A Surprise for Me!

I’ve been writing posts about events that make me laugh, although this post will fall more into the ironic category than the humor one.  But the irony is what makes it funny.

Al and I were married on September 12,1971 in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The person that conducted the ceremony was Reverend Delbert Gault. He was the youth minister at my mother’s church in West Palm Beach, Florida. I had attended that church during my last two years of high school.

We went to one of the services at GLIDE Memorial Methodist Church before our ceremony. Glide is a special type of church, in no way a “normal” one. It came to be known for bringing together LGBTQ+ (this was the early 70s so that was not the name of the group then), hippies, the homeless and other counter-culture communities.

Glide was in the hotel district which was in the Tenderloin, a poor part of San Francisco. I used to enjoy watching the bewildered looks on the faces of people from the hotels when they realised this was not going to be a normal Methodist service. It was a celebration of life that included singing and dancing.

The lines to get into the church regularly went around several city blocks. Every spare space in the church was filled.  People even sat in the windowsills. What I remember about the service that we attended on the day we were married is that Roberta Flack sang, and Quincy Jones played the piano for her.

Although it was historically a United Methodist Church, at some point they must have disassociated because Methodist was removed from the name of the church.

After our wedding ceremony in the park, we had a potluck dinner.  At that time, Jane Fonda, who happened to be in the park, holding a child on her shoulders, came up to us and wished us well. It had been a magical and exciting day.

We moved to Seattle after the wedding (I had been living in Oakland since I graduated from college… but that is a story for another day). We were together for 7 years and during that time we had 2 beautiful children that as adults became known as Satvamrita (the name he was given when he was initiated as a brahmachari-monk) and Chaitanya (the name she was given when she asked Amma to name her)

Three years after our separation, I attended a workshop. As I listened to the guest speaker, I realized I had been passive about getting a divorce.  So, I prepared and turned in my divorce papers soon after I returned from the workshop. 

By then we had been married for 10 years. I discovered that because we’d been married that long, I would be eligible to receive the difference between his amount of social security benefits and mine after he died. His administrative job with the City of Seattle certainly paid more than what I made as a nurse psychotherapist.

For years, I had expected that I would get the difference between our amounts of Social Security added to mine. He worked with the Social Security office so that everything would be done ahead of time. That way, all I would have to do is call the Social Security Administration office and I would start receiving the new monthly allotment. Regardless of his preparatory work, I discovered after he passed in January 2022, that I would have to apply for the extra income. I wondered what additional “red tape” I would have to do.

My daughter, Chaitanya volunteered to look for the original copies of the marriage and divorce certificates and found the marriage certificate eventually in the Alameda County records.  But much to her and my surprise, we found that King County Superior Court had no records to support that our divorce had ever occurred.  I realized that I must have turned in the papers, but I didn’t know I was supposed to follow through with anything further. Chaitanya eventually said to me, “Are you sure you two were ever divorced?”

So, I had been married for 50 years instead of 10, and now I was a widow instead of a divorcee. My adult kids and I thought it was funny and Al would have too. Luckily the Social Security staff also laughed or else they might have put up some roadblocks to increasing my monthly check.

Al, our friend Jagati and me having lunch outside during the COVID pandemic. (That’s why we are sitting six feet apart and maskless.)

Before he died, Al and I would spend time together.  I would go over his place to watch Seattle Seahawk games.  By the time he passed, we were talking to each other every day.  I know that he was sad that he was in no shape to help me. He had had multiple sclerosis for almost 40 years by then and heart problems for 20 years. He had no idea how much his daily calls helped me. Even I didn’t know until they were no more. At some point during that time, I had a dream that we had remarried but I told only a few people about that. I was glad that I was no longer angry, but I was not willing to go that far in reconnecting! In the end, we all got a good laugh at the circumstances.

Amma Quotes

I’ve seen quite a few Amma quotes recently that I have wanted to share. I decided I would put them all in one post!

Having the freedom to decide how to act, we should exercise the faculty of discrimination to choose the right actions and attitude.

Pray: Let the music of peace and harmony be heard everywhere.

It is pure love and selfless service that sustains this universe.  

We must cultivate a spiritual culture that respects and worships the sanctity of all beings.

Patience, constant enthusiasm and firm determination are necessary factors for success.

Amma Quote

September 21 was the International Day of Peace. This was Amma’s message that day.

Let there be goodness, prosperity, health, happiness, peace, and abundance for everyone. May Mother Nature forgive our mistakes and bless us with a year in which there are no natural disasters. May everyone’s stomach be full and may everyone have a roof over his head. May there be peace on every corner of the earth. Let us sow good thoughts and reap good actions. Let us sow good actions and reap good habits. From good habits and behaviour, we can build a beautiful life. Through living a good life, we can rewrite our destiny. The strength, courage and goodness to overcome difficult situations is inherent within each of us. We need to awaken them. If we have a heart that doesn’t lose hope and a mind that’s always cheerful, we will be able to see newness and find happiness in everything. If we are able to be loving, friendly and content, there can be no greater cause for celebration. May all of you become messengers of love and peace in this world! May grace fill your lives with peace and happiness! – Amma

Link to Video Message https://youtu.be/hU-Wvw9t79U

Question to Readers: What Makes You “Duck” Unnecessarily? (Also… A Guest Post Opportunity)

There is a corridor in Amritapuri that can be taken as a shortcut between the auditorium and the north part of the ashram. That slightly sloped corridor has a low ceiling.

A tall person would have to duck their head to get through any of that area, but for many people bending down isn’t necessary. I have tested it out many times and there is no need for me to duck when I walk through the lower part of the walkway… but I do. For me, there is at least an inch of free space over my head, but I’ve noticed that many people duck even if there is more than a foot of space between their head and the ceiling.

Since I’ve become clear that there is no need for me to duck my head, I have tried to walk through the area standing straight. So far I seem incapable of doing that. In the past two weeks, the closest I have come to my goal is to walk through with my hand on the top of my head or to scrunch my neck as much as I can, as if my neck was a spring. I am hoping to be able to walk through the area without any kind of ducking by the time I leave India.

After I observed my own and others behavior, it occurred to me that the situation could be seen as a metaphor. There must be many times in my life, when I have metaphorically ducked. Then it occurred to me that there might be a wide variety of metaphors or stories that could result from this observation. I decided to find out if readers relate to my experience, as well as to offer a potential guest post opportunity.

I believe one of the times I metaphorically duck is when I worry about what other people think about me. What situations in your life cause you to duck unnecessarily? I would love it if you would share your answer to that question in the comments below.

Or … use your creativity to develop a different metaphor. Or … write a short story, poem, fable, parable, or any other modality, on a topic inspired by my post. Perhaps you will even see something to photograph that you think relates.

Consider coming back to this post later to see the ways other readers responded to my question. And if you decide to accept my challenge to write a story, poem, fable, parable, or any other piece, and want it to be considered for a guest post, sent it to me at livinglearningandlettinggo@gmail.com.

Living and Learning in Amritapuri: Wrapping Up My Nov 28, 2015 to Jan 11, 2016 Visit


Since Amma was on the North Kerala tour, my last days in the ashram for this year were relatively quiet.  As soon as she left, I started cleaning up my room and storing my belongings.  I also worked in the cafe, and had some special time with Chaitanya and Sreejit (my daughter and son). In addition, I reflected on my trip as a whole and pondered changes I would make once I returned to Seattle

Tai Chi

You might remember that my Tai teachers had returned to their respective countries. Dave departed just before Christmas and Stefanie left soon after New Year’s. Our class had decided to practice on its own, but a man we met just before our instructors left volunteered to teach us. He was a very kind and knowledgeable man, but his style was so different from what I was used to. Among other things, he taught us about 1) chakras, 2) giving gratitude to our organs for serving us year after year and 3) how each of the moves related to either bringing chi into our body or sending it out.

Like Dave and Stefanie, he often showed us how the movements we were doing related to the martial art form of Tai Chi. The information he shared was fascinating and valuable but we stood in one place while listening to him talk for an hour or more each day. My swollen feet didn’t do well with that. I tried sitting on the ground or on a step from time to time but that didn’t work for me either. He used quiet guided imagery a lot. I became agitated, wanting to be doing the beautiful Tai Chi moves. The rest of the class was thoroughly enjoying his class, though, so I began to think about dropping out.

I noticed my body was beginning to get stiff and was reverting to the way it had been before I had started the Tai Chi classes. One day, I decided to go to the beach early and practice the movements I had learned. I enjoyed doing that so much. That practice was followed by another day of standing still for over an hour, so I decided to drop the class.

Each morning until I left the ashram, I took the elevator up to the 15th floor of the building I live in and then walked up to the roof. As I did Tai Chi on the rooftop, majestic eagles flew over me.

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(I realize some of you may not be able to access the slide show so I will post one of the photos below.)


During the last two days of my stay in Amritapuri, I purposely left my camera in my room and experienced the eagles for myself. One day there were six of them flying over or near me! That truly felt like heaven.

As my time to leave the ashram approached, I started doing computer searches to look for teachers in Seattle. I plan to take my time in choosing a new instructor. Dave had suggested we look for teachers whose movements flow and who has noticeable chi themselves. I added another criteria to that list. I want a teacher who emphasizes practice over theory.

There is one Tai Chi story I have meant to tell you in past posts but kept forgetting to do so.  I have shared many photos of the beautiful beach where we held the class. What was also true about that beach is that we were learning in an area which was used as a parking lot during Amma’s public darshan programs.  On those days, there were as many as four large buses and numerous cars parked in “our” area.  That space was also the thoroughfare for pick-up trucks and bicycles going to and from the food composting center. We definitely had plenty of practice in staying flexible and patient.  The whole scene became funny at times.


https://livinglearningandlettinggo.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/img_0233.jpg?w=474&h=356Another subject I haven’t mentioned at all is my love for the Seahawks.  I have had a life time distaste for football but all that changed in 2013 when I became an avid follower of our Seattle team.  I love the sense of community supporting the team brings to Seattle, and our whole region for that matter.  Last year I purposely woke up early when I was in India to “watch” some of the games.  (I say “watch” but that really means I was watching the score.) This year I was content to just look at the scores when I woke up, but the team was still very much on my mind.  I would be returning at the same time the playoff games started. In fact, the first play off game would take place when I staying in a hotel in Dubai, so I planned to “watch” it there.  (Photo Credit: Ginny Gensler)

Trip summary

I decided to make a photo gallery that represents many of the highlights of my 2015/16 visit to Amritapuri:


(Hover the cursor over pictures to see the captions; Click the gallery to enlarge the pictures)

There are, of course, many other people with whom I had special times on this trip but have no picture of them to put in the gallery. I will keep the photo below separate from the gallery since I didn’t take it in Amritapuri.  It portrays a pancake I made when I returned to Seattle; one that was inspired by the breakfasts my friend Lalita created each morning.  I appreciate her positive modeling of healthy eating and all of the wonderful conversations we had during that meal. The pancake I made is topped with yogurt, pomegranate, bananas, chia seeds and hemp seeds.  I will eventually look for ragi flour and try to replicate the cafe’s ragi pancakes!



January 17 Epilogue

I left India on January 10.  On the way back to Seattle, I stayed 14 hours in the Dubai airport hotel and did indeed follow the first Seahawk playoff game while I was there! When I was still at the airport in India, I was thinking about the game and noticed that Skiddles were being sold there.  I’ve never had a Skiddle in my life, but I knew one of our players often talks about them (I think they are one of his sponsors). I decided to buy a package of Skiddles as a symbol of support for my team. When I mentioned  I had purchased them to Sreejit and Chaitanya they both told me how bad they were for my teeth! I thought it was funny to get that kind of feedback from my kids.

I arrived in Seattle on Monday morning and on Wednesday morning checked out my first Tai Chi class. I liked the class but I want to experience some other teachers before I make a decision about an ongoing classes.  I have picked classes to attend on the 19th and 21st.

I spent this weekend attending a Sanskrit workshop. I love being with the Samskrita Bharati family but in the future I will remind myself not to participate in a workshop so soon after my return. (I’m still only sleeping 2 or 3 hours a night due to jet lag.)  My friend Yashas took the workshop with me and he loved it.  That really made the weekend extra special for me.  Hopefully in time we will be able to speak Sanskrit together.  (As an aside, the 2nd Seahawks playoff game was during the workshop.  I know I was not the only person in the room who was surreptitiously glancing at their phone to check the score.  We lost.  Bummer.)

My visit to India was challenging but I learned so much and will be eternally grateful for the opportunities I have been given.  Thank you for reading my posts and in so doing taking the journey along with me.


To see the earlier posts in this series go to: https://livinglearningandlettinggo.wordpress.com/india/

Amma’s Vrindavan Tulasi Field


After Lalita and I left Amrita Herbal Gardens, we walked to the Vrindavan Tulasi Field, the farm I had originally planned to see that day.  This property contains the gardens I have heard about most over the years. The devotees who have worked there have faced so many obstacles. Year after year it has been a process of trial and error. Amma teaches us to put in the effort and let go of the results.  Those who have worked at this farm have done such a good job of doing that.

When I walked onto the property, I gasped at what I saw.  The place had truly become paradise. The first plants that caught my eye were some that had beautiful flowers, different from any I had ever seen.

After leaving that area, Lalita and I walked from place to place, marveling at everything we saw.  There were coconut trees of course, but so much else.  We saw many banana circles, each with its own compost pile in the middle. We viewed many different types of plants, all looking healthy and luscious. (Click on the gallery to enlarge the pictures.)

This farm was first known as the Tulasi Field.  (Tulasi is also called holy basil and is known for its medicinal and religious properties.) Several years later, they discovered that Rudraksha trees were growing there and throughout the ashram.  The devotees started planting Rudraksha trees in all of the gardens.  For a while the Tulasi Field became known as the Rudraksha Farm.  This year I discovered it has been renamed Amma’s Vrindavan Tulasi Field.

Lalita noticed that the bottom portion of all of the Rudraksha trees had been painted white; I didn’t think to ask one of the workers why that was done.  A worker told us that 10,000 rudraksha seeds had been harvested this year.  Those were produced by a small number of trees, as the trees that had been planted in the last few years were not mature enough to produce fruit.  One thousand seeds had been harvested from the tree in the picture on the right side of the gallery below.  It was the most prolific tree on the property.

Rudraksha seeds are considered sacred in India. They symbolize the dissolution of desires and the awakening of truth. A rudraksha seed is divided into 1-21 segments. Those segments are also known as faces or mukhi. While all rudraksha seeds have healing properties, the properties change depending on the number of mukhi. The five mukhi rudraksha seed is the most common form. It can help with regulating blood pressure, heart problems, stress, mental disability, obesity, anger management, diabetes, piles, neurotic and behavioral problems.


Here are some pictures I took the first year they started harvesting the fruit of the rudraksha trees. After the fruit is picked, it is opened and the seed is taken out, soaked and then brushed until it is clean. To read an article I wrote about the rudraksha seeds two years ago go to: Rudraksha Farming at Amritapuri, pages 7-9.  That document contains more information and many pictures.

There may have been tulasi plants growing throughout the property, but one of the last areas we came upon before we returned to Amritapuri was a field of tulasi.  The plants were so big and so healthy.  A woman who had recently come to the ashram was watering them.  I had the feeling she didn’t understand why we were so astounded by what we were seeing.  She probably didn’t know about all of the years and effort that had been spent trying to get anything to grow in the dry, barren ground.

I found myself teary as I wrote this post.  The earth in so many of the pictures looks dark and rich; so different from how it used to be.  This property is certainly proof that when you put in the effort and let go of the results, miracles can happen.