On October 20, 2015, I sold my amazing estate known as Glen Muse, and, somewhat relieved, set off to ramble through the world. Soon I took to recording my travels, journal-like, on Facebook. My dear friend Andrea, aka Superhero Sis (one day I’ll tell the story of our meeting) had been inviting me to post here, and lately she has encouraged me to simply repost my travel journal.
“Superhero Sis sees journaling of day to day living, as a story and means of reflection, for oneself, and now others.”
Just for some context, since last December, I’ve been to India, Thailand, New Zealand, Hawaii, New York, and California. So you are starting in the middle (a good way to start when it’s hard to find the beginning), but if you like you can go to my Facebook page and work backwards. You can also find a few photos and reactions there.
Yeah, maybe one day I’ll put the whole journal on my own blog. In the meantime, here on my travels and why I’m known as GLOBAL D!
2017-05-11 to 18
I had originally planned to spend a couple of weeks driving up the coast to Oregon and Washington, but since I was already near Joshua Tree, Julianne Reynolds invited me to stick around and attend Shakti Fest so she could share my RV while she did her photography work. So I drove to the Joshua Tree Retreat Center, just a few minutes’ drive from Harlan’s place in Yucca Valley.
I arrived mid-afternoon. I told the registrars that I was bringing the photographer’s RV, expecting to be given a spot near the staff where I could plug in, but I was sent to the tenting and RV campground where power was not supposed to be available. I was met there by Wayne, the same gentleman in the golf cart who greeted me at Shakti Fest in 2011. Wayne is a man of very clear and structured opinions; back then he was not comfortable with our camp of several RVs and cars, which didn’t fit his concept for parking. This time he was equally concerned, as I wanted to plug in to the big generator that the center ran down there. He won out, and Julianne never did have power from the RV. She found another place to charge her batteries, drove there a few times a day, and put off all her other computer work until she got back to LA.
When I eventually walked up from the campground to the festival, I immediately ran into Maura Malini Hoffman. I first met Maura in 2000 when we were both in Mark Marc Whitman’s camp at Burning Man; she resurfaced in my life after Elevate came to Glen Muse in the spring of 2011. Here Maura was in charge of the lecture series and was always running from venue to venue. She asked me if I had registered yet and I said I wasn’t sure if I even would. She told me she had a wristband in her bag; a friend of hers who couldn’t make it had just asked her to sell it for whatever she could get. I happened to have some cash with me, so I took her up on it and became a legitimate wrist-banded attendee.
A few minutes later I ran into Malik Glen Miller, a Sufi from Charlottesville whom I met in Delhi in early 2015. He recognized me and we had a nice conversation; I learned that he’s since moved to California. I’d hoped we’d meet again over the weekend to talk more, but it didn’t happen.
While I was getting dinner at Lydia’s, a woman named Happy recognized me from some previous event, maybe a Shakti Fest but who knows? I had overheard her talking with someone about her plans to move to the Big Island with her partner, so we met up over dinner to learn a little more.
And I also ran into Tzadik Rosenberg-Greenberg, who runs the Earth Walk out of Tuscon AZ. I’d had lunch with Tzadik in Agoura a couple of years ago, when he confided that his whole world was crumbling. Since then it has come back together with a much stronger foundation. Throughout the festival I kept running into Tzadik and his friend Casey.
I’d received a text from Jonathan Weisblatt the night before. He and his girlfriend Eva Henje Blom were my housemates when I stayed at Tamera in Portugal last fall; now they were both back at Eva’s home in Sweden. We agreed to make time to talk Friday morning, which was just later in the day in Sweden. So I took his call in the morning, sitting in the shade by my RV. Like Tzadik was last year, Jonathan is struggling with challenges that threaten to dissolve his world and was asking for a friendly ear, which I was happy to offer.
After our conversation, I went to a Shakti Fest session offered by Loren Roche, who wrote The Radiance Sutras, a sensitive and glorious contemporary interpretation of the Vajnana Bhairava Tantra, a series of meditations which I highly recommend. Alesha Carlander’s beautiful friend Shaina Timpson gifted me a copy of this book, which she had acquired after she saw Loren at a previous Bhakti Fest a few years ago. At this session, everyone in the room had a copy of his book. He was enthusiastically working through the deep meanings behind some of the words, and asking members the audience to read along in both Sanscrit and English.
After a break, I returned to the lecture hall for the next session, offered by Dawn Cartwright. Dawn also teaches Tantra, and her work with us was about relational practices. As we entered the room, flower petals lined a path toward the altar up front. Men were directed to one side of the aisle and women to the other. Jaya Devi and Lakshmi played and sang beautiful music frequently through the session. We paired off safely, men with men and women with women, and in the safety of the container did a number of practices, including greeting (bowing to one another as divine and royal beings), eye gazing, taking turns following and shadowing one another, and continuing shadowing as we wandered the room encountering other pairs. Eventually our pairs joined larger groups and grew more animated; by the end of the session we were dancing with joy.
After the session I ran into Michael Brian Baker, who’d lived in Ojai (perhaps he still does) and who offered three of his renowned breath work sessions at Shakti Fest; unfortunately I never got to any of them. David Sadka of Ojai was also there with Michael.
I returned to my RV for a break and spent some time in the afternoon working on future travel plans. I took a shower and went to dinner, where I ran into Arslan Chaudhary and Joanne Rees Ehlingerr. Eventually I went off to see Donna deLory perform on the main stage.
Today I seemed to be in a hibernation mode, as I spent most of the day hiding out in my RV, chilling and recharging. I’d picked up a huge abandoned blanket covered with burrs at the Portal to a New Earth, and I used the time to remove most of them from one side of the blanket while I caught up with hours of podcasts. Sometimes I felt a little guilty that I wasn’t being more productive, but I also enjoyed the mindless activity, the way one might enjoy knitting or untying a huge knot.
Finally in the late afternoon I went out. This time I ran into Gaia Tamar Saday, who I think came because of my recommendation when we met at the Wi Spa ten days ago. I also met Katyanna Anita Zoroghlian and Benjamin Francis Phelan. I’ve run into Ben a number of times since he moved away from Glen Muse; he seems to have a way of appearing out of nowhere. We had a deep but short conversation, then he disappeared into the crowd.
Katyanna and I watched Larissa Stowe’s powerful performance. I’d met Larissa at her house in Long Beach maybe ten years ago, thanks to an introduction by Andrea Fisher. Some years later she came and played at an Elevate Party at Glen Muse. She’s a joyful and energetic artist and has come a long way; her little daughter is now a teenager who accompanied her on one of her numbers. I had a chance to say hello to her after the performance, along with a few other very happy people who wanted to connect with her.
We returned for, Jai Uttal, the evening’s headline. Jai is no doubt my favorite Kirtan performer. I first heard his music on the radio in the early 90’s while I was driving in the hills near Carmel. I remember clearly how I had to pull over to pay full attention to his song Govinda from the album Monkey; I knew the words as a Sufi dance but this was amazing. I especially to find out who was performing, and somehow got on his mailing list. Several years later I received a flyer in the mail (remember mail?) which said Jai would be joining a week long Holotropic Breathwork retreat. I made a point to attend. Turns out the retreat was right here, back when the Joshua Tree retreat center was known as the Institute for Mentalphysics. More recently, a few years ago I had the great honor to host him and his family at Glen Muse when Katrina MacLachlan brought him along with Yuval Ron to Ojai for a Thanksgiving feast.
During Jai’s performance, he shared an interesting interpretation of the familiar lyrics of one of his kirtans. He was very clear to note this is only one among vastly many available meanings, and there is no such thing as “the” meaning of any holy phrase. In this case he was discussing the famous mantra “Hare Krishna, Hara Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” Jai said that “hare” is the formless divine essence or energy out of which all form is constituted, and Krishna is one of these divine forms. “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna” refer to those moments when form and essence are intermingled and merge in Oneness; “Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare” refers to those moments of separation when Krishna becomes a being distinct from the essence, and while one can fully appreciate the distinctly unique and magical beauty of the being of Krishna, one still longs to return to the embrace of Oneness. So in singing this kirtan, we are acknowledging and celebrating the dance of unity and separation, which alternate like the peaks and troughs of a wave, like inhaling and exhaling, like dreaming and waking. And Rama is “just” another divine form like Krishna, just like you and me and every sentient being, each in a similar dance between infinite boundlessness and finite boundedness. It’s all very Sufi.
In the morning I returned for Dawn Cartwright’s third session on Tantra. (Her second one on Saturday was for women only). This time on entering the room, we encountered a huge spiral in the center of the room made of rose petals, and formed a large circle around the room. Again Jaya Devi & Lakshmi were playing for us. It was Mother’s Day, so both Maura and Dawn welcomed us with a reminder of our own mothers and of the Divine Mother of all, who in Sanscrit is known simply as Ma. Dawn asked us all to walk straight across the center of the room until we encountered someone who would become our partner for this journey. I encountered a beautiful woman in a splendid white headdress and flowing gown, something like a Middle Eastern queen, perhaps her way of celebrating Ma’s day. We again did some intimate yet safe exercises, including gazing at our partner behind us from a forward bend, and work with flower petals. Like the first session it was a beautiful way to drop our personas and meet in a deep place. We hardly spoke, and I never did learn her name or see her again.
I did see Adam Adam Douglas Heyes from across the room and later we said hi. A young woman named Brie who lives in Ojai recognized me from Glen Muse and said hello.
I stayed on for Girish’s chanting workshop, in part because I was charging my phone and wanted to continue, but also because I love singing. I enjoyed listening to his tips about the breath and where our sound comes from, and wanted to see what we would sing.
At lunch I ran into Kerri Kerri Leblang, another Glen Muse alumnus, and Scott Carino? Smith?, who I met at Igor Kufayev’s workshop a year ago, and then Cari Schaefer and Jonathon Barbato who had dropped by just for the day and were on their way to a spa somewhere.
After lunch I went to see Jeff Armstrong, a Vedic scholar known for his accessible translations. Jeff fell in love with Krishna Consciousness in the sixties and enthusiastically but eruditely explained the source and purpose of this love, this path of “bhakti”. I took note of his explanation of the Sanscrit word “hridaya”, which means “heart.” It comes from “hri” (=“hare” = the sacred essence which is beyond all else) + “daya” (=“couch” as in the english word “dais”). The heart is the seat of the sacred essence. It’s all very Sufi.
Speaking of things Sufi, the Sunday headliner was Fana Fi Allah. A band of seven Americans who perform rousing Sufi Qawwali music with the intensity of the Pakistani and India musicians whose families have done this for many generations. Their tabla player is a woman (name) and one can only imagine what cultural barriers she must of conquered in order to learn to play in Pakistan. I’ve seen them play at Beloved, in Portland, in Santa Cruz, and just missed then in New Zealand, and got right up close for this performance. I’m sharing a video to give a flavor of their work. I understand a documentary about them is coming out later this year, titled Music of the Mystics.
Julianne packed up early so I could leave Joshua Tree by eight to get back to Ojai.
Two weeks ago, on what would have been my mom’s 96th birthday, her rabbi Reb Levi Cunin of Malibu Chabad finally received a disbursement she’d left for his center. He had called a few days before to invite me to a simple ceremony where he would be installing a plaque for her at the Chabad preschool and sanctuary, and we agreed on today so I could pass through Malibu on my way back to Ojai. Reb Levi told everyone that she had been present at the very first service of Chabad of Malibu, along with her friends Hy and Stan. Today Reb Levi has a huge family, but this was before he was even married. He screwed the plaque into the wall, witnessed by his wife Sarah Cunin, a couple of teachers (including the daughter of my mother’s close friend Dede Solis), and a dozen or so sweet little kids, who sang us a song.
My next stop was in Oxnard, where I had scheduled a meeting with James Doyle to make arrangements for my own passing, whenever it might come. I’d received a postcard from his service several times and finally responded a few months ago. A few weeks later I had a phone conversation with him while I was attending the Tribalize conference. I did not miss the irony that when we spoke, I was sitting at what had once been Ojai’s funeral home.
I finally got to Ojai and parked the RV at Jaye Hersh’s house so I could take out my Honda Element to do errands around town, such as picking up a week’s worth of mail.
I also stopped at Bill Gordon’s to pick up some camp chairs he wound up with after the Portal to the New Earth. He happened to be home. We talked quite a bit about Gunnar Lovelace’s new land in northern California, and he pulled out a plan of the land for us to explore. Just before I had to run off, Dave Fishman and Clarissa Radoyce Fishman dropped by; I was very happy to get to see them on this pass though Ojai.
Earlier in the day I got a text from Alan Chang, and we’d agreed to meet at the Tibetan/Sushi restaurant Mandala for dinner. The owners are friends of both of us, and we had a great conversation and catching up over some excellent sushi. As we were walking out, I ran into John John W Davis. I lived at hix place “Djarma” in Ojai’s East end for six months in about 1988-9; and later I had a number of energy sessions from John. For a while he practiced out of the Moroccan house at Glen Muse.
I began the day at Quest for a series of blood tests Cari Shaeffer had requested I take as we explore the high blood sugar measurements I’m getting. I think they took about eight test tube samples for the different tests.
After a few more errands, I had a brief visit with my dear friend Alarra Saress, also a Glen Muse alumni. Alarra has been evolving her vision for “Harmonic Earth,” a sound healing sanctuary, and for the time being she is running it out of Healing in Ojai where she offers regular group and individual sessions. She has also lately been collaborating with Ojai’s musician Ray Powers (the two of them collaborated on the Seven Pillars Journey in 2013) as well as with beautiful Andrea Brook, who travels worldwide to perform her incredible Sonic Butterfly (related to the Earth Harp) and teaches yoga at her place in Ojai.
After a quick visit to my storage unit to swap some things in and out, I went to see my optometrist, Dr. Roger Phelps. Last week while I was helping Harlan put away stuff from the Portal to the New Earth, I’d somehow poked my eye while loading a box into his van. For several days it was red and for more it was sore, so I’d arranged this appointment during my brief stay in Ojai. He checked it out and let me know that there seemed to be nothing serious.
But he had dilated my eyes, so though I was eager to get on the road, I now had to wait around a few hours before leaving. I spent most of the time answering emails at Jaye’s. Then I ran out for groceries for the RV, parked my Element in her garage, filled the RV with gas and propane, and finally headed north at around 5pm.
After a few hours of driving, somewhere near Los Alamos, I had a small health incident. At a certain moment I felt a distinct shift in my body and awareness, which I can only describe poorly as a kind of tingling. Over a few minutes it became clear that it was getting more intense, so I pulled off the road and parked the RV. How convenient that my couch was two steps away, I thought, as I stumbled onto it and laid down. I was concerned but I did not panic, and instead watched my state with great interest and curiosity. I had entered a truly altered state of consciousness, a kind of narrowness. I was mainly aware of my breath, breathing deeply, and also wanting to rub my body to keep it awake. I don’t think I fainted, though I guess it’s possible. When I was able to stand, I got up to test my blood, which was not extremely low or high. I got some water and lay back down, sipping, breathing, watching, as my normal consciousness slowly returned. I was there in the couch a few hours resting, as it got dark. I tested my blood again a few hours later. Perhaps the affair was due to the blood I gave in the morning, the eye treatment in the afternoon, skipping a proper lunch, not enough water, the general intensity of the day, maybe all of the above. A perfect storm.
Eventually I felt reasonable and continued my drive, snacking and drinking along the way, stopping often to stretch and walk around. Finally late at night, I pulled over somewhere south of Gilroy and went to sleep.
About seven hours later I got up, somewhat refreshed. I ate something, and continued my drive. I was not feeling great, but at least clear headed. I drove up the East side of the bay, stopping in Berkeley to get lunch and refuel. I continued on to my evening destination at Orr Hot Springs, stopping pretty frequently to rest and stretch. I might have arrived an hour or two earlier if I’d remembered their advice to avoid Google Maps, which took me on quite a roundabout path, though I did get to see a good stretch of Mendocino!
I finally arrived at about 5:30pm. After settling into my yurt (as they wouldn’t let me stay in my RV), I went to soak in the natural hot springs, and spent a long time in the sauna. In their shared kitchen area, I made myself a (canned) soup and salad dinner, and went to sleep in the cushy bed in my warm yurt, where I slept long and soundly.
Ah, the power of the waters of a hot springs! I woke refreshed and, I must say, healed. I had another salad for breakfast, and got another soak before I packed up and continued north. I felt great, fully recovered from the Tuesday night event. The world looked beautiful.
In the mail I picked up in Ojai, I’d received a DMV renewal notice that included a requirement to smog my RV. Since I was about to take it out of California until September, this was my last chance. So I found a place in Ukiah that did the work in half an hour, while I sat on a park bench responding to a number of messages that had arrived while I was at Orr Hot Springs (which has neither phone service nor wifi). As I took care of business I was happy to release many small worries that had been floating the back of my head.
After about five more hours of driving, including a stop for lunch, I reached Triple Creek Ranch, Gunnar’s stunning new property just south of the Oregon border. Bill Gordon had texted me the day before to tell me that escrow just closed and I could drop by, and later Gunnar sent me the address.
The drive up to the property late in the day was gorgeous, as the trees dotting the rolling hills were emphasized by their long shadows. When I got to the range I found a number of buildings full of stuff; music and television playing, but no people. But as I walked around an electric vehicle came up and I discovered the property’s caretaker, Katherine Fitzgerald. She was very friendly and showed me a place to park my RV where I could plug it in. I walked the property as the sun set and took a few photos.
There was no internet or phone service so it was a very peaceful evening. After dark, I made a simple dinner with canned chili and salad, and spent a few hours working on this post. I slept well in the RV that night. This morning I saw more of this land, then headed up to Ashland so I could get internet to make this post.