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Travel Notes
(I've just posted things as they come. Scroll to find the order of place)

Bangkok, Oct 1, 2007 - Incredible Medical Care!

There is so much I want to tell you already and only a few days into this journey. It is so entirely wonderful to be in the "new" of everything - so much better than being in the "know"! At least for this girl.

We arrived at our hotel, Pantip Court, a fine hotel nestled in a park-like setting with all and very good amenities, in the business district where all the banks headquarters and embassy's are. The good thing about this part of the city is that there are no tourist traps, the locals are not aggressive or hustling as they can be in the main tourist areas of Bangkok. The shanty towns and high rises live peacefully together here. We have an entire suite - about 900 sq ft, a kitchen, great bathroom, huge living room with a tree top view of the city and a large spacious two double beds, bed room with lots of closet room. Check this out: $85 per night includes a full-on fantastic breakfast.

It's a good thing, 'cause we were wiped out from the travel and time change. I am still falling asleep at around 8:00 pm Bangkok time, waking at midnight and attempting to sleep or doze until about 4:00 am - today I managed 3:45 am. But I love the early morning darkness to dawn time best of all anyway.

Bangkok is like Hong Kong, Mumbai, New York all mixed together. Much more amazing than I remember, and has prospered well in the last 30 years, that is for sure. Shopping in the Siam district makes New York and London look pale if you can believe that! But just a half mile away, it is street vendors and cart wheel cafes selling everything under the sun for the "best price". 

The first morning that I was here, we needed to get a few things to complete our Bhutan packing list (shopping trip is its own story) and the only other thing I wanted to do, if it was easy and in the flow, was to get an MRI of my spine. Well, as I was getting ready to head out into the streets, Priya was looking at a map and says there is a hospital not far from here, BNH. So I look on the web site and to discover that it specializes in Spinal issues. But here is the most amazing part:

We get our walking shoes on and start hearding up the Rama 4 road, a big boulevard, grooving on the great contrast of extreme wealth and poverty, in a quarter mile or so, we turn right on a quaint street, Convent  road (it so reminds me of New York sometimes - Asian style) and just a few strides along, there it is. We walk in at 9:30 and are greeted gracefully and directed to the new patient counter. I told the nurse that I wanted two things, an MRI of my spine and a camera view of my throat, glottis and esophagus. I filled out the standard new patient forms. She returned in a few moments with a new patient id card and told me the ENT exam would cost 500 Bhat (that's about $16 - costs $470 in the US), and that I would need to see the spine doctor to know how much the MRI would be.  

Within 5 minutes I am having a conversation with the Doctor, a cute young guy who slowly starts to perk up with these two unusual women sitting in his office. I show him my foot and ankle, and says "L4 Nerve compression". I feel like crying because I know it is true and everyone here in the US just says, "dunno". After about 15 min of discussion (a medical version of price negotiation - teasing out how rich I am or not and learning of my ailments at the same time!), I have decided to get two  MRI scans, one of the lower spine and one of the upper. The price, 17,000 Bhat ($516). I agree. Shake hands, thank the doctor and turn to be greeted by a nurse who escorts me to the MRI Center. They get my vitals. blood pressure, weight, temp, allergies... I strip, pee and on the machine I go, to do both scans at once. It takes about 40 minutes. I get off, drink some water, put my close back on and am escorted back to the doctors wing. 

With in another 5 minutes I am with the doctor as we look through the MRI's in detail. There is indeed, significant injury, especially at the thoat (now I know why I feel the lump and the ENT's see nothing. Because it is a very swollen and bruised bone pinching out the spinal fluid, and pushing at the glottis and larynx C3-4 and C5-6 - similar thing down low - too long to get into). The neck is clearly an old injury getting worse. The images are awesome - so clear. The doctor and I have a long conversation, he is patient and educating me every step of the way about what exactly we are seeing. I learn of all the "operations" that are possible and what they can and cannot give and what I would lose in motion, along with what I would gain in pain and inflammation free living. I tell him I'm going for corrective exercises and other healing methods. He immediately changes channels and makes further suggestion in this direction. We laugh, chat about places in the world, he dreams of living in Chicago. 

I am handed a 4 page MRI medical report and a CD ROM of the images. It's 11:30 AM. I go downstairs (am escorted again), and the nurse says, now you would like the ENT, yes? I tell her that I don't need it now, we have discovered what the problem is. I wait for a few minutes for my name to be called and pay the bill, total: $537 for all services, reports, consultations and CD ROM. Everyone was kind, helpful, clear and simple in action. I know exactly what is happening in my body now, and it is indeed, all spine related. I have exactly what I need begin finding the best possible treatment and exercises. I am still so moved by the care, elegance and grace that was given me in this place. I have suffered with this condition for so long.

The same thing would have cost at least $3,000 in the States and a thousand bureaucratic fusses and hassels in between with no one giving the MRI and report to the patient... unless I, as the patient, scream loud and clear. I have a new medical center that's for sure. With a great hotel to stay comfortably while things are being handled. If you know anyone who really needs this kind of thing, I'm happy to help. I am still blown away at the beauty of it, especailly after enduring the US medical industry, exploiting vulnerable human beings to the very maximum.

Today it's off to Cambodia, Siem Reap to visit the Ankor Wat, some of Asia's most renowned and remarkable temples! Don't know what kind of web access i'll have, but most likely will not get my blog together until Bali~

Siem Reap, Cambodia, Oct 5, 2007

It’s four in the morning and even before the first rooster crows, the call to Allah begins. I like being awake to hear the chanting. The Buddhists join with their drones of remembrance. Drums and flutes, songs of devotees, crickets, roosters and dogs create the morning chorus here in Siem Reap. I am risking the wrath of mosquitoes to partake in this waking chorus. It is just the time that my system most resonates with… sleep simply stops by 3:30 am.

Siem Reap is the tourist capital of Cambodia, understandably. The Angkor temples are truly remarkable. After being in Peru and seeing how the peoples of the earth created dwellings for all things precious, necessary and sacred, I am quite taken how in this place, on the other side of the world entirely, that the technology for creating dwellings as well as the intention to honor, sanctify and protect is so stunningly similar. I can only sense that the earth itself is a whole consciousness to which we, human beings, are an expression of. Certainly the Inca did not know of the people here in Cambodia, nor did Cambodia’s people know of the great Incan culture. And the difference that exists in the West and the East now, also existed then. These Angkor temples express such refinement – an eloquence that is capable of honoring with subtle aesthetic articulation the myriad manifestations and fragrances of archetypal human life with and through the dimensions of divine expression and essence. I am particularly touched by the beauty that is expressed in the feminine representations - such depth and elegance – along with the balance and splendor of the masculine and feminine.  Clearly, the people who built these temples understood the wholeness of ‘two is one’, interdependence of the masculine and feminine as one whole. The deva’s are mostly represented as feminine. They greet and initiate all who enter through the doors within the temples. Of course, the fierce, the powerful and scary stand to the outside, ready to protect or attack, as is need.

The corridors are captivating. How they stir the psyche! Into that universal recognition of the eternal nature of the human journey. Layer upon layers of worlds, opening, unfolding, disappearing with ever new and unknown worlds awaiting through each passage and doorway. But the light at the farthest opening is always so very compelling!

In the town of Siem Reap, the central market is a wonderful mix of worlds universal, made comfortable for all the Western visitors while still keeping the spirit of Asia; café’s, shops, stalls, street vendors and kiosks. It is most enjoyable to dine in the café’s spilling out onto the alley ways watching the tourists and locals pass, listening to traditional Cambodian music played live by the many people who have lost limbs, eyes and other body parts to the land mines that still exist here.

Being here as a western foreigner is not as much fun as being immersed in the awe of the temples. This place is ruthless in its robust hustling and exploitation of westerners. We are seen as dollars only, they use any means necessary to scam, steal, and profit from us – very few are capable of seeing much else, or allow themselves to be seen.  It is far worse than India in the 70’s. But I understand. This country has been through such horrors in the last 40 years – the hurt is deep, and who wants to show that especially to people who can not even come close to comprehending the terror and losses. Even the so-called officials steal from the visitors right upon entry into the airport customs. Deceit is the favored method. It took only a few hours for me to reset to the way of things here. My belly kicked in clear and fast. I am grateful for my ability to create strong boundaries – centered and present. It is always the vulnerable that are exploited. Beyond that, it is really very simple, learn what the local price is (this is the most challenging) then choose how much you are willing to pay and always be ready to walk away. Still, it is exhausting and heartbreaking. Especially when the truth of my heart is filled with appreciation for the land and the people. But I recognize this is a world-wide wound; torture, fear, exploitation, blame, revenge, deceit – only the styles and context vary a bit around the world. In some ways, I am grateful to be the target of such strong, blatant collective projection and discrimination.  It certainly helps to foster awareness and compassion – clarity and strength as well – for with out all of these qualities, traveling in lands like this as a westerner can be quite miserable. Thailand is not nearly as difficult. The country overall prospers and there is stability, hence less corruption. But I love chaos. I love that you need your belly here. I love how utterly, all the local people know when you have it, even the best hustlers see it right away and leave you alone. There are plenty of spaced-out, nice tourist to devour. I love walking across an insanely busy street and with out even looking, I know who sees me and they know I see them! Asia is a great place to learn all about centering. The best place.

I am also amazed at how changeable the ‘world view’ and one’s identity can be. Amazing too, how fixated human beings get on the world view we have been conditioned to believe.  Even more amazing to me is how much of a holographic illusion these ideas of self and world are. Still, the pattern is clear: we repeat again and again the mantra of identity based on the belief of our culture and family, gravitating only to people who affirm our same world view – all others are seen as enemy’s or strangers – a threat to be avoided, condemned or exploited. It is universal in the human psyche, and has always been. This is the mud from which the flower of compassion grows. My heart will break a thousand times, and a thousand more. The walls of separation are thick, but they always crumble, becoming the soil for new life to grow and to flower.

Thimpu, Bhutan, Oct 8, 2007

I am sitting in the internet room at the Pedling Hotel in Thimpu, Bhutan. It would be just plain silly for me to attempt to say in words just now the power, magnificence and beauty of the Himalaya Mountains. Magnetic is certainly the strongest feeling. The presence and spirit of these mountains helps me to understand how consciousness has developed to such heights in this part of the world. These peaks of our earth and the endless womb of space in which the movement of darkness and light bellows a call that is so silent it shakes you awake and the view of the inner world opens... this opening is what I will be exploring. And the outer view is so compelling there is just no way to forget.

For now, I am on a 'tour'. Believe it or not, I've never been on a tour. I just go where my heart wants to go. So, I am adjusting to the 'schedule' and also appreciating that it takes some responsibility off me so that I can 'space' a bit more. Thimpu is the biggest town in Bhutan - we'll be here for another 2 days. It is a good place to get to see/feel/hear/touch the culture, the people, their ways of doing/being. They are a very sweet people indeed. The town is really about the size of Aspen - it's their largest city- so that tells you something of how the folks live here. Mostly still in tribes around the country, in many small villages, doing their crafts and farming. The over all vibe is SO MUCH softer and grounded than the rest of Asia. And this girl is very grateful for that.

A Day with the Nuns - Trongsa, Bhutan, Oct 21, 2007

The schedule is so full-on that time for writing has been nearly impossible. But this morning, our day is more leisurly. I am writing from my hotel in Trongsa which is perched just across from the Trongsa Dzong, nestled on a mountainside where three intersecting mountains reach high up from the magnificent river gorge below. Bhutan is filled with beauty. I've stopped taking pictures for a while simply because there is no way to capture the vastness - it is a wonderful place on earth. The Trongsa Dzong sits right across the gorge from my window. The morning clouds and mist grace the dawn with their ritual dance that caresses mountains and valleys. We have been up between 8,000 and 10,500 ft for the past 10 days.

Yesterday was especially precious. I had arranged with the fellow who I designed the tour with that we visit one of the Nunneries. This is an experience I will never forget. These women are filled with golden love ~ a purity and innocence, laughter and kindness so rare - the most embodied fragrance of friendliness I have ever experienced. This is the only thing on this trip so far that is beyond anything that I could have wished for. Their devotion is like honey, filled with warm-hearted presence and generosity. 

The morning we were to go, I awoke wanting to bring them something, but realized I had nothing to give them. In the next breath I remembered my guitar, and decided to bring it, if the moment allowed for this kind of sharing. The singing heart reaches everyone. And since I wanted to go for the inner connection, it felt right. Earlier, I had asked if it were possible to meditate with them, which is not something that ever happens, but they responded with a 'yes' - already I could feel my heart's attunement in the most quiet and unknowing of ways. But what I do know is when the heart is full and empty, PrayerSongs are always understood. On this day, I was simply taken by my trust in the heart-to-heart communion of those of us who are true in our living of reverence.

The Bhutanese very much covet their religious objects and many of their practices. They do not let anyone take pictures in their temples. They send everyone to their temples for "Tours" but then cover the artistic representations of the dieties in the temples with curtains - which, happily, you can lift to see, but they hang the curtains to make the statement that this is 'ours'. Bhutan's history is filled with vying over sacred and auspicious objects from Tibet and India. All of their existing contemporary culture comes from other lands, with the exception of the very highland tribes - which live the nomadic life similar to the Tibetans.  It is clear they are holding tight to what they see as their own identity through their Buddhist rituals, fables and their Kings. The paradoxical nature of displaying, charging and coveting is an edge that I find most interesting. They have lived an incredibly insulated life for such a long time now. The stories they tell of their country chronicle the contradictory and unique ways in which they hold their world. But I will tell that story later.

I guess the simplest way to share the day with the nuns with you is to go step by step, as the day occurred.

We drove down the mountain about 12 km on the slow twisting road through forests and rice fields, water falls and small villages, weaving through and around the cows, mules and peoples carrying their children and their wares. At lower elevations (4,500 ft or so) these mountains are subtropical jungles. We stopped on the road in the nearest village below their monastery, where the base of the trail began. Every one walks here in Bhutan, and everything is up! We hiked up the mountain for about 30 minutes to their small (by the big Dzong and Monastery standards) and lovely compound. We were met at the gate by Ani Palmo, a bright 30 year old nun who spoke the best english among them. She led us to the 'guest room' for tea. She was accompanied by another nun who did not speak english but could understand it giving our translator and hostess some support. We had tea, asked questions, learned of their daily life and engaged in simple conversation finding ways to connect with each other. The head nun came in to greet us shortly after. She is an amazing 55 year old slender, very embodied, jovial and centered woman ~ clearly a strong guiding presence who completely loves and gives herself wholly to the well-being of these young women and this nunnery. She keeps the whole place humming, is very down to earth, practical and loving. Her name is Yeshi Choden.

After some more chatting about their teacher (a Rinpoche who is in Seattle right now - I've forgotten his name - but will find him, for he must be a remarkable man - these nuns are all the proof I need) and their new projects, and each of us saying a bit of where we are from and other simple exchanges, we were asked if we would like lunch there at the guest room or in their dinning hall. Of course, we wanted to be with them in their home, so we were led to the kitchen as a first of the 'tour' of their campus and retreat residences. It was so warm, easy and lovely to just hang out with them. After some more chit chat and playful appreciation of each other in the kitchen (I could feel my being on all levels opening and breathing so deeply in their field), we went into the dinning hall, a simple open room with wooden floor and cupboards, a table for serving and a sink for rinsing dishes along one way, and small carved windows all around the room. Mats and cushions had been placed for us on the floor to eat. 

Our lunch was served buffet style, which we took with the Yeshi Choden and our translator, Ani Palmo. After we had our food, Yeshi called in the others that were lingering just outside waiting to join us in the dinning hall. My god, they are so adorable. It was like a sunlit breeze entered the room with them. They came in with their bowls and cups glancing at us with shy delight, clearly excited to have lunch with us, getting their food and sitting in rows of the floor. Once everyone had food they chanted their prayers.

This is the first 'religious' place I have been in which no action is mechanical - their every utterance is filled with presence, devotion and love - whether it is chores or prayers. It is so moving - such gentle joy and happiness - what Zen calls ordinariness. It is luminous. I realize as I write that what is most touching to me is the complete absence of aggression and fear ~ just phenomenal. Perhaps the most significant experience of human beings together that I have ever felt. And with aggression and fear absent, greed, deceit, resentment, ambition and the whole milieu of what we suffer vanish as well. It is clear that all the variations of suffering are indeed rooted in fear and aggression. Being with these women in the short time of one afternoon, has given me so much - deepened my awareness of how much the condition of identifying with the ego and it's projections and reactivity is built on fear and aggression. To experience an energyfield that is truly non-violent, not just a belief system, but a living pulsing way of life, in action, in thought and feeling, is one of the greatest gifts of my life.

As we ate with them, they laughed when our noses ran and tears streamed down our faces with the delicious hot chilies. We learned of the age range of the nuns, and how they are supported, and of what services they offer the community. We learned of the extent of their practice and retreats. We learned that the eldest had just 'expired'. The tenderness in the Yeshi's voice as she spoke of her passing, even in Bhutanese, was immediately understood without translation. That is the way of of the heart. For the entire meeting that afternoon, simple words were spoken, but so much transpired through the devotional heart that was streaming in all directions. 

After lunch, we went into the the Temple with the Yeshi and Ani to continue our 'tour'. All the others had a two hour free time after lunch. But as we connected in the temple through the shared love of Tara, and Shakyamuni, and Padmasambhava - Machik and meditation...one thing led to another as each nun shyly gathered around outside the door of the temple. I asked if I could hear their prayers, and Ani Palmo called in 6 nuns who where waiting with their prayer books. They began to sing 'om tare tuttare ture soha', and more prayers in sanskrit, english and tibetan... the others gathered around and came in even closer slowly joining us in the temple and singing prayers. I leaned over to Sonam, our guide, and asked him to if he would get my guitar, he is such a prince. I asked if they would like to hear some songs and mantras that we sing. I sang them the Prajnaparamita chant and another version of the Tara chant. We then traded songs and prayers for an hour or so. It could have gone on forever - everyone was so filled with recognition, shared communion and devotion, preciousness and love. I loved that Yeshi, the main momma, stayed in the temple singing with us just long enough to make certain that what was happening is honoring of the sacred in our exchanges. As I said earlier, this does not happen. Bhutan is very protective of their spirituality and temples. The amazing thing is that they also allowed us to photograph our time together in the temple. After a few songs, which made it very clear that all is well in this meeting of worlds and women, Yeshi went right back to work, coordinating the construction of a new entrance way. Work is her meditation. She no longer does recitations. She is very cool.

Difficult as it was, in the service of time, with each of us oozing joyful connection, we let the songs fall into the silences so that we could finish our tour of their home and let them continue their day. But it was clear to all that this meeting, heart-to-heart in their temple, this was the true tour. It was so delightful to wander with them. The nuns clustered together as they followed us - like one organism of people-love. We climbed up to the retreat center where each nun does altogether 3 years in total retreat, one year at a time, though we could not enter. Just next to the retreat complex their teacher has a little house where he stays and teaches small groups when he is there.

We continued clockwise around the monastery property (everyone goes clockwise, everywhere in Bhutan), where beautiful touches of flowers and large rocks painted with images of Milerepa, Guru Rinpoche and Vajra Pani grace the steep hillside. The other nuns had returned to the main buildings - to continue their day - kinda. We could see them cluster and gaze in our direction as we walked. There was not much more to see, but there was so much more to appreciate. Ani Palmo wandered with us until we reached the gate again to the trails that would return us to the car. I will never be able to get over the impact on my soul of the pure heart and transparency of these women - not pious in any way or dogmatic in any way. Egalitarian in the most refined and practical way. Nothing special at all - and the most precious treasure of the human possibility. 

As we walked down the hill, Sonam called to us to say, "look back!". And we saw the entire place waving good-bye and calling to us with such love. Unbelievable affection. We made 90 new and true friends that day.  

Luang Prabang, Lao - In the Countryside, Nov 10, 2007

This place has been such a refuge and delight. I spent my 50th birthday riding and playing with elephants - then went up by boat to some gorgeous waterfalls to swim and have lunch. Everything about the day was magical. If the pix come in horizontal - just double click on them and they should come the right way up.

A little of my musings...

It is the river, the sounds, the songs, the laughter, the elephants and fisherman, the children and mothers, the hotshot boys (the same everywhere!) who love to sing and do their thing. It is the perfect balance of the living elements. It is the warmth and smile that lights up when I sing, when they sing. It is the happiness and beauty. I cannot, or rather, can barely, disturb the serenity of this place, my space of appreciation - the land and the people - with the effort it takes to shape words and thought so that I may capture some of this loveliness for others to taste. Sheer loveliness is what I am filled with at the end of this turn of 50 years of life around the sun and into a whole new cycle. The village people laugh from their belly, they all work and play and party and care for each other. Each time I wander through the local village the feeling of happiness is tangible. The sounds of children playing can be heard all day. In the entire time I have been here, I have heard a child cry only 3 times, each time the mother was there immediately.

And wandering through the countryside - it is even more beautiful, everywhere everywhere everywhere contentment floods my consciousness. My senses fill with golden rice fields and steep hillsides of pineapple, fill with the soft ringing of the wooden bells on their long-horned cows and big shade Teak Tree groves. The blue, blue sky is bright with light but soft with the moisture and fragrances of growing things, soft with peace, beauty and richness - it all overtakes my senses and fills me again, with delight. The silence is pure and so very alive it is like quenching the deepest thirst possible. One moment is an eternity of bliss. And still, if this were not enough, the mountains and buttes, rising majestically, suddenly from the rice fields into the sky, like young, proud princes. Today I am walking midday. The families that work the land come down from the fields and join together in one of their many bamboo huts that provide shade, to have lunch, to rest and to tell story. Lunch is a community festival here in the countryside – a break from the hard work of clearing, planting and harvesting. Everyone is loved. Everyone has a task and a place. Everyone is responsible, everyone watches over everyone. And everyone sings here!... while they work and play, when they wake up, when taking the elephants to the river for a bath or cleaning the boats, preparing dinner, and especially when drinking beer (which is very good). It's so cool to hear their songs wafting through the air from different directions at different times by different people.

I feel nothing of whatever the “government” is here. It is supposed to be a People's Republic - that means communist - but with the allowance of private enterprise. Whatever it is, the people do not seem to be oppressed in any way or pressured to check with the government about their lives. There is a flow, simplicity and abundance here that exceeds the richest of the rich in the West, though they are very poor by western standards – but what greater wealth is there truly in this life on earth than to live in happiness, to have peace of mind and for most, a place where you are loved and belong? And... I can also see that their view of the world and life possibilities are very limited. No one can dream too big unless they are of immense merit as individuals and can risk all to follow their calling. The only other and most important element to know and to have for the fullest flowering possible, is freedom... And freedom is the most valuable of all. And that, well, that may very well be where the person that I am comes into the picture. 

But it is time to leave this place now, and I am ready. I am still a Foreigner and that means only one thing to the folks that work here at this resort (different than the village) - a way to earn a buck! Most folks come to this resort on a tour package - in and out in one night. But not us crazy middle aged ladies - we are lingering and doing our own thing, free and independent. They don't really understand this at all, and so have left us alone mostly with a few bewildering glances. This morning however, with my morning tea I could feel the encroaching mind-set and ideas they are collecting about us lingering in my energy-field. It is invasive, though subtle. Sure enough, when we went to pay the bill, they causally and quietly doubled the price of a couple of things hoping we wouldn't notice (well, actually, Priya didn't notice). Though I harbor no personal complaint about this universal human disease, I still feel the sting when kindness and respect is seen as the opportunity to take advantage of another. I've decided it's my little contribution to world peace to contribute as little as possible to the mind that moves through the lens and actions of the exploiter and exploited.

As I walk back from my long and lingering afternoon by the river,  just before I enter the grove of Teak Trees, I remembered something my master has said so often "freedom is a higher value than love". I never understood that fully until today. I don't know if it just scared me or if I was resistant, or maybe turned off by the often times harsh, insensitive expressions of so-called freedom that I have seen. Or maybe I just chalked his view of freedom up to him being a man. But on this lovely afternoon, suddenly it dawned in me, opened inside of me like a giant, regal butterfly spreading its wings - and I felt the truth of it stream in my bones. Real freedom contains love, and can only be freedom if its roots are in love, a very developed, connected and unconditional love - prehaps compassion is the better word. So often, much happens in the name of love that destroys freedom - and the other way around - so much is done in the name of freedom that destroys love. Today, I understand from the inside, how they are each a flowering of the other. Love without freedom, or freedom without love still aches with suffering and bondage, even if at first it seems cozy. Freedom is indeed the greatest of the human experiments - and the greatest responsibility. This experiment and adventure continues. As my mind gets emptier, my eyes and heart get bigger.

Ubud, Bali, November 16, 2007

It's morning here in Ubud. For the past two days I have been resting. I got a bit sick, though I sense that it is more a travel weariness and a touch of menopausal effects!

My companions have been the gecko's, firefly's and cicada's. Since I chose to rent this room for the full stay here (until Dec 10), I pretty much just crashed. It is good to allow my system some time to renew itself and let all the movement through places and collective mind-sets and the vibes of each environment fall away so that I can return to myself and reconnect to my own center. Even if I do nothing for all this time, I will be happy. I am indeed tired of the 'tourist' suit that the locals want me to wear. Now, I can just be nothing and see where nothing wants to take me!

It's very hot and humid in Bali, but beautiful. The people are not aggressive in their wanting my business, but I get hit-up non-stop if I wander through town during business hours. I ride my bike in the morning and walk in the evenings before and after all the traffic and business. Sometimes the other way around. When I have some energy again, I will make contact with my friends here, find the best way to get around and explore the island. I have not even taken any pictures since I came! It's great to take a break.  It's also low season which is great but difficult too, as they are more focused on getting business. I am quiet tired of being seen as a money opportunity and having to negotiate with every merchant or transport fellow. So have chosen to walk and ride bike until my energy and verve return - and I may even get a motorbike! 

Who knows what will happen when I start to reach out, but I will use this time for meditation (which I sorely need), to get my blog working and open my musical streams again, however slowly things go. I'll send some pics to you as soon as I'm willing to use a camera. Today, my big task:  get a two-hour body spa, massage and herbal bath. It will be good for me to pamper myself for a while. 

Ubud, December 1, 2007
 
Wow! I am here only another 10 days. And today, I want to write about Bali, or at least begin. I want to find the inside of the people and the beauty of this island. Like the adorable old fellow with no teeth and loosely hanging chocolate brown skin that has seen so many days and nights of life, herding the ducks so attentively from rice paddy to rice paddy. I just love him. I just love the totality of attention that he gives to his task. I love too, that since the bombings here, the Balinese people very much took it to heart and changed their ways toward Foreigners visiting their home. Yes, they are persistent in their call to get your dollars, reasonably or unreasonably, but they are less aggressive about it now. Instead, the good ones start to make friends with you, a kind of bond is created just by virtue of seeing each other and recognizing that, they want your business. And you have already acknowledged that they want your business and, that you do not need their services – but “it is good to see you.” Yes,  I too am glad to see you!

I want to write about the sculpture and paintings, the pagan-like version of Hinduism they behold. I want to write about their dances and costumes, their superstitions and search if I can to find their true mystic practices. I want to write about their very appealing architecture, brick and thatch and tile and stone and wood – very attractive to the eyes and harmonious with the land and communities. I want to write about the barking dogs that don’t bite and roosters and white parrots and geckos and banyan trees and monkeys and living compounds. I want to write about what it feels like to be a middle-age woman visiting here alone during menopause.

I want to write about the warm humid days that feel exactly the same as that of making love with a totality and passion which happens only when two people really love each other, people who deeply long for each other, that wonderful gift of fluids releasing in every gland and pore of the body, like rain clouds showering, nourishing the celebration of consummated love.

I want to write about riding a motor bike for the first time in Asia and getting the knack of “left side” and the chaotic but harmonious flow of traffic. I want to write about the great food and the crappy food, the many stalls selling junk and the search for true things of beauty. I want to write about how much work it takes to get out of the grip of the tourist traps and into the real Bali – which does very much include the constant visitation of foreigners. 

I want to write about Howard and Loren, a good California middle-age couple, their life stories so very interesting. I want to write about how much I appreciate the keen intelligence I find in so many well-traveled Californians. I want to write about how this couple has bonded not just in love, but in the mutual hurt and resentment from their previous marriages. I want to write about how much spending time with them made me realize how broken so many of the so-called successful relationships are in America, in fact, how broken the Heart of America itself is....

From the initial slaughter of our indigenous people to the influx of immigrants fleeing oppression, leaving family and uprooting themselves for the promise of freedom and prosperity. And the slave labor, the cruelty given such a spirited people that made prosperity possible to the few with money.  I want to write about the heart of America and the brave and truly remarkable documents, the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights "of the people, by the people and for the people - with liberty and justice for all. What a truly revolutionary and noble idea.

I want to write about the strong sentiment so prevalent in the American society that if we can just go ‘back’ to some kind of tradition of ‘family value’ we will all be ok. I want to write about how much that is not working and will not work. I want to write about how much the great experiment of America needs to flow like a river, forward, not backward, into the uncharted, respecting all that has occurred, all the horrors and beauties, letting the power of the current of evolving consciousness shape us benevolently.
I want to write about how much human beings fight against the isness of things with our fear and arrogance. 

I want to write about the very poignant statement from Loren declaring with the force of the whole painful broken history in the story of evolution, that “Love does not conquer all!” I want to write about how I could not say to her "that it is true. Love does not conquer. Love embraces all".

I pray that we, as a species can find our way through our ignorance and prejudices to someday actualize the vision set-forth in the magnificent treatise declaring freedom and justice for all. I pray that the light of consciousness and compassion gets that bright!

I don’t know how much detail I will be able to bring to all these things that have found my attention. But I will give what I have and let it all whirl around in my heart until some of this that I love shapes itself into words.

Ubud, Bali, December 2, 2007

Still feeling the inertia. I have been doing very little here in Bali, just floating through my days, taking things in and feeling the now-ness of my person and existence, very much feeling the significant change that these menopausal years are bringing. I really have no desire or impulse to do much. So with this as the inner current, I have been letting each day unfold the way it comes. Bali is not easy to get around in unless you want to spend lots of money paying drivers or getting stuck in the tourist fuss - and I have no feeling to do either. Since I rented the place for the whole time, I am just enjoying the small things of life, being in the village, reading, meditating, watching all the episodes and habits of my life come and go, playing around with people now and then, swimming in the pool and in general demanding nothing of myself, which also reveals how much I do demand of myself! I went to a cremation ceremony a couple of days ago. It was a great experience. I've got pictures that show some of the spirit, place and people. 

Tomorrow I may hire a driver and go to the other side of the island, Lovina, where there are some hot springs and beaches to explore. Along the way there is a park and botanical gardens and a series of mountains and lakes that I would like to see/feel. Other than that, I will shop a bit for some new summer clothes for OZ and go see with Bhagwati and Anatto in Denpesar. I fly off to Australia December 11th just after midnight.

End of travel journal for now - updated as the writing muses allow.
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Spring & Summer, 2008 Announcements

Beloved Friends...Maniko will be facilitating two upcoming workshops and a special Friday evening 'open-to-all' Concert/Workshop on May 2, Redwood City California. Please join us:

May 2-4, Redwood City, CA
The Diamond Voice
A Voice & Movement Meditation Intensive
with Lori Smullin

A Festival of Being
PrayerSongs, Poetry & Movement
May 17 Daylong, Nevada City, CA
To register: (530) 477-7757 or michael@welloflight.com

And the 5th Annual Solstice Singing Sangha Meditation & Creativity Retreat extended to 10-Days in beautiful Nevada City, CA, June 13-22 Enrollment is limited so please register early to ensure your space and take advantage of the great discount.
This retreat encompasses the meditative cycles of the Song, Silence and Soul Sanctuary as well as the creative and devotional dimensions of the Singing Sangha.

Questions or for more info call Sahaba 415-883-8850
To Register
Camping accommodation included in tuition. $995 by April 10, $1,285 thereafter.

SINGING SANGHA: Taking Refuge
The Heart & Soul of Devotional Singing & Invocation
“The singing heart, the dancing heart, the loving heart is ready to receive god... One who loves is loved by the whole existence. Existence only echoes us from all directions, from all dimensions. When we sing a beautiful song, the song comes back to us a thousand fold more beautiful, it showers back upon us... Just as a river dissolves into the ocean, dissolve into the divine.” - Osho

The word 'Sangha' is a Sanskrit word meaning a community of seekers who gather together to enter into or take refuge in the Awakened Consciousness. Ours is a Singing Sangha - the singing Path of the Heart

The Solstice Retreat is a richly aesthetic, embodied heart-to-heart Communion with your Divine Nature. During our journey together we will be opening our voices, singing chants and mantras, as well as sitting in silence, using the whole body in moving meditations, listening and connecting deeply to our own essential nature - creating songs, poems and prayers from the inside out. There is something indescribably powerful, beautiful and transforming beyond words in the gathering of intimates on a meditative path of loving silence, dance, song in celebration and connection with our Essential Nature.

The Solstice Retreat a closed, residential (camplng in the lovely Sierra Foothills) retreat to honor, nurture and protect the intimacy, depth and unfolding of each person's process. This protected environment also allows the space to dissolve and heal any issues or patterns that arise which may block the flow of your voice and the expression of the Truth of your Heart.

Please reserve your space early, as space is limited.
Previous meditation experience necessary.

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"The Singing Sangha with Maniko was like stepping onto a bullet train that led directly to the center of my heart. What followed in exploring this territory was an experience of total immersion in a sea of timeless unconditional love, joy and a connection. Through the vehicle of devotional singing in this sangha, I was carried into the discovery of my own unique voice in song.
Maniko created and held the space for the group with brilliantly precise insight and a deeply loving grace that brought each person forward more fully into themselves, each in their own unique way. The spiritually expansive quality of our sangha grew exponentially with each successive meeting. Maniko's ability to hone in on the places that needed healing in each person is extraordinary. It was incredibly moving to witness.
For myself, years of stress and blocks around singing & performance-related issues were radically transformed in 8 short weeks. This unburdening freed up a tremendous amount of energy that I am happily utilizing in many areas of my  life." -

Sarah Kennon, Artist, Designer, Business Consultant

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Maniko's workshops and concerts open the gates for new and deeper creative energy to flow. Her loving soul and wise heart create a true sacred space where my spirit, mind and body discover hidden insights and freedom for the next steps in the unfolding mystery of my life.
Anthony Lawlor, Architect & Author

Read unedited what other participants have to say

In their words...

"Maniko - It's hard to express in words the depth of my appreciation and gratitude for this weekends Soul Sanctuary.  It was quite simply the best retreat I've ever attended in my many years of the path. And you, my friend, are a master! "~
Tom Callanan, Program Director, Fetzer Institute

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From our Singing Sangha message board:
Hello Everyone!
The energy of our Singing Sangha was so lovingly, palpable, and served a magnificent healing for our friend, Rajyo who is healing from cancer.  Maniko -  thank you for your seemless leadership, for presencing true generosity & for infusing our lives and communities with so much love, joy and power. ~ And Thank you all of my Sangha mates, for such a deep, intimate, rich and growth-filled ride. I am grateful to each and everyone of you for sharing your love and the essence of who you are so fully.  My heart has been forever touched by your love and beauty. -
Avida Pappas, Fashion Consultant, Dancer, Songstress & Divine Conspirator

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"I started out wondering if I were in the correct workshop… I didn’t sing, I didn’t meditate, I didn’t dance or move a whole lot, I didn't particularly like the idea of being in silence (I wanted sharing over a glass of wine every evening).
The Soul Sanctuary weekend brought me out of myeself; it brought me in front of myself; it brought me in front of others. It opened my heart in ways I am still grappling with. It was a space where I could be both vulnerable and strong. I spoke and I listened...to others and myself. It was a weekend about love. I went back for more 3 months later. And I'm about to do it again!" ~
George DeAlth, Artisan, Furniture Maker & Father 

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Very Dear Maniko-
Just wanted to take a moment to express my love, admiration, and appreciation for the work we do in our Singing Sangha. 
Your generous commitment to soul is such an example I aspire to.  Bless you, bless you. This blossoming of remembrance means everything to me, Maniko.  I am deeply grateful.  Thank you for being my teacher and thank you for your devotion to love in all of its mischievous expressions.   I am deeply touched by your seeing me (and all of our Sangha members) so clearly.  I love you with a heart that's remembering wholeness,
Yasha Carus – Psychotherapist, Healing Ritual Artist

PS- I am Post-gathering drama free! I'm at peace with "my" shining. still cooking in me.  I'm feeling really blessed that I stayed, and allowed in the richness of our sangha and the depths of our offering.   What great medicine!

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Dear Maniko,

 I was at  your Kalamazoo "Soul Sanctuary" weekend. I wanted to say to you again... THANK YOU!  I've had many healing experiences for which I am thankful, bringing me more and more alive in my conscious responding to the Holy... but what happened with you that weekend was one of the most powerful experiences I have ever had.  Maybe I was just ready, but...  Ah!... so amazing and healing, truthful and freeing, joyfully beginning to get to know my Soul again through dance and song and art and the healing presence of others, and your sensitive, spunky, compassionate, wise guidance!  Thank you...  The joy of facing and integrating the scattered (often frightened) parts of myself has been a continuing (and amazing) journey this winter.  (O, the healing, truthful, and empowering dreams!  Invitation upon deeper invitation to live courageously, to be loved, to claim with courage who I really am in this Love, despite the woundings of this weary, but beautiful and holy world!  Wow!  For the first time in my life with newly alive joy I am singing, "I celebrate myself, singing the world alive...!")  Okay. I'll control my enthusiasm before I go on for pages and pages!  But... thank you for saying 'yes' to your "Call" that touches so many.  I spontaneously smile with thanks when I think of you. Peace to you in this rich, numinous season of darkness and dreams, renewal and wonder. ~
Marcia Smith-Wood, Pastor & Counselor  

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Thanks so much Maniko ~The whole thing was/is awesome, our Singing Sangha. Thank you for your wonderful and skillful guidance and presence. What a gift you are! –
Anudeva Stevens, pharmacist, meditation facilitator, singer-songwriter

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Dear Maniko,
 
Thank you for a truly amazing weekend.  You are so capable, so present and so beautiful.  You cast a wide container and I felt permission to go however far I wanted to go.  I felt very loved by you and felt the most trusting I've ever felt with a group.  This amazing group process helped me to trust my own process also.   
 
Things are moving for me.  I was able to take charge of my classes when the teacher was out ill on Wednesday.  He told the substitute to let me run the classes and the kids listened to me! That floored me.  And I would love to do some private voice work with you, Maniko, to keep the channels open! Thank you so.
-  Lillian Tereszkiewicz, Teacher, Artist

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This weekend was one of the most meaningful and deep experiences I have had at a workshop.  The combination of meditation, movement, voice and reflection were the perfect blend for me to open to a part of myself that is magical.  It has motivated me to continue the sitting, walking and moving meditation as a group, which is something I have wanted to do for a long time.  I was also very pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoyed the weekend with silence, and was amazed at how close I grew to people even though we didn't spend much time conversing.  In my silence, I enjoyed every bite of my meal, I kept my energy circling around me rather than blatting out to everyone else and I cherished the time I had to be with my thoughts and enjoy silence. 
Julie Sharp, Mother & Transformational Artist

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Maniko is an exceptional being with rare clarity.  She is wonderfully juicy, incredibly alive! I see her twice a month for Voice and Self-Expression coaching and I have participated in several of her workshops. Truth is, she is really an undercover spiritual teacher and a healer of impeccable integrity, AND an amazing coach for creativity, voice and self-expression, as well. I've been doing wonderful soul inspired work with her since March and I credit her with bringing forth my very deeply buried and most beloved treasure, my holy heart.  ~
D.C. – Counselor & Poet

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What I found most useful and rich about the weekend with Maniko was the dance of going deeply within during the practices of meditation and then coming back out and being intimately with others during the periods of dancing and sharing as a group.  What it made me realize is the awkwardness I sometimes feel in transitioning between these two aspects of life and the difficulty I can feel in translating one world into the other world (i.e., my "inner world" and my experience being with others in the "outer world").  I have felt more ease with this as a result of the workshop.  Also, I found Maniko to be extremely skillful in her facilitation of the workshop! ~
Karen Horneffer – Director, Holistic Health Care Program at Western Michigan University

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"Maniko'a Soul Sanctuary workshops have brought me in touch with such an incredibly grounded and balanced heart opening. The learning is so holistic and real that it’s allowed me to integrate the experience of Truth into my daily life.  I couldn't wish for more." ~
Pam D. Michigan, Movement & Meditation Instructor

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Maniko,
Thank you for your gentle teachings this week end; the quality of my teaching voice was so pleasure-full on Monday night when teaching my class.  I had so much more awareness of the entire environment. I am looking forward to private sessions with you. ~
Stacey Dreizler. physical therapist, movement facilitator

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“Maniko is a truly gifted teacher. My creative life has come alive since working with her and is enriching every aspect of my world.”
Clare Wood, Psychotherapist, San Rafael CA

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Thank you so much , my heart is still so open, my soul keeps singing and my feet are always dancing...I went into a new part of Folsom prison Monday night and met a new group of men to start a new program....it just flowed and opened and I was so happy as were they for the opportunity arising in front of us...all week my work seems to be coming from a new place...thank you.
On the topic of the corporate level of spiritual awareness you said there were a couple of books you wanted to recommend and we never got to that...an Enneagram book and a Sufi book.  Can you give me their titles?
Here is my Poem/Prayer from this weekends retreat:

I am my body
Mourning, yearning, dancing
I am my heart
Mourning, yearning, singing
I am by soul
Mourning, yearning, praying
I am my spirit
Guiding my walk over treacherous waters

I am my prayer
That my heart,
    God's heart,
    our heart
Will shatter, shatter, shatter
Shards of love piercing, piercing, piercing
Piercing all the mourning
Piercing all the despair
Piercing all the hopelessness
Piercing all the vengeful

Piercing love
Shattering love
Becoming love.

Yours in the flow,
Judy Tretheway, Pastor & Counselor, California Corrections Facilities

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Beloved Maniko, 
It's been six years ago now, since I came to work with you believing that I could not sing. I came with a shaky but true readiness to face one of my worst fears, to sing in front of others.  I can sing now! After 50 years of thinking I can't, it feels like a miracle.  I remember the first song you taught me, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine," the perfect song for me.  Since then you've helped me to give shape, rhythm and melody to my own songs which I have lived, growing into each of them as part of my path, as lights o nmy path.  You've helped me to come closer to Osho.  
 
Thank you for your loving, patient guidance, allowing me to re-enter difficult places that have taken away my voice and my true authority.  It has been quite a compassion practice and an incredible healing.  Part of the miracle is that it's all right to risk opening my mouth, my voice, all right if I don't get it perfectly the first time!  You made it possible through your presence and your own compassion, seeing the potential in me and in each of us in our groups,  I remember how much peace I felt from my experience in our Singing Sangha and the Soul Sanctuary just before my surgery for breast cancer, how carried I was by so much love.  Your devotion helps me to recognize the gift of all that is.  
 
Ya Jamil, grace and beauty, listening to my heart, divine friend, Maniko, I love you.   
P.S.  I want to say how much fun it's been as well!  You know how much I love to play. Connecting with this last All Soul's Daylong was very special:  "I am this child, the sun in my belly, the earth at my feet, hearts all over me!  Come play with me!"  
Sahaba Marks, Elementary Teacher, Writer, Expressive Arts Facilitator

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Dear Maniko, 
Thank you for the exquisite weekend.  I got so much out of being with you and know that it was a true privilege to be able to attend.  I understand more about myself because of my experience that weekend. Simply put, I long for the freedom to be me.  The pain of running into the blocks inside myself is evident and has been paralyzing in my life. 

I do want to hold the perspective that my sensitivity is a gift. Through dance and other physical activities I am learning how to ground myself without shutting off my connection to "the oneness". Thank you for recognizing this in me and calling it to my attention in such a clear way. Thank you from my heart for being an instrument on my path to greater peace.  You are a beautiful soul. ~
Phyllis Kunin (my Sufi name is Ruhiya)
OK, here's my poem: 

The pulse of my body is powerful, holy, present, my own.
An expression of the oneness. 

The song of my heart is ishq, the divine longing, my true being,
passionate, mournful, harmonic, resonant with the wind.
An expression of the oneness. 

The mirror of my mind is a reflection of my true mind.
An expression of the oneness. 
The essence of my soul is spicy, woody, and rich.
An expression of the oneness. 

The light of my spirit is bright and wide - extending upwards and outwards.
An expression of the oneness. 

May the richness and healing of love overcome the density of fear and confusion.
May the richness and healing of love overcome the density of fear and confusion.

An expression of the oneness.

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Beloved Maniko,
How to say anything about this Soul Sanctuary Retreat weekend? The sensation of falling together without effort and having it gently stay with me for these days since returning to the outer activities. Feeling the difference in myself, seeing others with more compassion, clarity, less distorted by my dramas.  Recognizing a fragility and need to nurture this gentle newness with a discipline sustained from gratitude.
The astounding constellations, unique and universal, with you dancing around and between, compassion seeing, facilitating movement. 
Words, spoken and in song, and in silence, bringing clarity when I can hear them and
deepening in their significance on and on.
Your helping me to move out of inertia, demonstrating the way out. 
The dance and music enhancing,  reflecting,  pointing,  releasing

"It's total devotion”

 each unique person respected

trusting     emptying

         splitting

spontaneous initiation

…….unfreezing, the flow.

Maniko,    gratitude

   joyous laughter and love .....
 Martha  Urmila Chamberlin ~ General Motors Corp., Management

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I am so happy here in Vancouver, in this Now, finally! Amazing. This Solstice, Soul Sanctuary has been a wonderful gift to my life!!! I am glowing with the love of darkness and light, and rejoicing in my longing. I feel so blessed to have been held in the gorgeous field that was manifested for us all by us all (especailly you Maniko) THANK YOU! 
Love, love love,
Chandra Krown – Dancer, Producer, Mother, Singer-Songwriter

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Beloved Maniko
I bow down to that which guides your light Maniko. Thank you. There are no words to say what you have done for me. And from the depth of my struggle I have arisen with a very, very fierce energy. A powerful healing love. I know you know this, but I need to spell it out to you, for my own sake, again: What happened today in our Singing Sangha community offering was a major event in my life. Everything has come full circle, the resolution has happened, my past life metaphor has resolved in the most beautiful way.  I don't understand it all yet, but I know it is very, very deep.

…..one year later:
I am thinking of you and wanting to tell you, how much I feel that the work we did last year was a preparation for being able to move into my true calling in my new home on Maui. Everything I learned comes in handy now. This is a small community and to start out with good relations, and to celebrate and nurture relationships in an auspicious way is important, here, because there is nowhere to get away! This is it. I love applying what I learned, the aloneness and the wise togetherness. The songs are with me as guides and blessings, and the memories of the times with you are blossoming more and more, the seeds you planted in me sprouting into full blown flowers and trees and gardens. I can’t believe how much I changed with your help. I feel blessed. Life is so much easier without the old baggage I still carried and had not known how to let go of without your teaching. Thank you again for your wonderful, dedicated midwife skills. May many blessings shower onto you! I feel very grateful to you for the work we did…I am so much more loving and present in difficult situations with people . I bow to you in deep gratitude once again. You have given me so much. Every day I remind myself of the key things I learned from you, that are making my life so dramatically different, easier, more fun, more possible, more creative and connected. –
Hanna Hammerli, Polarity Therapist, Visual Artist, Trainer, Songwriter

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Maniko - You have been such a loving guide on my musical journey. Thank you.
Sarah Davis, Model, Mother, Singer-Songwriter 

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Dearest Magical Maniko,
Ahhh… I dive into this well of words to pick and chose the ones that claim, hold and best carry the flavor and feelings and experiences that have stirred in me, through meeting you, discovering you and your skills... from my being welcomed, and entering, your vast temple of song... and just being in your presence... as you teach and guide me and others through the illusions that have limited some of us 'want-to-be'-free singers.

The truth is, your presence cracked my heart open in a such a fast split second there was no time for resistance in me.  By the time I had noticed, it was done.  Meeting you opened my view to a whole new world... and a whole new world opened up in me... for this alone, I have intense and deep gratitude.   

I have not known what it is like to work directly with a spiritual guide and I can only guess that what happened to you with Osho, many years ago, has happened to some degree with me.  "...every particle of my being is in love!"   

I have fallen deeper in love with life, my life, my self, and with everyone I see and know... because I am freer to love.  I am have been given DEVOTIONAL FREEDOM!  by participating in the Singing Sangha.  I have been gifted with permission to sing out with praise at any moment for the beauty, the joy, and the intensity of this life.   

One of the big surprises for me in the Singing Sangha was the gift of other peoples songs that rang so true to my own heart.  Now they too live in me and come to my ears at interesting times... clear as a bell, and I sing them when they come, so I rekindle that love and connection to the hearts and souls that share this resonance... WITH ME!   I AM NOT ALONE!!!!  And truly, deeply knowing this, is a huge gift! A secret spine tingling gift:  I am NOT apart from the rest!!!!  I AM HOME!

Once I had started to work with you everything began to change in ways I could not imagine were possible before.  Once I had made some significant progress in the direction of unfolding the issues that tied my voice in knots, things that were hard in my life began to shift as well.  A certain freedom of expression began to blossom, and a playful unfettered attitude about who I am began to delightfully emerge.  I began to effortlessly be who I have always dreamed of being, confident and at ease with how ever I am at any moment.  I have learned over the years to partially love myself. That is, I was great at loving the parts of myself I already liked.  I was not so accepting of the parts I did not care to have a part of me. In the Singing Sangha, I began to be with myself in a new way, and I found myself being at ease with the whole; my whole-self and the whole bigger picture.  I relaxed in my life as I was learning to relax my voice enough to let the song of my heart out.  My soul began to have free expression through song in front of others, as I was more able to do that so was I able to be/feel that in my life.

As I birthed my song, I passed through a vortex of energy that I thought I would never be able to navigate. With your gentle loving guidance, I made it through a portal that threatened to keep me confined forever. And when I collapsed in fear and my voice contracted to a sound I never want to make... and pathetic squeaky pained whimpery whine... I also discovered: I did not die from it (or feel humiliation about it)... and with the support of you and the group, I was able to make some sound, and find out that my voice was hiding behind a minute and a half of what felt like an eternity of hell with it. My singing (or making sound) carried me through the contracted small vortex to the other side where I no longer see it as a lifetime of pain cutting my self expression off at my neck... not letting me or anything by.  It is a habitual tendency... a somatic pattern that has been broken at least a dozen times since the first time in our sangha.  And once it was opened the first time by my using my voice... I KNEW I could access my voice: by using it and aiming beyond the pinched place to full rich sound.  All I had to do was make the sound and tolerate it not sounding to my liking for a bit before the tones and resonance helped heal the urge to contract.  The tones helped heal the contraction in my heart as well, by letting the pain in me out through sound.... which, just as in a composition, one movement opened the door and allowed for a new movement to happen. And so I have been experiencing huge movements of energy and sound and tons of incredible healing, and lots of love and community to support me on my path of healing.

In working with you, and witnessing your talents and skills and finesse in helping others find their songs, develop their songs; and your guiding them to sing truthfully from deep within, I have an infinite bow from me – from all – from lifetimes ago... to you and for the gift you offer us.  Reverence and bliss all tide into one sweet package.–
Erin Castelan, Visual Artist, Yoga Teacher & Body Therapist - And Now Singer Songwriter!
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Dear Maniko
What a soul you are, what a woman you are, what an artist. What a great experience of life I am having with you as my teacher, my coach and friend! Thank you for helping me bring out the call to action I have hidden inside me all my life. I am reeking with confidence, and I am ready to risk everything for the expression of this call. I know my synapses are getting a thorough and long needed overhaul!  
Thank You, Maniko. –
Robert Gurley, Builder, Father, Songwriter 

June Concert and Daylong is Cancelled.
Maniko will be in the recording studio. Stay tuned for her upcoming CD!

A Taste of the Dimensions of Voice & Self-Expression
Concert & Daylong Workshops - Friday Evening & All Day Saturday
May 4th Concert, May 5th Daylong and June 1st Concert, June 2nd Daylong
Marin County, California–directions & details will be sent upon workshop registration
Tuition $125, Concerts are FREE! for Daylong Participants
Concerts are open to all $20 at the door. Call 415-457-8787
Get Concert directions

May
June
May and June for $220

Daylong Workshops are limited to 16 participants.
Please register now to hold your space.
Open to everyone at any level of experience or inexperience – using the vehicles of song, movement, poetry and meditation to nurture wholeness, creativity and expressive freedom. Expect an enlightening day of fun, challenge, learning, creative surprises and heartfelt connection. We finish our day together with a short individual performance or prayer offering (optional) from each participant. Workshop includes Maniko's coaching and if wanted, participants helpful feedback. The daylong workshops are a great way to give yourself a whole person “tune-up”, joyously reconnecting with your creative self and others. For more info see workshops 415-460-6960 



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