Tag Archives: Black Forest

Words of Wisdom

6 Jan

Mmmm… content in the warmth of my room tonight in Wettenbostel.  The wind is blowing outside.  A little rough.  Some wind.  Some rain.  A door blown open now and then.  It is about 7:30pm, or should I say 19:30… and it is a time when generally and lately I have been at the Seminar Haus by myself.  The grounds itself are fairly big… enough to feel a little separate from the booming metropolis of Wettenbostel.. population I think 60 or something like that.  The wind blew in my hosts this evening with a little food.  Always a delight to see… my hosts… and the nourishment of course.  Some food for me.  Some food for our groups that is arriving sometime tomorrow evening.  I am told the group this weekend is a young Christian group… young as in 20 somethings.  A little different from the tone of seminars since I have been here… often intense groups and subjects.  Generally middle-aged and above diving through issues in Gestalt or couples therapy.  Sometimes yoga groups and then of course the is the Tantra group….but that is another story.  So this weekend should be a different tone from past seminars.

Tonight has been a pretty chill night.  My household chores are done and I have spent a little time musing on my computer.  I watched a little video on Ted.com by author Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the book Eat, Pray, Love.  I like her.  There is something about her as a writer, as a woman, that I find comforting.  Her presentation was on creativity.  It invited me in to consider… my own creativity.  And after that, I did a little chanting.  You know, my standard nam-myoho-regne-kyo plus the daily practice of reciting the Lotus Sutra.  These chants are the cornerstone of the practice of Nichiren Buddhism.

I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism a little over a year ago by a friend, Lilly, who I know through my New Orleans Reiki group.  And then I was invited to their New Years 2010 celebration by my friend and Reiki Master, Elizabeth Ohmer Pellegrin.  It was an afternoon celebration of Nicherin Buddhism, chanting, and a wonderful, warm and social buffet lunch afterwards.  It is then I learned that Elizabeth had become a member and received what is called her Gohonzon, a scroll with Chinese and Sanscrit characters on it and the object of devotion in the practice.  She said she felt pulled to become a member and accept the Gohonzon.  She added that it gave her a breakthrough in her life in an area where she had been stuck for years.  Really, I thought.  “Should I do it?” I asked her. Wide-eyed, she nodded yes.  Ready to jump in, I leapt ahead and made an agreement to become a member of SGI on New Years day 2011 and within weeks I received my Gohonzon.

I received a book with the Lotus Sutra and a practice CD and quickly began to learn to chant the Sutra.  It was fun and I enjoyed having some place to put my attention, devotion and energy on a daily basis.  Lilly, a long-time Buddhist, was thrilled and an avid supporter.  She and her husband updated an alter they had for my Gohonzon and in a whirl of energy they delivered it to my home and prepared me for my practice.

I was encouraged to chant for what I wanted and situations I wanted to change in my life.  At the time I was selling gourmet mushrooms at the local farmers market in New Orleans.  “Chant for your mushroom sales, ” Lilly said. “I guarantee they will grow!”  So sure, I did it… and I have to say… that my mushroom sales went up.  In fact the doubled from what I was selling at the time.  So I kept chanting.

Mostly I was chanting for my healing.  My moving through my “whatever it is” that has been challenging me… most notably since my senior year in college.  Healing from life after ten years of the anti-depressent Paxil, the challenges of life after the drug, and the I wasn’t so sure that was troubling me beneath the surface.  So I chanted for that.  And chanted.  And I still chant for that.

Months after becoming a member everything in my life shifted and left me racing to find my bearings.  So many changes all at once…which opened the door for me to leave New Orleans and visit for a while here in Germany.  So I leapt.  I leapt in a space of enthusiasm and joy.  And I leapt in a space of uncertainty and discomfort in the face of the many challenges I still felt with myself.

I chanted for specific things as I prepared for my journey to Germany, piecing it together on virtually no budget and  a “wing and a prayer”.  I had bought a ticket to London through an online sale.  From there I needed to make arrangements to travel to Germany… and I wanted a place to stay in London for the night before I headed out on the next limb of my travel.  So I began to chant.  Chant specifically… for a free place to stay in London.  Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.  And with Lilly’s insistence, I didn’t give up.  Didn’t give up as the trip was nearing just weeks away and still no place to stay.

And then it happened.  It was a Monday night and I was heading to the Tulane University campus for a Landmark Education seminar.  I was “assisting” or helping out with the seminar.  On my way in, I saw a familiar face in a unfamiliar environment.  He was a seminar leader who lived in Austin, TX.  I knew him from my time living there and participating in Landmark Seminars post-Hurricane Katrina.  I did a double take and confirmed it was him and learned that he and a few other folks were visiting the seminar from Austin.

I arrived in the seminar room and greeted my friend and  “boss” for the evening who was leading the logistics for the seminar.  She knew about my upcoming travels and desire for a place to stay in London.  “You know” she said, referring to my friend and seminar leader from Austin, ” his mom lives in London and she hosts people sometimes when they come to town…”  What?!  I thought.  No way.  You have got to be kidding me!  I was so amazed and delighted and the wildness of events coming together… and my possible relief at fitting another piece of the details of my “miracle” journey… that is how to go to Europe with virtually no money. Later that night he and I chatted and with a little good fortune, we were able to arrange for me to stay with his mom for the night in London.  I was glad to offer her and her husband a little Reiki in gratitude.  And, as it turns out, his mom had practiced Nichiren Buddhism for about 15 years herself.  Interesting…

Nichiren Buddhism has been a lovely segment of my time here in Europe so far.  It is an international organization with groups that meet in villages, cities and towns all over the world.  Here in Wettenbostel, I have connected with an SGI group in Hamburg.  I have met many people there, visited with them and chanted with them in their homes.  I also have connected with Nichiren Buddhists closer to Wettenbostel in near-bye Lüneburg.

While visiting the Black Forest I was able to connect with two SGI different groups.  One in the lovely city of Karlsruhe and the other, an intimate gathering at a home in a village not far from Karlsruhe.  Both places brought me a little… I don’t know… peace.  There was something in me that just felt at ease… much-needed respites on my journeys.  Some care, some comfort and hospitality.  And the comfort of community… no matter where I am in the world.

So I continue to chant.  I chant for my healing, my life and my journey.  I chant for my friends and my family.  In this Buddhism they say the most important thing is to be happy.  And that is why we chant.  And I am learning from my time and practice that being happy isn’t about blissfully eating bonbons on a cloud.  It is meeting the challenges of my life as the unfold, doing my best to take responsibility for them, and continuing to move forward in my life and face them.  And not ever giving up.  So I chant, I chant for courage to face the challenges and discomfort with myself and my life.  I chant for healing.  I chant for inspiration.  I chant for love.  Ah, it is so good.  Nam-myoho-renge kyo, which literally means “I devote myself to the Lous Sutra.”  For me, true words of wisdom.


22 Dec

It has been a juicy few days here in the Black Forest.  A good balance of new experiences, and some of the comfort of home.  The hills of the Black Forest are greeting me from my window.  The sleet and rain tempting me to stay warm and comfortable inside.

I am coming to my last few days in the Black Forest with Michael and Imke.  Changes always met with mixed emotions.  Yesterday their daughter Skadi gave me an art project she made, a hedgehog called in German “igel” (pronounce eagle!).  It is little things that I notice and I am grateful for.  It has been nice to be surrounded by the warmth and, well, the reality of a family.  Michael and Imke have shown me that life can be simple… even with responsibilities.  Even in the midst of the chaos of having a family and small children.  And they have shared their experiences, their “german-ness”, and their interests generously and lovingly with me.

Here is a little snippet of German culture I learned yesterday… Michael got a haircut… and I asked Imke… “did Michael get a haircut?”  “Yes,” she said.  And added, “In germany, when someone asks if you got a haircut, you respond..’no, I fell down the stairs…!”  What?.. Now, I can’t say that I exactly “get it” , but I like it.  Shortly after I arrived at their home, I used the statement, “That is not my cup of tea..” and Michael offered that in Germany instead they say “that is not my beer..”  Okay, sure.  Why not? And it continues…

Yesterday I took a long stroll again through the near-by path in the valley of the Black Forest in Hilpartsau.  A recent discovery with the direction of Imke.  I was just amazed taking in the beauty… so different from the nature and landscape of Louisiana.  Strong, powerful streams, hills flooded with trees… and these great big… birds!  I first spotted one on the top of the building.  It was there, larger than life, unmoving and I thought… Is that real?  I stopped, and watched, and then… it moved!  Big beautiful bird.  It looked similar to birds I have seen in Louisiana, but bigger, and well… different.  There was a man heading up the path way and I stopped him asking… of course, “do you speak English?”  He nodded and then spoke in a friendly way, but mostly in German!  He offered the name of the bird, “reiher” he said.  I learned later that in English this means heron and it was a grey heron, popular in this area.  I repeated trying to mimic his expression.  And from there on, he became my guide through the woods.

Listening to someone who does not speak the same language as you takes a lot of attention.  He was very friendly and willing to communicate with me using expressions and acting out and pointing when necessary.  He had a few English words in his vocabulary, and I had a few German words in mind so between the two of us we communicated… perhaps!  There was just a small moment when he was speaking in German that I actually understood what he said.  I could pick out the few words that I knew and fill in the blank.  I felt, a little… successful!  But beyond that it was often just unknown to me.

We came to the end of the trail in the next village… a point where all I knew was to turn around and go back.  As a good guide he insisted I follow him and we headed into town just a little bit, then up some stairs and headed towards the hills heading back towards Hilpartsau where  we came from, but from a different view.  I loved walking amongst the hills and was surprised to find that the sometimes silence walking with this stranger was not uncomfortable.  We went to a spot that had a lovely view of the next town and then he showed me the trails in the dirt from the wild pigs that come out at night.  And then, eventually, when we returned to almost home we smiled and parted ways.  “Next time” he added in German and through demonstrating with his hands  “we need to bring an English/German dictionary!”

The night before I found myself basking in the welcoming hospitality of  Beate and Lefteri who live in a village not far from Hilpartsau.  They are a  German couple, Lefteri of Greek heritage, and members of SGI, a Buddhist organization of which I am a member.  I called them through a contact of a friend of a friend.  Originally I left a message on their answering machine in slow spoken English, hopeful there was an English speaker on the other side.  Later that day I received a friendly return phone call, directions and times for the train, and a welcome invitation to their home for the SGI gathering.  I arrived the next day  in the early evening, greeted by Lefteri at the train and was welcomed by their warmth and gentleness at their home.  There was one other member there, Andy, and their two children.  We chanted together and then shared a little personal information about ourselves and our experience with SGI and Buddhism.  We were gathered on the comfy floor surrounded with a fluffy carpeting and a variety of pillows.

They were generous and curious about me and my experiences and lovely in their sharing about themselves and Buddhism.  They spoke English and told about their beginning with chanting and Buddhism.  I was reminded through the conversation the importance of the practice is responsibility for the self and our own lives, no matter what our challenges or experience.  That is why we chant everyday… returning to and connecting with that greater larger self known in Buddhism as “Buddahood”.  We are all powerful, all part of the great whole.

Afterwards, we gathered in the kitchen for a bit and enjoyed some conversation and some good bread, greek cheese, olives and other goodies.  Beate sharing that when they went to Greece to visit family, the parted with a large chunk of Feta…to get them through the winter!  We took time to share a little about our lives, about America and Germany.  Our understandings and experiences.  And then it quickly was time to catch my train.

I returned home to Imke and Michael’s to receive an email from Beate and Lefteri.  A gentle reminder of the connection and time that we had.  A feeling extended like a warm blanket encouraging me as I continue on my journey.

I am almost packed for my departure from Hilpartsau.  Still secretly hoping that I get into the Vipassana retreat that starts tomorrow… I am on a waiting list and have been holding out making plans in hopes that a list minute opportunity comes my way.  But one way or the other, either the retreat or return to Wettenbostel, it seems I will be leaving tomorrow.  The bittersweetness of good time spent and the interest of new times to come.

The children are bustling downstairs and I imagine Imke is preparing a meal for lunch.  Imke is a great cook.  The food we ate the other day was so good I could almost scream.  “What is it that you put in your food? ” I asked.  She responded, matter of fact, that it’s love.  And its true.  I can feel it and taste it… that”x” factor.. something undefined in the food that invites you in to enjoy it.  And so with that… with the good experiences and good loving, nurturing food I have enjoyed here I find I am … full.  Full as I prepare to leave the Black Forest.  Well fed.  In many ways.


20 Dec

Well, it seems that winter is here in the Black Forest in Southern Germany.  A nice surprise for me after spending many years in the mostly snow-free zone of New Orleans, Louisiana.  I woke up this morning, looked out the window to see the snow coming down, white powder collecting on the roof of Michael’s BMW Wagon.  A big smile crept up from within me… unexpected – a childlike delight at seeing the snow coming down.

It seems that the winter, the cold and the snow are calling for things to slow down a little bit.  The chill in the air and the holidays around the corner are setting the pace.  I am enjoying the simple things of spending time with Imke, Michael and their children.  And I have some time for a little peace and respite on my own in the privacy of their ground floor.  I am noticing little joys here like drinking Black Forest water… native to the area and distributed… free! at the local grocery stores.  When Michael and Imke return from the grocery store, Michael reminds me that it is at its natural temperature… cool and refreshing!  And recently to discover that the Black Forest Chocolate cake I have eaten since I was a kid… is in fact from this area in Germany… the Black Forest.  Of course!

Yesterday I took a nice walk not far from their home… just meters away, a long fresh walk surrounded by the Forest and the hills.  The walk was kind to my New Orleans flat land loving legs… some incline, but modest… yes… kind.  The path was dotted with sculptures… but to me the real beauty was the landscape.  Sometimes I feel like I just need to disappear into the outdoors for a bit… lose myself in something… greater than me.  Surrendering to the outdoors which somehow feels… limitless…

I continue to be of simple assistance here, a little vacuuming, cleaning up after lunch and dinner.  Sometimes at night I indulge myself in watching  videos of the television show House.  A little American escape.  Michael and Imke also watch the show, but when they watch House and his colleagues are speaking German.  Here in Germany most television shows and movies are from other places, with German voices dubbed in.  For the first time the other day, watching House, I had an experience, a thought of United States and American culture being something separate… something other from who I am and where I am… a piece of the puzzle, yes,  but not the whole pie… Previously after so many years of swimming in the big pond of the States, it has seemed like that’s all there was.

I will be here for just a few more days with definite plans of what’s next still to unfold.  I was reminded by my host, Imke, that Winter is a time of things being stagnant, dying off… and then in spring things begin to bloom again. Giving myself permission to surrender and enjoy the slow pace that is presenting itself.  In that spirit, she encouraged me to.. of course… go with the flow.

And in that spirit, I will enjoy my day in the Black Forest surrounded by a little white powder, cool fresh air outside, and a warm fire inside.  Just another day.  In winter in the Black Forest.

In the flow

15 Dec

Here I am… in the Black Forest… in the flow.  I will not be visiting here much longer… and some things are uncertain.  It seems I need to make some plans for what is next, but it also seems that life has a plan of its own.

Yesterday Imke gave me a Craniosacral treatment, a gentle but powerful form of body therapy.  She says that when you give Cranio, you may have a plan of what you might like to do… but the body has its own ideas where it will lead you. During the treatment, paying attention to the flow of my body,  Imke said, “your body is telling me that it has had enough…”  And so it was true.  Last night I found my body just wanting to give in and rest as the desire for sleep and relaxation overtook me.  This morning I woke up and just felt a little … better being me…. in distinct and noticable ways.

So for today, I am happy and content in the Black Forest with Imke and Michael and their children.  And what is next is still uncertain.  I have registered to participate in a ten-day Vipassana Retreat in the Netherlands over the holidays, but am on a waiting list.  Vipassana is a type of meditation.  The retreat is a silent one where you are taught and practice their style of meditation for ten days.  I have been in contact with them… and there is still a possibility that I might attend, there still may be an opening… but I will likely not know until next week.  I am so grateful for the possibility that I may get to go and still wondering, exploring and piecing together my plans.

The past few days in the Black Forest have been… pretty good.  Yes we have had our days of rain and weather, but still moments to sneak out and take in a little bit of the scenery.  A few days ago I headed out on a rainy afternoon, caught the train just steps from their door, and headed a little further into the Black Forest to a small town called Forbach.  With a chill in the air and the threat of rain, the sweet but quiet town was lovely… but beyond that … on this cold day it did not seem to have much to offer this Gypsy English-speaking traveler.  I stopped in a little bakery/coffee shop and grabbed a cup of tea.  I used my very small handful of German words and phrases and then resorted to my… “Do you speak English?”  Alas, here in this small town in the Black Forest… the answer was no.  So I enjoyed my tea.  Attempted to communicate a little using my hands and explanations… but just as I did not speak or understand Germany, they did not understand me.  So I thanked them and chose on the rainy afternoon to leave Forbach and explore a little further.

I went back to the train station and bought a ticket to go further still into a town I was advised to visit by Michael.  It is called Freudenstadt.  I was a bit hesitant of traveling to this destination as the wind and the rain picked up and the early evening sky was coming, but also wanting to get out and explore a little bit more.  So I endured the rain and carried on.  The train ride there is beautiful, even in the rain.  Michael said that this ride is known as on of the most beautiful train rides in Germany.  Surrounded by the hills, going through tunnels and valleys.  And just the feeling of being somewhere out, away from big cities in the open beauty of the Black Forest felt new… to me.

In about a half and hour or so I was in Freudenstadt.  There were three stops from the train that had Freudenstadt in their name… and I was unsure where to get off.  So I used my best judgement and got off at the main train station.  My first thought was, as it was almost 4pm, it was getting darker and the rain and the wind continued… I better figure when the train is returning.  Days earlier there had been a strike on the train line and I wanted to be clear and sure for myself that there was a way back.  I entered the train station and found the information center.  A friendly office with one person in line ahead of me.  Kindly, he offered for me to go ahead of him.  “I am an English speaker” I let him know in a friendly way.  Luckily he understood.  I let him know I was in no hurry and so he went ahead to get his questions answered.  As I was next in line, the employee at the train station asked him to stay and help… as my questions were in English and he did not speak good English…  I asked my basic question about return, was comforted about the availability and regularity of the train and headed out.

While leaving, I asked this friendly German, wearing a hat and bolo tie looking a  like a combination of Indian Jones and an Australian adventurer… of sorts… “If I was to walk around here for a little bit, what would be interesting to see?”…  “Nothing interesting here” he assured me.  He let me know that the next stop back, in the direction where I came from, was where I wanted to go.  He too was headed in that direction and offered to escort me.

Quickly the train arrived and we found our way to the next stop.  Despite the rain, and wind and darkness, the area still felt warm with life.  He pointed the direction to their large market and shopping, the largest in Germany, or… perhaps I would like to join him for a drink.  Hmmm… I thought… and then hesitantly said…” Well, I don’t really drink…”  And then, “sure… okay”.  I joined him just around the corner for a German beer and we talked a bit as he was a good communicator in English.  A little nervous sometimes around unknown men, I found my instinct and intuition assured me he was a nice guy.  After the drink we walked around the center of town lit up with Christmas lights and shopping.  It was beautiful and the coolness of the night air made it feel like Christmas to me.

Next we headed off to another little bar.  We arrived and found a spot at the end of the bar to sit.  After a few minutes of talking, someone said to me…”are you American?”  “Yes I am!”  I said.  “So am I!” she said as we laughed at the chance of meeting at a bar in Freudenstadt.  She was from Georgia. Her mother was German and they had moved to Germany together about 5 years ago.  Much immersed in the culture now with a new life and lips that easily spoke German, I could still feel the familiarity of the States in her presence.  I relaxed my more formal English and enjoyed a few moments of conversation with her.

Shortly after, we headed back to the train station.  My new friend had a 3am wake up call for work and I would return to my shelter in Hilpartsau.  It was great to spend a little time out and connect and receive the generosity and kindness of someone new in the Black Forest.  How interesting that sometimes life just flows you into someone else’s life to spend a little time.  A moment.  An hour or two.

And today, so far a quiet day in Hilpartsau.  A meal soon with Imke and the children.  A little babysitting for me this evening.  And an afternoon with what looks like… another rainy day.  But still,  so grateful for this time… with myself, being here in the Black Forest and the new connections I have made.  All in the flow.

River of the heart

13 Dec

It’s a cool rainy day in the village of Hilpartsau in the Black Forest of Germany.  Just days earlier we were driving up in the heights of the hills, covered with snow.  Now, snug back in the valley surrounded by the dampened green earth and the clouds hiding the winter sun.

Thanks to the generosity of my host, Michael, we took a small adventure or escapade in the hills of the Black Forest on Sunday.  I participate in the programs of a spiritual organization called The Art of Living.  Lead by Indian guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Art of Living hosts a variety of classes designed to reduce stress and connect with our higher or greater self or spirit.  The organization came to New Orleans not long after Hurricane Katrina to be of assistance to those of us living there impacted by the stress and trauma of the storm and life after the Hurricane.  I found my way to one of their classes and learned a technique called the Sudharshan Kriya.  It is a practice I do on my own at home nearly daily and used to do in community in New Orleans. The Art of Living European Center is here in Germany in the Black Hills.  Less than an hour away from here.  I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stop by for a visit.

So with Michael’s willingness and the children packed up in the car happily listening to an audio tape on the Ice age…we were off.  As we ascended the hills the landscape changed from the cool greens of winter in the valley, to hills of pines accented with white fluffy snow.  There were slopes for skiing and the occasional resort hotel.  As the journey continued the landscape became more and more remote.  Counting on the guidance of Michael’s GPS, it finally directed us to turn towards our destination – Bad Antogast.  The turn was likely about a 150 degrees angel and the road was snow-covered, towards the edge of a hill, with no guide rails going down.  Hmmm… unexpected to say the least.  Sensibly Michael chose not to take this route and the GPS adjusted our direction.  A few more turns… a bit more winding descending downhill this time and finally… our destination.  The remote location of Bad Antagast and the Art of Living European Center.

The center was quiet and we arrived just minutes before long Kriya was to begin.  I arrived thinking that perhaps  I could stay for a while and catch a ride home… but after trekking our way through the lonely roads it was apparent that I must stay close to Michael as I would need him to find my way back to Hilpartsau.  He was gracious enough to stay around with the kids for about an hour while I stayed and participated in long Kriya.

Long Kriya is the community version of the shorter Sudharshan Kriya I do everyday.  It is generally led by a teacher of the Art of Living courses.  I was graciously led to the room where it was held, found my place and waited to begin.  It has been probably about two years since I have done the long Kriya and I felt a little clumsy at first.  A series of breaths and hand placements, breathing, long and short, for about an hour and then finally… rest on the back at the end…feeling all the goodness and release of the breathing work completed.  A few minutes given to come back into “the world” and then people began to silently find their way out of the room.  I went back downstairs to find Michael and the kids by the fire seeming pretty happy.  We grabbed an apple to eat and then… we were off!  The quick but good adventure to Bad Antagast to visit the European Center.

At dinner the other night we chatted a little bit about Mardi Gras, in Germany called “Fasching”  After spending 13 years in New Orleans,  I was surprised and impressed to hear that Germany too has quite a big celebration as well…weeks of parades and large crowds in costume celebrating and partying.  Michael and Imke mentioned that Cologne’s celebration is a bit more of the extravagant party celebration.  But even here in the quiet village of Hilpartsau there are big celebrations to be seen with traditional wooden masks.  The legend here is that the carnival comes to blow the winter out of the black forest.  Crowds of as much as 100,000 people gather for the celebration… candy and treats being thrown from the floats.

And today, well the rain, wind have cold have suggested that I take it easy today.  I have spent some time reading from a book that Michael and Imke gifted me for St. Nicholas Day.  It is called Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. It’s a true story by a man who committed armed robbery, escaped from a high security prison in Australia, and moved to Bombay a fugitive… on the run.  I read a part today that really moved me… and thought I would share… “…the river of the heart, and the hearts desire.  It’s the pure, essential truth of what each one of us is.. and can achieve.  All my life I’d been a fighter… I became the expression of that fight and my real nature was hidden behind a mask of menace and hostility. The message of my face and body movements was, like that of a lot of other hard men, Don’t fuck with me.  In the end, I became so good at expressing the sentiment that my whole life became the message.  It didn’t work in the village (in India). No-one could read my body language.  They took me as a peaceful man.  I was a joker, someone who worked hard, played the fool for the children, sang with them, danced with them and laughed with an open heart…. Prabaker’s (his friend and Indian guide) mother called a meeting of the women of the village.  She’d decided to give me a new name, a Maharashtrian name…and because they judged my nature to be blessed with peaceful happiness, the women agreed with her choice for my first name. It was Shantaram, which means man of peace or man of God’s peace.  I don’t know if they found that name in the heart of the man they believed me to be, or if they planted it there, like a wishing tree, to bloom and grow.  Whatever the case…the truth is that the man I am was born in those moments… Shantaram.  The better man that slowly, and much to late, I began to be….”

Ah so beautiful and powerful!  That is all for now from the Black Forest…Until next time!  Namaste.


9 Dec

It is a good day for me today in the Black Forest, although the rain is coming down and there is a chill in the air.  I feel content after having spent yesterday wandering through the village of Baden Baden.  Enjoying its beauty.  Exploring its cobblestone streets and hills.  It is nice to have a simple day today, feeling warm and well fed.  In Germany the family has the prepared, bigger meal when we would typically eat lunch.  Imke is a great cook and today she fed us pork, some yummy vegetables, organic broccoli and cauliflower and my favorite new to me vegetable, kohlrabi, cooked lightly then sautéed with a little bit of butter.  Simple, grounded tasks for me to do around the house today… emptying the dishwasher, cleaning the dishes after lunch, a little light laundry.  Things you might do when you are… at home.  Always a nice feeling… to feel at home.  Wherever you may be.

This morning I woke up from a deep sleep and dream…coming into the world as if entering through a big black hole.  I felt good and laid their in a deep contentment.. taking a few good full minutes to come into reality and eventually… noting… okay, where am I … I am… yes in Germany.  Okay I am here. It continues to be a pleasure to visit with Michael and Imke.  Their generosity kicking up the energy of the Christmas spirit.  My daily opening of my advent calendar sharing the chocolate surprise that is revealed with the children.  Taking note today of the simplicity I feel in their home.  Busied with a full life and two children, there is still an essence to their home and world that feels… uncomplicated.

I received a little Christmas spirit the other day from Michael and Imke in the form of new shoes!  I was going to town in my well-worn tennis shoes noticing that the soles were starting to come off.  In my traveling spirit of spending little money, my first thought was to repair them!  “Show Michael” Imke urged as she assured me that his technological tools could do the trick.  Michael took one look at my shoes and thought the best place for them was… in the garbage can.   And, I can’t say that I disagreed… So… as fate would have it, yesterday Imke showed her face to me smiling with what looked like a brand new pair of tennis shoes.  My size.  Too big for her foot.  She just happened to have them in her basement awaiting the right pair of feet.  She bought them years ago and has not worn them as they do not fit.  But for me, a perfect fit. And a grateful heart and …well let’s just say… sole.

On my trip to Baden Baden yesterday I had an interesting conversation with a manager at an Art Gallery.  I tiptoed into his gallery and took a quick peak around.  Prepared to leave, he suggested that I could take a closer look up by him at some of the originals Chagall’s they had.  I did, feeling invited in like a child in a candy store.  We talked a little bit, him speaking perfect English.  I shared a little bit of my travels and my way… staying with a family here and exploring the area.  He talked a little about the gallery that he worked for and humbly spoke of their success.  He mentioned his own wonderings of what do with his life. Is he on the right path and he said he suspected things like success could be one way to measure that things moving in the right direction.   Like taking ones temperature.

He asked what I did back in the States and I shared my typical… “many things…”  Then more candidly I shared, “although I have had many adventures and done many interesting things… the one thing I have not yet had is financial success…”  Then added,”In a way… that is what this trip is about.  Exploring what is next for me.  What I might do, how I might have that success while still having a life for me that is satisfying and in balance.”  I caught his attention a little with this I think.  And he asked me, “Well, what would you like to do” and my response was, as if by habit, timidly… “I’m not sure…”

Hmmm… He caught me on those words.  Not easily swayed by them and shared, “I think this world is very specific.  The angle of the sun to the earth.  The shape and design of this plant as it grows.  Very specific.  And I think when we use words and language in our own life that is not specific it is perhaps…how do you say… a cop-out?”  Wow!  I thought!  How specific that he could call me on a cop-out!  And not even in his own language.  I listened to what he said. He went on to say “I think it is curious to look at what is that you want.  Perhaps what you most wanted when you were a child but were not permitted to do or perhaps even what was there in you as a child, but because of your upbringing you were not allowed to express.  Life is organic.  It is a living, moving organism.  One day we might like pineapple, the next day we may want chocolate.  It is fluid.”  And next he encouraged me at some point, to get a cup of coffee or tea in some nice vegetarian restaurant and just consider… what it is that I want.  He added that it seems like I have some nice time ahead here in the Black Forest.  Perhaps this is a good place to consider this.  Consider it like a retreat.  He suggested a few books I might like to read, “Loving what is” by Byron Katie Mitchell and “The Essence of Reality” by Thomas Daniel Mehrer.  Then he gave me an organic chocolate Santa.   I said thank you and I was off.

The rest of the afternoon I spent wandering, feeling a bit more captured by magic. Grateful for the interchange.  Mesmerized by the architecture and unfolding hills.  Looking at the world in a way that felt a little more enchanted.  Then on the bus ride home, a full bus with many of us standing… I pointed out to the woman next to me as I stood looking towards the back of the bus, “look at the sunset!”  There it was in stripes of purple and night blue.  Then she said to me, “Look at the moon” as I turned around to find the bright night highlighted by the nearly full moon, hinted with an accent of clouds floating above the hills of the Black Forest.  Soon we were at the town of Gernsbach where I caught my train and…went home.

And this afternoon is a simple day filled with a little writing and some exploration of this inquiry exposed a little in the Art Gallery in Baden Baden… I am sure drinking some hot tea will be involved.  The house is quiet with the children are listening to audio tapes upstairs.  Right now the only sound in this house is the ticking of the koo-koo clock on the wall.  Gentle easy exploration…of what I want.  What I like and exploring being… hmmm…specific.


5 Dec

I am sitting in my room with the afternoon sun shining on the tops of the hill just outside my window. The cool brisk air and the hills which, while daunting to the New Orleans flatlander in me, make me happy just the same.

The hills and I have been getting to know each other a little bit, a path unfolding not far outside the door of Imke and Michael’s house. Legs complaining, heart beating as I greet the incline.  Optimally, grateful for the pull and the movement and the way. Benches placed along the path.  “Oh, sure, I’ll take a little break” as I surrender to the rest and the view.  It seems that whoever placed that bench knew what they were doing.

I am on my own for a little bit today.  A welcome balance being here… helping a little with chores around the house and easily allowed and welcome to spend much of my day as I like.  Time with the children too.  It has been a while since I have spent much time around kids.  A little hesitant to surrender and play, but grateful just the same.  Yesterday Skadi, their 5-year-old daughter, and I spent fun time simply playing with a plastic tube, kind of like a shot, pretending to give each other shots… then obviously being impacted by such shots… with a little drama.  And next, she tried to take off my scarf, and we made a little game of it. Eventually I ended up running down the stairs to the shelter of my room, Skadi chasing me, and me laughing and screaming like a little girl.  It is good being around these little mischievous creatures known as children. I think I may still have one or still children living… in me…perhaps hiding silently off in the distance… still a little timid to show their faces in this grown up adult world.

Spending some of my time… simply making connections with my grateful companion in the internet.  An organization that I belong to and participate in back in the states, called the Art of Living, has their European center not far from here. Nestled among the black hills it is a destination I long to see.  I learned today that the local community meets there every Sunday at 11am to practice the Kriya together, the main tool in the Art of Living toolbox.  Hurray!  Looking forward to that connection!

So grateful for the capacity to keep it simple, but also the encouragement to… get out and explore.  Every day Imke asking me, what are you going to do today?  Get out little bird!  See new things, meet the people!  Friday night I was delivered to the near-by city, Karlsruhe.  About 300,000 people there is enough energy there that it is brimming with some interest. There were a few Christmas markets that night in town, the smell and feeling of Christmas sneaking into my being.  Lit up Christmas tree at the heart of town, a small ice-skating rink, and plenty of warm yummy spirits to drink.  I even treated myself to a few tasty  festival snacks, a crepe and a good slice of pizza!  It has been in mostly warm Christmases for the past 13 years living in the land of New Orleans and the bayous.  But being here hits a little place in my heart where I remember, just a bit, what it was like to be a kid and that excitement of a wintry Christmas.  Michael even bought me an advent calendar all my own so I can open the calendar paper doors, discover a treat and count down the days until Christmas.

And today, it is just an ordinary day.  But how wonderful and lovely to have an ordinary day, here, in the Black Forest in Germany… some time on my own and getting to know and being connected to Michael and Imke.  Being sampled little words of German to repeat, offering them to their son Svante feeling like I am delivering a cryptic message… but somehow, he understands.  And feeling a little spirit of the season.  You know, something like…peace.


2 Dec

Here I am.  In the little village of Hilpertsau.  Surrounded by friendly welcoming hills nestled in the valley. It is now December and I am reminded by Imke, my hostess here, that the temperature is happily 10 degrees warmer than is usual for this area.  It is a juicy morning and I am filled with gratitude for the hospitality and peace I feel in my new location.

I am in the home of Michael and Imke, with the young and warm spirits of their children Skadi, 5 and Svante, 8. Michael and Imke both speak very good English and Skadi and Svante have mastered the art of hello, thank you, good night with some extra words on the side. It is very sweet to hear them call my name, “Teresa, Teresa!” with their openness and enthusiasm.  Skadi and Svante have begun to be teachers to me, pointing to new things and saying it in German.  Correcting me when my pronunciation is a little bent to my American speaking ways. The other night, perhaps to put me at ease, Michael shared a quote that a clever man can learn English in one week, French in one month, and German… in one year.  Hmmm.  So for now, I wander a little aimlessly in this German world offering a word or two that I know as I can.  Still grateful for the English served up to me on a daily basis.

This village is quite beautiful.  Quiet and connected to surrounding areas, the “S” train just steps from their home. The other day I took a leisurely stroll to the neighborhood castle… about an hours walk from here offering some fresh air and a beautiful view of the area.  I am beginning to learn and feel my own rhythm in this new place folded into the lives of this family.

Michael and Imke are both easy, light people to be around.  They have interests in philosophy and alternative healing. They are very generous offering me their gracious hospitality with still much space and time for me to do, be, and see as I want in the area.  I have a nice private room in their ground floor and am content to have some privacy as well as some time connected to the family and the kids.

So far I do a little babysitting.  Watching the kids during runs to the store and the like.  The other night I babysat after the kids had gone to bed, Michael and Imke grabbing a meal and a little time.   They tucked in the kids, then fed the DVD player with the latest episodes of “House” and fed me with potato chips and cashews.  A grueling evening as you can imagine.  One little visit from Skadi, showing her face downstairs in typical 5-year old fashion… not wanting to be in bed.  We looked at each other and smiled and without language… I gently ushered her back into her bedroom.

I feel very welcome in this relaxed German home.  Already offered a traditional meal of sauerkraut and a promise for a ride on the Audubon in his speedy BMW, the company car.  I have learned little German expressions like “That is not my beer” instead of, that is not my cup of tea.  And of course, some earnest sharing in the area of the history of Nazi Germany, Michael sharing that at least for the next 200 years Germans will be compelled to be as kind and friendly to others as possible.

In the quiet, safe village of Hilpertsau it is taking me a little time to adjust to the idea that… there is no crime.  They leave their doors open and, according to Michael… there are no guns.  Well, perhaps he said some old rusty hunting gun owned by a grandpa down the street, long forgotten about.  My years of living in New Orleans at times hearing gun fire down the street, or hearing about  murder in my own neighborhood have put me a little on edge… a little walking through the world feeling protective.

Today the Black Forest awaits me.  Much to explore.  Waiting to see how the weather unfolds… perhaps a day for a hike.  But undoubtedly I am … grateful.  Grateful for some sweetness and kindness of a generous warm family, a softness and good spirit in the air, and…a little adventurous spirit in me!

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