Monthly Archives: September 2008

For The Noise of a Fly

Listening to each other chant on the third day of our bus tour japa retreat.

The other day I was telling my Dad about something that happened to me whilst taking part in the mini japa retreat on the bus tour. The retreat lasted for three days, of which the second was a ‘personal bhajan day’ where we took a vow of silence and tried to chant either 64 or 32 rounds. It was about midday and I was struggling to maintain my enthusiasm for the challenges of the day. I’d already broken my flow by unexpectedly having to do kitchen service for three hours (which I normally relish – but in this case, I was hoping I’d be spared), and now I sat out on the verandah of the temple, as the hot sun reached mid point in the sky. I closed my eyes, trying to focus on listening to myself chant, as we’d discussed in our morning workshops.

Suddenly, a huge fly whizzed past my head and landed straight in the middle of a big spider web in front of me. It buzzed frantically, so loud it almost sounded like a scream, as the spider emerged and swiftly began to move in for the kill. Without thinking, I jumped up and thrust my hand into the web. Its home destroyed, the spider made a dash for the safety of the nearby pillar and the fly fell to the wooden balcony. It still buzzed, more weakly now – its body was half wrapped in web and one of its wings was damaged. I tried to carefully unpick its legs from the sticky strands with my free hand (my other was still pointlessly in my japa bag) but it was a futile attempt. They were permanently damaged and the fly was on its way out too. I felt so stupid standing there over it. I had intended to help, but in disrupting the natural course of events, I had not improved the situation whatsoever. Rather, I’d just led it to its eventual outcome in a different way. I’d also disrupted my own concentration on chanting, again breaking my fragile momentum and meditation.

I sat down again, finding it difficult to take my eyes off the fly, lying legs up, still and silent. I felt very confused about what had happened, wondering what would’ve been the right course of action. Was it more valuable to put compassion into practice and try to help another living being? Or, as I suspected, was it more valuable to continue chanting – the prime way that all living beings will improve their condition of life, eternally? Of course, a fly might be considered very insignificant, but when I thought of the situation as a metaphor for something bigger, it seemed much more important a consideration.

It’s so easy to become distracted from spiritual practices. Even at an internal level, my mind is composing to-do lists and planning my week everytime I try to concentrate, what to speak of external distractions, which are ever present.

I finished telling my dad the story and he remarked that it reminded him of a quote by the Jacobean poet and preacher, John Donne. He said ‘I throw myself down in my chamber, and I call in, and invite God, and his Angels thither, and when they are there, I neglect God and his Angels, for the noise of a fly, for the rattling of a coach, for the whining of a door.’

At least I know I’m not the only one.

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Filed under Bus Tour Memories, Inspiration!, Krishna Consciousness

Palmtop Blackberrying

Ah, bushfruit. Now to turn it into something…

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Marigold Mohan

I finally got to look after my dear deities of Radha Vrajamohan yesterday. I think they look so beautiful in their orange outfit. I chanted some rounds in front of them this morning, whilst I played an hour long recording I have of Vrindavan at 5 am. The peacocks cry and other birds sing continuously. You can hear the rustle of leaves, and sometimes people chanting in the distance. Every so often, a temple bell rings out. It completely transports me and I’ve really been finding it a solace as the winter approaches here. Around this time last year I was getting ready to go to Vrindavan, and I feel a longing to be there now. Still, I feel that I am in Vrindavan, as long as I have such fortune to be around the deities and the devotees.

But sometimes, only the physical reality of Sri Vrindavan Dham will do. I saw a photo of the Yamuna at sunset yesterday and my heart flipped. I remember the most wonderful evening last year – floating down towards Mathura in a flag covered boat, as the sun sank slowly and the temples passed. After a while, we got out and had kirtan on the sandy bank, singing the glories of the wonderful place in which we sat. I couldn’t believe my good fortune, to be in that very place, remembering ‘yamuna tira vanachari’ – how our dear Lord Krishna would walk and play on these banks and in the forest groves nearby. Bliss.


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Romulus and Remus, by Mali, age 11

My brother Namamali just started secondary school this September. Going from a small gurukula with about thirty children in the whole school, he’s now in a school of hundreds of boys, wearing a suit and tie every day (picture coming) and learning lots of new subjects. I’m so proud of him – I didn’t find the adjustment from one school to another easy at all, and ended up switching schools about five times. He seems to be relishing it though – different natures I guess.

Right now in History, he’s studying the Romans and was learning the legend of how Rome came to be. He had to illustrate it for homework and I loved watching him deciding how to show each aspect of the story. I really loved the final result. Simple and effective. 

Starting back at university next week, and one of my first modules is Children’s Writing and Publishing…I’m excited!

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Filed under Art, Music and Dance, Family, Inspiration!, Uncategorized

Children of Autumn

Deep in pockets
and held in hand
Each baby smooth
and heavy as a pound coin
Heel splitting green skin
with a press
and a twist
exposing every glossy, polished prize within

They fall from the sky
and litter the ground,
these children of autumn,
knocking on the tops of startled heads,
and rolling down the windscreens of parked cars.
Or waiting a little longer,
poised above the wet grass,
swinging slightly,
thinking about leaving home.

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Fool’s Progress: A Lesson in Getting Lost

I’ve been feeling somewhat lost lately – spiritually and materially. I suppose it’s a natural state of being at my age – then again, I’m sure everyone experiences it at different times in life. However, today I was more than just lost in an abstract way, I was really, well and truly, round and round in circles lost.

It all started with my proposed violin lesson in the morning. I left the house early, knowing at that time in the morning there would be crazy traffic. There was. It took me a whole hour to get there.

When I got there, my teacher was mysteriously not home. In fact, no one was home at all. Finding that I’d forgotten my phone, I decided just to wait for a while in case he showed up. He didn’t. After chanting some pathetic rounds, keeping tally on a piece of paper, I decided to leave. I should say that this is the point where had I any common sense, I would’ve just gone home and gotten on with the rest of the day. But no, since I have developed a borderline obsessive desire not to waste anything (including journeys) I made the foolish decision to try and find a violin shop I’d been meaning to visit. I had no map, no phone, I’d never driven in the area before, and I had only the scantiest of ideas where it was.

Undeterred, I pressed on, choosing roads on intuition and throwing caution to the wind. Roundabouts presented no problems – I chose whatever exit seemed most likely; and endless traffic lighted junctions? Pah! I lurched through them like a pro. Miraculously, I seemed to be managing to go in the right direction. My confidence grew. This wasn’t so hard! That was, until I got to Southall, where the shop was. I had now been driving for almost another hour (this place was supposed to be eighteen minutes from where my teacher lives).

I drove down Southall Broadway, scanning every passing street for the right turn off. Cars beeped from behind and I realised I was crawling along. I contemplated trying to stop and ask someone, but I was being swept along the street too fast. After driving down the same main street three times, I decided to venture into the further unknown – the maze of tiny one way residential roads.

Round and round I crept, every so often being brought back to the main road, then through into another one way system again. Then at last help came in the glorious form of a postman! He told me the road I was looking for was on the other side of town – of course – but explained how to get there.

Ok, to cut a long story (that probably no one is reading at this point anyway) short – one Ghanian traffic warden, and two more postmen (hurrah!) later, I reached my destination. When I got there, I realised that in my search, I had driven past it twice already. Never mind. The joy of actually getting somewhere made up for the mounting frustration.

I spent a pleasant twenty minutes in the peaceful, dusty enclave of the violin shop, discussing strings and prices and Chinese finishes – but I had come too early – there was nothing I could take away today. Disappointed, but armed with new directions for getting home in a more direct way, I left.

My journey home was nothing short of a nightmare. Somewhere along the way, one wrong turn left me helplessly hurtling along the motorway towards the airport, where I was digested through the endless strip-lit tunnels and unceremoniously spat out on another roundabout, leading to lists of places I’d never been. Like a true girl, I began to cry in sheer exhaustion. I felt like my brain would explode if I saw another red traffic light.

Fortunately, it didn’t, because I managed to get home, about thirty red lights and a total of four and a half leg numbing hours later. And that’s the end of the story. I don’t really know why I wrote it all down, but it feels a little better now.

The moral? Fools rush in, whereas angels would stop to consult a map first.

Photos courtesy of David F. Gallagher at


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Photos! Finally!

At long last, I managed to upload my summer photos to my Flickr account. Click the image below to go have a looksie. They’re mostly all from the bus tour and then there’s some from Burning Man.

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