, some of which still bear his name.