Burning Intentions 2019

I’m on the road to Burning Man, and according to tradition I’m sharing my intentions to amplify them. This year I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m taking an art installation! The project, Varanasi Sage, has consumed much of my waking life over the past few months, and I’ve gladly given that time. It has been a true challenge and learning experience, but it has also given my life more meaning and purpose. Plus, it helped me finish my first booklet! It’s already been a rewarding experience to create this art, and I’m looking forward to showing it off! I’ll also be giving away a limited number of my booklets as part of the installation.

Without further ado, my Burning Intentions:

    Put my art into the hands of hearts who will love it
    Face challenges with grace and ease, trusting my experiences
    Connect with other artists in a meaningful way
    Deepen into a gratitude practice

If you’re on the playa this year, I’m teaching my workshop Meditation & Writing MWF 10-11am at my camp Namaste & Chill located at 6:15 & D. I would love to see you there!


Burning Intentions 2018

It’s time for Burning Man! The past two years, I’ve shared my intentions for the experience because writing intentions and having a witness strengthens their power. This post makes the third. Thank you for being my witness.

This year, I’m taking a new project — a meditation and lounge space I’ve been dreaming of for several years and fundraising for with many collaborators. May the Lounge be a sacred space of healing and connection; may it bring all who enter deeper into wholeness and unity.

I’m teaching my workshop, “Meditation and Writing,” three times this year: Monday, Wednesday and Friday 3-4 pm at Stellar Dusty Moon 5:30 & H (in the Lounge!). May the workshop serve us in the unique way that we need for our paths; may it provide us with insight, peace, and grounding.

My favorite part of Burning Man is the art — may I meet the artists and have profound experiences with the art.

May the workshops I attend guide me in my journey and connect me with others. May I see the heart of the earth in everyone I meet!

The Inside Joke

After a full day building camp, several friends formed a group to go out. Of course I wanted to join! I grabbed my necessities (headlamp, toilet paper, goggles, emergency champagne) and hopped on my bike. As we turned onto the esplanade, art installations rose from the dust as far as I could see. I lagged to catch glimpses of them as we passed. Art or friends? Art or friends? Curiosity pulled at me. 
And then — we approached a pier. 
Group mission be damned! This was the emptiest the playa would be for the rest of the week, and soon the pier would be crammed with tourists.
I stopped and put my feet onto the dust. I pulled the scarf off my mouth and called to my friends: “Guys! I’m stopping to look at art!” Either they didn’t hear me or didn’t care.
Except for Kitten, my faithful companion.
“I can’t keep passing art installations. It’s our first night out,” I looked towards our group; they had already blended in with the other blinking lights.
“We have all week to find music, but we only have a week to look at art,” Kitten dismounted his bike.
We stepped onto the pier. Nets and ropes hung between posts, hammocks swayed beneath the boardwalk. A long string of lights romanced me. I hooked my arm into Kitten’s.
The boards creaked under our footsteps — just like the old boardwalks I’ve wandered along in seaside towns. And for a moment, when I relaxed my eyes and looked up, it felt like we were at the sea. But looking down, seeing the dry lake bed below us, I thought of the sheer genius and manpower it must have taken to build this dock — from the concept to the design to bringing the materials and assembling them in the middle of nowhere without basic amenities like running water. 
We arrived at the midway tower. We leaned in to view its inner intricacies. Some people were gathered on the upper level; I’d be willing to bet they were drinking whiskey.
“Want to go up?” Kitten asked.
“Not particularly.” I felt content looking inside the tower at the details that made it seem more like a relic than a modern piece of art. It gave me a sense of nostalgia for a time I knew only in turn-of-the-century novels. Antique photographs, compasses, hourglasses, bound books, and glass bottles — in all colors, sizes and shapes — the scene piqued my curiosity to touch and pick up the items. Every detail existed for exploration, a mystery to be revealed, a reverie in which to lose oneself. It was a living, breathing piece of art that transported us to a different time and place. The curiosity, the wonder of it all, put me back into the frame of mind of a child: everything was new and strange and deeply interesting.
On the other side of the tower, we found an antique desk — the kind in which the door to the main compartment folds down to become the writing surface. My literary heart skipped a beat. 
“And what could be inside?” My curiosity whispered with glee. 
When I opened it, I found the cubbies, that once may have organized papers and mail, were filled with antique glass bottles. How odd. I touched a few, pulling them out of the compartments and examining their details, trying to understand their riddle. And then — I found one that contained a piece of paper.
“A message in a bottle!” I gasped. I lifted it with awe. The bottle’s long, skinny neck was jagged at the top. “What kind of message do you think it is? Profound wisdom?” 
Kitten shrugged.
I slowly put my index finger into the bottle, careful not to touch the toothlike edge, but my fingertip barely reached the paper. I pushed in a little more until the base of my finger rested against the pointed teeth. I could only move the paper around in circles along the side of the bottle. The shape of the neck made it impossible to drag the paper out.
“Don’t hurt yourself,” Kitten warned. “We are in the middle of nowhere and it’s dirty. You’ll want a working hand for the rest of the week.”
I sighed and pulled my finger out. “I’m just too curious.” I turned the bottle over and around, trying to see if I could read the message from the outside, but the paper was folded in half. Even more mysterious. I inverted the bottle and shook it, but the paper wouldn’t fall out.
“Oh well, let’s go,” Kitten said. “Slicing your finger is a bad way to start your Burn.”
“Let me try one more thing.”
I held the bottle so the paper was at the very base of the neck. I put my finger back in and pressed the paper firmly against the glass. It slid along the edge, I almost got it passed the base of the neck, but it slipped back. 
“Leave it, come on, there’s a lot more to look at,” Kitten said. “There’s bottles everywhere. Just look at all these bottles over here.” He motioned to a couple of antique suitcases behind us with bottles on top of them.
 “I have to know what it says!” I insisted. “I can’t just find a message in a bottle in a desk on the dock in the middle of the desert and just — walk away without knowing what it says! A message in a bottle at Burning Man. Who knows what it says? Maybe it’s written by the artist.”
I turned the bottle a little more, got my hand on the side with the shortest teeth and finally — I had the paper sliding up the neck and out of the bottle! I held it in my hand like it was a golden scroll of truth. “Yes!” I said to Kitten, my eyes wild with excitement.
I unfurled the paper and paused. I was hungry for the message I worked so hard to receive, but needed a deep breath. Delayed gratification.
“Come on, open it,” Kitten said.
I opened the paper. 
I read it aloud: “Go Fuck Yourself.”
Kitten and I looked at each other and burst into laughter.
“Oh that is good,” I said as I caught my breath.
“We should’ve seen that coming,” Kitten smiled.
“A special message from the artist,” I joyfully mocked myself as I folded the message and rolled it back up. “A message just for me! How absurd.” I laughed as I placed the paper back in the bottle, making sure it was all the way in for the next person.“Well worth the effort, I say.”
“It couldn’t have been more perfect,” Kitten agreed.
I put the bottle back exactly where I found it and closed the desk.
Kitten and I continued our walk along the creaking pier to the very end. I looked out at the playa — illuminated art installations dotted the landscape — and I realized this pier was on an endless sea of wonder.

“The Pier” by Gurps Chawla

108 Sun Salutations

I started practicing yoga in my teens, and over the years, I have done my fair share of sun salutations. In my personal practice, I sometimes use a few to warm my body, but I don’t really enjoy them.  

So when I heard we were doing 108 sun salutations at the end of my first full day of Yoga Teacher Training, I rolled my eyes. Not only did we have to do 108, but we had to count them ourselves. ‘Great,’ I thought, ‘108 repetitions of repetitive movement.’ This was literally the opposite of the meditative, dynamic practice that I love.

Of course, I lost track within the first 15. And that irritated me to no end. What did it even matter to keep count at that point? I would never know how many I had done!

Then, somewhere around 30 (or maybe it was 35, who knows?), I couldn’t believe how many I still had to do. It seemed like this would take forever. And, oh man, it was so tedious!

By the time I got to 42, I wanted to go home. I wanted to stop the incessant ups and downs, roll up my mat, and leave. I felt far from my comfortable home where I could do whatever practice felt right.

Around 50, only half-way, I decided the whole training was a waste of time and I should just quit! Teacher training was a stupid mistake. 

Then — somewhere close to 70 — I realized I was nearly finished. It was hard and annoying, but it was almost over. A rush of gratitude and appreciation washed through me.

Hitting 80 brought a feeling of accomplishment, which grew with every round I completed thereafter.

At 90, I chose to savor the remaining salutations. I was so close, and I wanted to enjoy those last rounds.

Number 100 arrived and I knew the struggle was worth it. I had done so much.

I finally reached 108, and thought maybe I should do a couple more just in case I had undercounted. They weren’t so bad; it wasn’t so hard.

Resting in child’s pose after completion, I asked myself why I fought against the practice. My resistance made me suffer far more than the actual sun salutations. 

My life flashed before me and I saw all my daily annoyances, the times I was impatient, the times I wanted to quit or fast-forward. I thought of when I wished my life away — stuck in traffic, pining for summer, waiting at the DMV, sick in bed. I saw my struggles and I saw the end of my life. Would I still wish my time away at the end or would I wish I could have savored even the most frustrating moments? What would my life look like if I appreciated all the moments instead of resisting them?

We finished class and I got in my car, feeling a new space in my being, like my mind had opened and my heart softened. 

A text from my cousin Derek came through: “Can you drive me home tomorrow? I have to leave my car in town at the shop.”

“Of course,” I wrote back without hesitation. “If you can be in town at 6 when I finish training that would be perfect.”

“For sure,” he replied.

That night I could barely sleep even though I was exhausted. The 108 salutes energized me. I tossed and turned feeling the uncomfortable combination of wired and tired.

My alarm sounded early the next morning. I rolled out of bed and into the shower. My eyes were puffy, and I knew coffee wouldn’t be enough. At least we would start teacher training that morning with an asana class — that would wake me up.   

Nine hours of training later, it was dark out, and I was ready to go home and relax with a glass of wine. I drove to my cousin’s mechanic, and got a message from him on the way: “Running late there in 10.”

I parked out front. 10 minutes, not so bad, but 10 minutes passed quickly, and soon came 15. I was bored and annoyed. Where was he? I was helping him. He should be on time.

After 20 minutes, I was pissed! Obviously, he didn’t have any respect for my time or energy! How could he be so rude as to keep me waiting when I was doing him a favor?

I sat there fuming. I mentally prepared to let him have it as soon as he got there. I figured out all the things I would say to make him feel guilty and bad about himself for making me wait. He was selfish and I would make sure he knew it!

That is — until I remembered the 108 sun salutations from the night before. This was my lesson. Getting angry and resisting my present moment was ruining my present moment. Waiting wasn’t the problem, it was my mindset. 

I thought about the miracle that Derek and I both have these physical forms on earth, wouldn’t it be better to appreciate the time we get to spend together? A guilt-trip tirade would make us both miserable. He was late — no big deal. Nobody was hurting, except for me with my self-inflicted suffering. Being angry wouldn’t make him arrive sooner.

I decided to relax and clear my mind.

Not long thereafter, headlights shone around the corner and Derek pulled up. We rolled down our windows.

“Sorry I’m late,” he said, sheepishly.

“I appreciate your apology and I’m glad you’re here now,” I said, without a note of hostility. “You want to park in this spot?”

“Yeah, that would be great.”

We moved like Tetris pieces.

“Thanks, cuz,” he said, getting into my car.

“You’re welcome.”

“Can I take you to dinner?”

“Sure. I’d love that.”

During our meal, we laughed at stupid jokes and spoke of our futures. I even told him about my newfound love for sun salutations.


Gratitude: An Ode to the Rain

A severe drought — the worst in recorded history — has plagued California for years. Wildfires ravage the state, lakes receded to shocking levels, creeks and rivers ran dry. But this year, the rainstorms started early. One real storm blessed us in August, a few graced us in September, and this months we’ve had several large storms. I remember in 2013 we were ecstatic to have our first rain on Halloween — but that’s also when the rainy season ended.
At home, I am thankful even though the rain sends ants scurrying inside through every unsealed crack. The sweet, musty smell of wet earth makes up for it with each breath I take. I love turning to see my cat sit on our bench under our awning to watch the showers. Turning off the drip irrigation brought a smile to my face as do the seedlings propagated from flowers I planted in summer. Now I have an entire garden filled with baby plants. The world around me looks clean and vibrantly fresh.
Driving southwest, I am thankful for the rain even though I hate driving in the rain. At times, the downpour is heavy and my fastest wiper setting can’t clear the windshield; yet, I am grateful to slow down. As I pass vineyards and orchards, I praise grass between the rows, amazed to see green just south of Sacramento. I listen to drops beat a percussion on my windshield — I love them all, from the daintiest mist to the wildest splotches. The grey sky brightens my vision; clouds part and sunlight shines onto the earth in heavenly beams.
Just west of the San Luis Resevoir, I am grateful to see a soft dusting of green on brown hills — miraculous grass in a region that, lately, has been brown all year.
Stopping at a CVS in Carmel, I meet a transient man playing didgeridoo. We speak about his recent travels and experiences at Rainbow Gathering where he felt deep connections with strangers and realized the best of humanity is found when a society existed with a gifting economy and emphasized creation. Kneeling at his feet, I know I had so much more to be grateful for than I could ever count. I bring him food and shake his hand. I wish I could give him more, but I know he appreciated my gift by the way he smiles and waves goodbye.
As I drive into the hills of Carmel Valley to visit Linney at her mountain retreat, my heart grows at the site of last year’s Tassajara fire. Only a few months ago it looked post-apocalyptic, but now I see new life. This year, the Sobranas fire, which came within a mile of Linney’s retreat, burned for three months and decimated over 100,000 acres of the Los Padres National Forest. I am grateful for the rain, knowing it will act as a salve on the parched earth to bring healing and restore life to the land.

My thoughts turn to prayers of safety, which I send to those at Standing Rock protecting our healer, our medicine, our mother. As they honor our sacred earth, I pray our communities will gather in unity to defeat corporate greed that aims to destroy our precious home; I pray that understanding rain into the hearts and minds of the violent oppressors; I pray the water within all life glows with truth and righteousness to respect and defend that which gives us life. 


Cows and the green-dusted hills
A sign in Carmel Valley Village

New life in the burned area

The dirt road to Linney’s retreat looking vibrantly fresh