Rewiring the System

Some of My Story

Posted in Uncategorized by rewiringangel on January 13, 2009

My immigrant Grandparents wanted me to go to an ecumenical nursery school. Immigrants, across all national origins, have a priority based on the values of their tradition coupled with the importance of a good education. Education is a tool for building a life in this new country. Real family values in a living wholeness, based on the immigrant community love for this country, which saved their very lives, with a strong three-generation family presence all living together. All the neighborhood friends in a network of loving support, as friends and alternate family values prevailed. Therefore, off I went to Beth Jacob Orthodox Parochial School.  I was not asked to think or given an opportunity to comment my family would suffer not a word or emotion from me about this. educational system.  It is the Orthodox practice of separating woman from men, that is, little girls from little boys, began in kindergarten on through all the grades. Girls get a different curriculum based on our gender. This was very apparent to my rapidly developing brain, eyes and ears. We did not get the same letter recognition in preparation for Torah study.
For the highly intelligent girls such as myself, to have crafts and housekeeping skills along with general simplified reading and writing rather than the basic Biblical Judaic philosophy meant that there was no place for me within the intellectual or Rabbinical structure.

I realized at an early age within the Abrahamic religions, intelligent woman were not valued as individuals but as homemakers to tend nests for the next generation. My Mother suffered, as did her generation because of this, since she was not a natural homemaker. Her intelligence was mathematical not hearth centered. She was happier in the stock market than in the farmers market. She was the only working mother in our neighborhood. I did not want to live with no ecumenical or economical value. I wanted to choose ecumenical work, which I believed is a spiritual value for my gender and community.

I was eight years old when I had an epiphany, or a calling toward the Living Truth. As I crossed Second Street, called Two Street in South Philadelphia on my way to school, I had the sudden insight that the adults who told me the religious stories were not telling the truth. The expectation in Judaism, Christianity and Islam faiths were, in fact, not actual truth, but chosen aspects of the holidays and tenets, which are rooted and based on the old cultural style at the beginning of historical descriptions. Immediately, I had an insatiable urge to research what people believe and why. What made them accept these leaps of faith? I put my toe on the path, by reading, studying and struggling toward discovering the ribbon of truth in the myriad belief systems. There are truths in ‘faith’ to believers in their chosen path. I turned to Tibetan Buddhism.  His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his teachers, and their attendants within his inner circle taught me the mantras, sutras and deeper information. I learned to translate them into a living practice without any intermediary or ism. What St. Francis, The Templar and Luther did to help the life of Jesus fit a new paradigm had to be possible in the here and now.

As a teenager, I read, researched, and applied to a Buddhist Correspondence School in New York City based on Maitrya Buddha as seen by Helena Blavatsky. The school was a rigorous adventure with monthly questions to answer and many books to read. It gave me a rather broad view of cosmology in general and some specifics of the beginner practices in training the mind. Just a few years later, in 1983, I met Lobsang Rapgay in a grassy knoll at a retreat center in upstate New York, where he was teaching doctors who care for aids suffers to deal with their burnout! Though I am not a doctor, he invited me to sit in on a few of his sessions. This was an amazing beginning to my life’s work. After several years of healing myself and studying with Dr. Rapgay direction, I was ready for another teacher. Venerable Losang Samten was walking toward the Delaware River and I was walking toward the University of Pennsylvania along a back alley to avoid the crowds on Spruce Street. This momentous event happened in 1989 and we have been together in our hearts and minds since that moment. He has tended my ‘call’ and my life and renewed his blessing for me to do this work on 8 March 2008. He was working on his last Kalacharaka Sand Mandala in Chico at the college. I went to talk with him about my interest in the CPE credential.  I asked him if he thought this or another path might be a correct use of my spiritual skills. He gave me his blessings to attend to this path and work as a spiritual counselor and chaplain.

Back when I was 28, I discovered the Agni Yoga Society and Literature. This is a vibrant study, with rich non-dogmatic integrity from which I come to serve. Nicholas Roerich and his wife Helena grounded a path of study, rich with the path of personal and spiritual growth. Living life with an eye to preserving and creating beauty together with nature in every aspect of life is the peaceful way of fire, (Agni). I am a probationer in this group since a seven-year probation is necessary for a student to build the correct habits growing out of a heart centered self discipline in every cell.
I have a primary affiliation with the Strawberry Creek Friends Meeting. The Tibetan Buddhist Center in Philadelphia, PA, as well as HHDL’s center in Washington, NJ, The Hindu theology of Swami Vivekananda counts in my support. I attend a few times a year, the Shambala Center here in Berkeley, also the Zen center on Russell St. in Berkeley. I have stayed in retreat at Green Gulch in Marin. I also attend the Grace Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco where I have participated in study circles, on practical theism. My roots are planted in the Friends Meeting, in Philadelphia where I attended from age 12, then Schuylkill meeting with my daughter. Currently I attend the Strawberry Creek Meeting here in Berkeley. My daughter attended Quaker High School and College, respectively: George School and Friends World College.   I have been a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church on both coasts. I attend various churches to learn the beliefs directly so that I am able to talk with and I can speak to them in their own religious language. This multi religions study gives me a rather broad view of cosmology in general and some specifics of the beginner practices in training the mind in traditions from Islam to Subud.

Section 2

“The experience of poetic creativeness is not found staying at home, nor yet in traveling, but in transitions from one to the other, which must therefore be adroitly managed to present as much transitional surface as possible.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Is the popular worldly ‘on stage’ and ‘back stage’ labeled as everyday living, offering a grit creating friction? I am facing my creativity of inside meaning and outside action that I might be of service in a positive way. As I transition from a public persona back to my private face then back into the quiet place in my heart, do I notice the pace I take over this divide? Is this friction, back and forth, working to polish or extinguish my ‘little light’?

I know from facing my integrity, that ‘Creative Grit’ in the intersection of time in seconds and in form are instances as my life of folding and unfolding relationships works for both positive and negative friction by polishing my golden heart. The Truth about the ‘Self’ in the reflections on the holy water is labial. I am a viable thinking animal with a prehensile thumb and heart.  In an instant, I felt an inner truth could be lost in a spin by storytellers, over and under as on a Mobius strip.  Inside my heart, truth is able to intersect with the moving material world. Inside and outside always converge and harmonize. Now I need to understand things as they really are.  From that day foreword, I studied Truth. To uncover the spiritual truth, this truth was covered and veiled with layers of images that keep us, apart both from one another and from direct knowledge. Book learning just goes so far in juicing the nectar from theological fruit.  After years of study starting at age 13 or 14, my lucky star lead me into the rich multi flavored, multi textural literature of Tibetan Buddhism.

All those years ago, before Buddhism became the bedrock of the new view on the Ten Commandments, the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center was at the end of a series of unmarked country roads.  In the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s TBLC was like NASDAK, if you did not belong, you did not find it.  Every time I traveled under the new green canopied the ‘just a’ one-lane road, I felt like I was going home. The image and smell will stay in my memory cards as long as I have memory. The weather rutted one lane dirt road demanded a slow pace.  Arriving at the brightly colored arch to the tune of the terrifying Tibetan terrier guard dogs that seemed psychically deciding if you belonged, separated this world from the outside.  My entire being, heart mind and soul sighed relief as I crossed the threshold that I was home.  The inner circle at this center went on to become the world-renowned names in Buddhist scholarly work.  We sat in a tight series of half circles around the central Dias and listened intently.  Because of the generally high caliber of the students, the dialogue was riveting.  I listened repeatedly to the topic of ‘which part of the table is table? ‘ Weekend after weekend retreats and years of Sunday sittings polished my understanding that this person I call the ‘I’ does not stand by itself and is dependent on billions of cells and relationships on seemingly 500 levels of interconnectedness that come together at this exact moment of time for a certain purpose. . Richard Feynman writes in the introduction in ‘QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter’, that humans are a collection of stories and songs.

Tupten Ghatso presided over visiting teachers from as far as Ladak where the remaining essence of the Buddha’s Words still ring from the high mountains. The Dalai Lama, a leader in Tibetan Buddhism, has a residence at the TBLC. I studied in this atmosphere and with the loving attention of the direct linage of the Galupka linage. Students got instruction in living in harmony with the universe out to Infinity. Robert Thurman and Jeffery Hopkins as other well-known authors and teachers studied there at the time I was there. We were instructed to understand that the modern everyday life is the western equivalent to a historical monastery.  Now we need to work in the world to serve. With all the lessons in human interconnectedness with hierarchical politics come the opportunities to study, grow, and lead by our actions and words.  I am not and will not be a Monk!  The divine is a stream of light flowing in an ocean of peace, as Jesus stated, “Peace on Earth”, when he spoke about his understanding of God as Love and Peace.  I experience the divine as a paradise where every instant at every intersection is a connection to the fabulously complex intersecting instants of causes and conditions. Events, which lead me to where I am today:

I still remember the feeling of warmth from that sun-drenched afternoon.  That day back in early summer of 1998 brings a swarm of memories and thoughts. Today, as I feel the sun on my body, it links me mentally to the events at the University Center on Locust Walk.  This stone building is from the second wave of construction at the end of the nineteenth century.  The hall has the grace and space of a long gone time. That time when high ceilings allowed space for lofty ideas and discourse.  You can feel the quiet quality generated from the dark gray stone as the reverence from the Earth itself.

There was no need of coats or jackets as the large group of Losang Samten’s students gathered to learn the welcoming prayers for a dignitary Teacher.  The group included various ages and stages of practice.  Almost 500 gathered to get the instruction for this wonderful occasion.  The large room, filled with eager student. Kensure Rinpoche, the senior teacher to His Holiness the Dalai Lama was coming to see my lama.  The Kensure Rinpoche was ‘retiring’ from the Namghal Monastery, if such a thing as retiring really happens to such energy held in a human form.  His first stop was for a review of the practice and quality of teaching in Losang-la’s sanghas.   Losang Samten was the dance master of the Namghal Monastery. Monastic work is the ultimate community where an individual’s thoughts and actions must bend to fit in with the entire group.  Any of the lama’s creative urges are tested in the fire of co-measurement to the Common Good.

We gather to try, as well as we possibly can, in the short time until KR arrives.  Since it is an Honorific occasion, there are special prayers appropriate for this particular event.  We all feel the importance of this reunion.  Hours of brain aching repetition drain all of our energy.  The day was set aside specifically to have all the time we needed to say them repeatedly, until we got them right!

After the arduous morning and afternoon of memorizing with the correct inflection, the large number of students filed out of the Hall as in a rush of thundering hoofs to get into the lingering sun.  Losang and I were the last to leave the university theater, Losang faced me and said; “I want you to help many who do not believe in God.  There are more than 6 billion people on the earth yet two thirds; almost 4 billion do not believe in a supreme being.”  He took a deep breath as he became pensive, and said, “I have been thinking that they deserve a way to contact the immaterial in a fashion that suits their individual feeling and thoughts”.  I want you to help them rewire their systems.  You have studied, ruminated and turned your learning into your very own individual modern understanding of the texts.  I want you to create a pamphlet to publicize this effort.  I want you to get people to rewire their systems.”

I looked at him in astonishment and for a minute could not believe my ears or heart!  Then in a second heartbeat, less than an instant, I replied that if we called it Institute for Rewiring the System, it would be the IRS of meditation.  He immediately exploded into a laugh and said, “That’s it!  That is right! Do It!”

This is how the Institute came about and got its name.  Later Losang asked me to write about my practice and a study, which gives me poise to survive the many terrible trials as I climb the ladder of living in a body. This was the third event in my Call to Chaplaincy and service to the holy Light.

Call: When I was three, I had the experience that most people did not know one another’s thoughts or have telepathy. This was a crashing blow and made me feel like a stranger within my family and in the world. My mother remembers the day I was inconsolable, crying for most of the day whether in her arms or not. I was trying to send her a thought of what I would like to eat and she did not understand in any way or get the message. From that day on, I have been searching for people like myself.

I read Buddhist and Quaker literature with a hunger to reveal the motivating force being the light in form with Love and Peace. I attended Quaker Meeting since the age of 12.  When I lived in Princeton, my daughter and I joined the Presbyterian Church where my daughter sang in the choir for several years. I have attended The Grace Episcopal in San Francisco and other denominations including the Islamic Center in New Jersey. When I was 24 or 25, I discovered Agni Yoga, which is a seed for the cosmic infinity lock. I am interested in all the personal styles manifesting of the truth.

In 1980 while working at the University Of Pennsylvania at the Wharton Magazine I contracted an air borne virus or insect bite which traveled to my brain and turned a section of my left hemisphere to mush. I had surgery and by the grace of group prayer and God, I felt pulled back from the dead. I was a vegetable for some time but the horror of using a bedpan got me to throw myself off the bed and crawl to the bathroom. That was all I could do for a year. This experience and the seven year effort has given me great empathy and the ability to understand from the inside mortality issues. During that dark time, I looked death in the face.  It took some seven years to recover.  I know death from close up.  As well as an experience of mortality, this for me was a learning that we are in fact immortal, that we all step out of our bodies but we are not lost.  I believe that this whole experience was part of my call to serve others who are on a dark path and experiencing their own mortality. “We’re here in the restaurant.  When we are finished, we are going to leave the restaurant.  But we’ll still be ourselves – we just won’t be in the restaurant anymore.” This experience has further cemented my Call to Serve.


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