Homage to Family, Mentors & Friends


`A`ohe pau ka `ike i ka hâlau ho`okâhi.
Wisdom does not come from only one school.

–Hawaiian saying

I pay homage to my family and to those who’ve been teachers, mirrors, friends & mentors along this pathless journey called life.

There are countless beings to whom I bow with overflowing gratitude; some whose words I have interwoven into my collages over the years and many unmentioned others, whose words, silence, gestures and/or actions were synchronistic blessings & gems and whom I acknowledge invisibly, in the inner sanctum of silence.

All of the designs that you will see on this page are collages with words by family, friends, teachers & mentors whose lives touched mine personally somehow and from whom I received a direct transmission of sorts. To the best of my ability, I have kept this journey in chronological order, though some of the collages were designed at different times.

Create together with one heart

 

George and Christina Harris, my parents, were my first root teachers.

A marvelous poet, a creator of stained-glass windows & mosaics, a designer of Japanese gardens and an alchemist–among other things–Christina was a dedicated mother blessed with an Irish humor, a rare kind of authenticity & innocence, a vastness of being and a tenderness beyond words.

Christina died in 1982 and George died in 1991.

 Though I haven’t included my father’s words in any of my card designs, he is ever-present in nearly everything I create. A well-known artist & architect and a respected professor of philosophy of art, his spirit quietly seeps into every building I design and every mosaic, collage, and piece of “art” that is created through me. In a similar way, my mother’s love of the Tao & nature, her way with form & emptiness, rocks & plants and her deep respect for “shibui” saturate every garden, path, medicine wheel and orchard I have ever landscaped & planted.

With boundless love, respect and ever-deepening gratitude, I bow (and sing jubilant praises!) to my mother and father…

The following collage was made when I was seventeen years old. It’s part of a book I put together for a high school English project in 1970. This book was published in 2009 and is called The Unfurling of An Artist. It’s a collection of quotations by several different artists, which I incorporated into collages. My burning question at that time was “Why does man create?” I was longing to understand this primordial, unspoken need & expression of beauty, which seemed to permeate throughout history, as far back as paleolithic times.

“Making art is making love, where the aesthetic value is more in its re-creation than in procreation.”

Roshi Sôun, my brother, is also known as Bruce Harris. (We were born eleven months and eight days apart so we’re the same age for twenty-two days each year.) We were both twenty-two years old, in December, 1974, the day he stepped onboard the Trans-Siberian Railway in London to travel across Russia, to Vladivostok, where he took a boat to Japan and entered a Rinzai Zen monastery in Kyoto.

 Later made his way to San’un Zendo in Kamakura and trained under Ko-un Yamada Roshi until his death in 1989, and then continued training with successors Jiun Kubota and Ryoun Yamada. Authorized to teach in both traditions, Bruce Harris is a teacher in the Sanbo-Kyodan Lineage, a school of Zen that encompasses elements of Rinzai and Soto Zen. In recent years, Bruce has been equally inspired by his practice of Mahamudra and Dzogchen as taught by Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche. Living near Montpellier, France, Bruce shares his practice in a simple and non-monastic style. His gentle and gifted teaching style emphasizes the natural and direct opening into the depths of the human heart, and the expression of such experience in everyday life. 

He wrote the following in an email one day and I was inspired to make a collage incorporating his words:

“The Unborn is never apart from being born, living, and dying. It is this birth, this living, this dying, in all of it’s most intimate details, the Unborn expressing itself vividly, without ceasing to  be unborn, and undying. Coming to be and ceasing to be, precisely this~the imperishable.”

It has been a great blessing having a brother who shows me again and again the simplicity of wakefulness. He is one of the most humble people I know and continues to inspire me in so many ways. From a young age, he taught me about discrimination and shares his insights & discoveries in a quiet, unassuming manner.

He is a gifted artist & poet as well as a teacher of Zen. Before his first trip to Japan he wrote a series of poems, which were never published. I hand-lettered several of the poems in a small book and have shared them with friends & family throughout the years. The following collage was inspired by an excerpt from one of those early poems, written when my brother was twenty-one years old:

Here in a place that is the world’s edge where the deepening flush of infinite lichens opens a wound in the rock, both the cry still formless, unbearable, and the silence couple in the wound, the round of light, deep-centered in the square-foot darkness that is the heart.

~~~

Throughout our childhood we sometimes spent sundays in Sausalito, with Yanko Varda. “Varda” as he was called was an unforgettable Greek artist who lived on a wonderful ferryboat, which was docked in Sausalito, California. On Sundays he invited his friends to come and sail in the bay, on his smaller, colorful sail boat. After sailing we would spend the rest of the day on the ferryboat with Varda and friends.

Varda was a “Zorba” and I loved being around him. One time he invited the entire African dance troupe for a meal on his boat, after seeing their performance in San Francisco! I was touched and inspired by his collages and the way he used everything to make art. His daughter, Vagadu, says the following about him, “Varda left it to others to create a living legacy of his work. He recognized that archiving his work might be valuable, yet the artistic process with its labyrinthine possibilities wove a web over his senses; he never could initiate any serious efforts to conserve or preserve his work.

When asked to prepare a show for a museum or gallery, Varda would work like a frenzied madman until the magic number was reached. His famous phrase that he wished to live in ecstasy was closely aligned with creating art.”

Throughout his life he maintained that facts were “muddy,” and needed to be transformed or distilled in order to arrive at the “truth.”

I never created a collage with Varda’s words. It was not his words that I remember. The transmission I received from Varda was beyond words. As a young child, I disappeared into his vibrant collages and still remember his laughter and the colors on his boat and the joy he exuded wherever he went. “Ecstacsy” seems an accurate description of this vibrant man~

His collages were alive and it was this same quality of aliveness that he offered to others, so freely, like a dervish offers love.

When I was nine years old, a man named Alan Watts joined Varda on the ferryboat with his wife, Juno. I remember sailing with Alan and listening to him tell interesting stories, in his soft English accent.

One time he came to our house for dinner and gave a talk at our school. I had invited him to share with my classmates and got permission from the school principal. I have no idea how he was received but I love that he came all the way to Portola Valley from Sausalito and shared his wisdom with my friends.

It was only years later, when I came across Alan’s books, that I realized who he was. The first one I discovered was The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are. 

It’s one thing to read someone’s book but/and as I’m piecing together this autobiographical journal I’m becoming increasingly aware how the very PERSONAL impact of another touches us indelibly. It is in the subtlest way sometimes that we receive another’s essence. Sometimes it may be through words & often it is in the absence of words altogether.

Something beyond words reaches us and though seemingly unique & different, this soul to soul transmission is mysteriously the same, from/through every human being.

When I was twelve years, old my mother showed up at our school unexpectedly one morning. She asked permission to take Bruce and me out of school and on the way out of the building she said to us, “today you are going to meet a great man.”

We drove to East Palo Alto, to join a civil rights rally, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Joan Baez.

That day remains a vivid memory embossed in my heart-mind. Thousands of people were lining the streets, singing “We shall overcome.” Martin Luther King was overflowing with an unconditional love, which radiated throughout the crowd and brought tears to many eyes. His presence permeated for miles it seemed, like a light in a darkened space.

We had been aware of Proposition 14, a 1964 ballot proposition that amended the California state constitution, nullifying the Rumford Fair Housing Act. Proposition 14 was declared unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court in 1966. The decision of the California Supreme Court was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967 in Reitman v. Mulkey

The Rumford Fair Housing Act was a law passed in 1963 by the state of California to help end racial discrimination by property owners and landlords who refused to rent or sell their property to “colored” customers. It was drafted by William Byron Rumford, the first African American from Northern California to serve in the legislature. The Act provided that landlords could not deny people housing because of ethnicity, religion, sex, marital status, physical handicap, or familial status.

My brothers and I were quite aware of the civil rights movement and proposition 14. During the previous year several schools in our area began welcoming African American students and it was a powerful time, to say the least~

In 1966 following the death of my oldest brother, my family returned to California after a year of traveling throughout Europe. Bruce and I attended weekly art classes, where we met Dorothy and Jim Fadiman, who remain beloved friends and mentors.

Jim and Dorothy invited Bruce and me to spend a summer with them at the Lama Foundation, near Taos, New Mexico. I took care of Renee, their daughter, as part of my daily sadhana. Lama was unlike anything we had ever experienced and I ended up returning the following summer. I was the youngest adult member and am  grateful for the insights, experiences and realisations discovered  during that time.

Both Dorothy and Jim continue to share their creativity, compassion and wisdom with many people and though I don’t have a collage with Jim’s words, he is no less important than Dorothy in the collage/river of my unfolding!

Perhaps the most important thing we bring to another person is the silence in us, not the sort of silence that is filled with unspoken criticism or hard withdrawal. The sort of silence that is a place of refuge, of rest, of acceptance of someone as they are. We are all hungry for this other silence. It is hard to find. In its presence we can remember something beyond the moment, a strength on which to build a life. Silence is a place of great power and healing.”

Rachel Naomi Remen

Ram Dass spent time at Lama also and though I didnt meet him until years later, he was an important influence in so many of our lives. Be Here Now served as a turning point in the north American culture; an invitation to s-t-o-p and discover the present moment. Though this seems common place now, with the widespread influence of so many non dual teachers, it was quite radical “back then.”

When I finally met Ram Dass, it was in 1986. A friend of mine was caring for his father and he invited me to come and visit for the weekend. I had no idea that Ram Dass would even be there at that time.

He was good friends with Pat Rodegast, who’d been channeling “Emmanuel,” and Ram Dass was excited to share with me some of the recordings that Pat had loaned him.

What remains most vividly from that weekend was the utter devotion and love with which Ram Dass cared for his aging father. One evening we all went out for dinner and Ram Dass’ father was falling asleep, his head drooping into his soup bowl. Ram Dass quietly stood up and simply held his father’s head as if he were a newborn baby~

That nano-second of love stayed with me all these years!

 

 

My father was head of the art department at Notre Dame, a catholic women’s college in Belmont, California. After graduating from the eighth grade, I was offered a scholarship to Notre Dame High School, which was next to the college. I was the only non-catholic student in the entire school and the only one I knew of who genuinely loved going to mass every day.

The nuns would bring guitars and bongo drums into church and I remember the elation with which they sang, praising Jesus, Mary and God. Having been introduced at a young age to Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Sufism and other wisdom traditions, I was intrigued by the catholic mass and grew to love many of the nuns, who were dedicated servants of the Heart.

My favorite teacher was Sister Monica Julie, the art teacher, whose style was greatly influenced by her teacher, Sister Corita, later known as Corita Kent, the well-known activist & serigraph artist who used her art as a means of protest.

In the 1960s, Sister Corita poured her considerable energy into another passion, the anti-war movement. Her “Peace on Earth” 1965 Christmas Exhibit, at IBM’s New York showroom, was deemed too “subversive” for display.

When Buckminster Fuller visited Corita’s art department, he was quoted as saying it was “among the most fundamentally inspiring experiences of my life.” 

Corita’s courage & creativity stirred my already-ignited fervor for social activism. Since 7th grade, I had been selling my artwork at benefit exhibitions for the Civil Rights Movement and had started a campaign to raise money for an orphanage in Korea during the 8th grade.

While visiting Corita, a few years before she died, I was filled with awe and admiration. It was an indescribable afternoon, being in the presence of this woman who had so profoundly influenced my life’s unfolding.

She reminded me again & again that one woman can make a huge difference simply by following her passion and allowing her art to speak in behalf of all beings. Or, was it that she had the true emptiness & courage to surrender to a greater passion, which had little to do with anything personal? She seemed to be an instrument of divinity, not too dissimilar from other spiritual revolutionaries of her time.

Corita said, “A painting is a symbol for the universe. Inside it, each piece relates to the other. Each piece is only answerable to the rest of that little world. So, probably in the total universe, there is that kind of total harmony, but we get only little tastes of it.”

~~~

In June of 1970 my family moved to a small village in Hampshire, not far from Stonehenge, in southern England. One of my parent’s dear friends, Elena Greene, invited us to Brockwood Park one day. I remembered Elena from early in my childhood, when she lived with her husband, Felix, in California. I used to play with Anne, their daughter. Elena was a soft, powerful woman who had discovered Krishnamurti and was working at his school, known as “Brockwood Park.”

“Brockwood Park School is an international co-educational boarding school in the southern English countryside. We offer a personalised, holistic education for just over 70 students aged 14 to 19. The place is deeply inspired by J. Krishnamurti’s teachings, which encourage academic excellence, self-understanding, creativity and integrity in a safe, non-competitive environment.

A Brockwood education goes beyond more traditional kinds of learning. Not exclusively academic, it integrates academic excellence in its mission to help students learn the art of living, and brings together aspects of learning, sensitivity, open-mindedness, and self-reflection that are too often ignored.”

On Sundays, Krishnamurti offered talks to the public. What can I say? I have little recollection of what he spoke about at that time. I mainly remember the love, simplicity and clarity that emanated from his eyes!

To understand conflict, we must understand relationship, and the understanding of relationship does not depend on memory, on habit, on what has been or what should be. It depends on choiceless awareness from moment to moment, and if we go into it deeply, we shall see that in that awareness there is no accumulative process at all. The moment there is accumulation, there is a point from which to examine, and that point is conditioned; and hence, when we regard relationship from a fixed point, there must be pain, there must be conflict.

From Krishnamurti’s Collected Works, Vol. VI,222

I went often to visit Elena and returned to Brockwood years later, with my young son. I wanted him to experience Krishnamurti’s presence as well~

Looking back through four decades now, I see that a seed was definitely planted during those visits to Brockwood and most importantly by the simple, unadorned presence & congruency of this radiant man, known as Krishnamurti.

In his presence, something incomprehensible occurred and I remain inestimably grateful that our parents introduced us to Krishnamurti when we were young.

 ~~~

The 70′s and 80′s were a rich time of interweaving motherhood, motherlessness, visiting spiritual communities with my son and an immersion into healing arts, death & dying, Native American teachings as well as witnessing & being part of the feminist movement, which to a large extent was a re-emergence of the sacred Feminine.

I still remember the first time I heard Holly Near, singing from her Heart so passionately, with the emptiness of a bodhisattva! She was a remarkable pioneer, emerging in a sea of fire, during the war in Vietnam. Her lyrics and melodies carried so many of us during those challenging decades.

Numerous other women stood out during that time as well; Too many to acknowledge here on one small page! To keep with the chronological order of my pathless journey, which is not too easy for this non-linear mind, I will include here some collages with the words of Alice Walker, Tsultrim Allione, Joanna Macy, Deena Metzger, Dominie Cappadonna, Holly Blue Hawkins and Chellis Glindening, all of whom I met during the 1980’s and who remain beacons of light for many people.

I began to discover that many of these awesome women were actually Shambhala warriors!

Joanna Macy shared this ancient prophecy with a group of women at a large summer solstice celebration in northern California and I immediately loved her passion for the Earth and all sentient beings, which resonated with my own. Hearing the Shambhala prophecy put a new perspective on what was occuring on our sacred planet~

The Shambhala prophecy from Joannamacy.net:

Coming to us across twelve centuries, the prophecy about the coming of the Shambhala warriors illustrates the challenges we face in the Great Turning and the strengths we can bring to it.

Joanna learned it in 1980 from Tibetan friends in India, who were coming to believe that this ancient prophecy referred to this very planet-time. She often recounts it in workshops, for the signs it foretold are recognizable now, signs of great danger.

There are varying interpretations of this prophecy. Some portray the coming of the kingdom of Shambhala as an internal event, a metaphor for one’s inner spiritual journey independent of the world around us. Others present it as an entirely external event that will unfold independent of what we may choose to do or what our participation may be in the healing of our world. A third version of the prophecy was given to Joanna by her friend and teacher Ven. Dugu Choegyal Rinpoche of the Tashi Jong community in northern India.

There comes a time when all life on Earth is in danger. Great barbarian powers have arisen. Although these powers spend their wealth in preparations to annihilate one another, they have much in common: weapons of unfathomable destructive power, and technologies that lay waste our world. In this era, when the future of sentient life hangs by the frailest of threads, the kingdom of Shambhala emerges.

You cannot go there, for it is not a place; it is not a geopolitical entity. It exists in the hearts and minds of the Shambhala warriors—that is the term Choegyal used, “warriors.” Nor can you recognize a Shambhala warrior when you see her or him, for they wear no uniforms or insignia, and they carry no banners. They have no barricades on which to climb to threaten the enemy, or behind which they can hide to rest or regroup. They do not even have any home turf. Always they must move on the terrain of the barbarians themselves.

Now the time comes when great courage—moral and physical courage—is required of the Shambhala warriors, for they must go into the very heart of the barbarian power, into the pits and pockets and citadels where the weapons are kept, to dismantle them.

To dismantle weapons, in every sense of the word, they must go into the corridors of power where decisions are made.The Shambhala warriors have the courage to do this because they know that these weapons are manomaya. They are “mind-made.” Made by the human mind, they can be unmade by the human mind. The Shambhala warriors know that the dangers threatening life on Earth are not visited upon us by any extraterrestrial power, satanic deities, or preordained evil fate. They arise from our own decisions, our own lifestyles, and our own relationships.

So in this time, the Shambhala warriors go into training. When Choegyal said this, Joanna asked, “How do they train?”

“They train,” he said, “in the use of two weapons.”

“What weapons?”

And he held up his hands in the way the lamas hold the ritual objects of dorje and bell in the lama dance.

The weapons are compassion and insight. Both are necessary, he said. You have to have compassion because it gives you the juice, the power, the passion to move. It means not to be afraid of the pain of the world. Then you can open to it, step forward, act. But that weapon by itself is not enough.

It can burn you out, so you need the other—you need insight into the radical interdependence of all phenomena. With that wisdom you know that it is not a battle between “good guys” and “bad guys,” because the line between good and evil runs through the landscape of every human heart.

With insight into our profound inter-relatedness—our deep ecology—you know that actions undertaken with pure intent have repercussions throughout the web of life, beyond what you can measure or discern. By itself, that insight may appear too cool, too conceptual, to sustain you and keep you moving, so you need the heat of compassion. Together these two can sustain us as agents of wholesome change. They are gifts for us to claim now in the healing of our world.

These two weapons of the Shambhala warrior represent two essential aspects of the Work that Reconnects. One is the recognition and experience of our pain for the world. The other is the recognition and experience of our radical, empowering interconnectedness with all life.

 To see more of the collages with words by leaderful women, please go to the following page:

http://rashani.com/dharma-gaia-cards/Relationships/Womens.html

In 1976 my closest friend returned from several years in India, where he had been a cook in Neem Karoli Baba’s ashram. He gave me a photograph of Ma Ananda Mayi, who became like a spiritual mother, though I never met her in person. I went to India in August, 1982 with hopes of meeting Ma and ended up in Dharamsala instead, as Ma passed away a few days after my son and I arrived in India.

I was not in Dharamsala looking for a teacher. More than anything, “I wanted to be immersed in a culture where everything was out in the open, where my son and I could experience deathlessness and death in the same breath. I longed to share with him the profane and the divine, not as two separate realms, but as the indivisible tapestry that they are. India seemed like the perfect place. Off we went, hand in hand, in the all-too-familiar aftermath of yet another death. Smack dab into the confluence of all imaginable and unimaginable opposites.”

–Excerpt from Beyond Brokenness.

On the train from New Delhi to Amritsar my son and I ended up in the same crowded compartment as a Buddhist nun, who had previously been a concert cellist. She and I were the same age and we spoke for hours as the rattling train headed north.

“Most important is that we respect each other and learn from each other those things that will enrich our practice.”

After visiting the Golden Temple in Amritsar, we headed to Dharamsala knowing very little about it. By chance we met up with Cornelia, the nun, and were invited to stay in her small stone hut, above McLeod Ganj. One day while walking through Dharamsala, a Tibetan acquaintance invited me to follow him, saying that Ling Rinpoche (the Dalai Lama’s teacher) was offering refuge. I followed him up the hill, having no idea what to expect and arrived at His Holiness’ house a short while later. It was a beautiful ceremony, whose depth and breadth I came to realize only years later.

“Taking refuge in the three jewels” is to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Buddha is a Sanskrit word that means “awakened one.”  Each one of us contains this “buddha nature” or unchanging awakeness; in fact, we are this. So we take refuge in the Buddha as the embodiment of our own awakened Self.

As Robert Thurman says,“We turn to the teaching of the reality of bliss, the teaching of the method of achieving happiness in whatever form it comes to us, whether it comes as Christianity, whether it comes as humanism, whether it comes as Hinduism, Sufism, or Buddhism. The form doesn’t matter. The teacher is Buddha to us, one who can point the way to our own reality for us. He could be a scientist; she could be a religious teacher.”

Zen teacher Robert Aitken said of the First Jewel: “In a deeper and yet more ordinary dimension, all of us are Buddha. We haven’t realized it yet, but that does not deny the fact.”

There are many interpretations of these powerful words, “Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.” I’ve come to realize that part of the journey is to discover our own relationship with these immeasurable jewels.

I met His Holiness again the following year and again, by chance (if such a thing is possible) a few years later when I was fund-raising for the people of Tibet. He has shown up mysteriously several times throughout my life and is such a radiant example of boundless compassion and wisdom. His message is simple: “There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

Returning to the west, after being in India, it was impossible to re-enter the old way of being. India shook me to the corelessness of identity and nothing made much sense any more. “Positive disintegration” was occuring without “me” needing to do anything! In fact, there was no “me” anywhere to be found~

None-the-less, the journey continued…..

……. In the mid 1980’s I was adopted as a sister by Brooke Medicine Eagle, who I first met at a shamanic gathering at the Ojai Foundation in southern California. The “Hunkapi Ceremony” was performed by Joan Halifax in a large tipi and was attended by about thirty or so women. I loved the way Joan brought together indigenous, earth-based shamanic teachings and the Buddha dharma.

“The Buddhist perspective,” she said, “shows us that there is no personal enlightenment, that awakening occurs in the activity of loving relationship.”

Brooke was a powerful influence at the time and we travelled together on the west coast, offering groups and singing together as we journeyed. She reminded me of my indigenous heritage and opened a door through which I entered having no idea what I was about to discover.

One day she said to me, “If you were to do nothing but offer one song per day to Mother Earth you would be making a major contribution to the planet.”

Brooke organized a “Long Dance” before leaving the Ojai Foundation. The Long Dance is a visioning dance,  which begins at sundown and ends the following morning, at sunrise. Throughout the night a large drum is played so the heartbeat enters ones body continuously until dawn.

We drummed and danced throughout the night, under the stars, with about thirty other people and thoughts were dissolved into the heartbeat of the grandmother drum.

“Primary to our beingness, and our relationship to the larger group, is the feminine energy of nurturing and renewing–of ourselves, each other, and all those peoples in our Sacred Circle of life, especially the children.”

“The ancient wisdom calls us to turn primary attention to the sacred web of life.”

Around that same time, I was guided to the home of Grandmother Twylah Nitsch on the east coast of the U.S. and to “Sunray,” the home and sanctuary of Dhyani Ywahoo, also known as Pema Sangzin Khandro. Both Grandmother Twylah and Dhyani offered me the perfect medicine at the perfect time.

Arriving at Sunray, after a long journey, I was astounded to again find a teacher who was honoring both the Native American lineage as well as the Buddha dharma!

I still remember the inexplicable moment when I entered the shrine room and was greeted by a medicine wheel AND a radiant Buddha. It was then I realized that these two ancient teachings were inextricably interwoven and that they would be an interconnected part of my earth walk here.

Dhyani preserves and shares teachings from the Cherokee tradition as well as methods of peacemaking from the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual tradition. She is the Principle Chief of the Green Mountain Ani Yun Wiwa Band of the Tsalagi or Cherokee People.

Sunray offers three wisdom streams:
  • Ywahoo Lineage of the Cherokee People
  • Nyingma Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism
  • Drikung Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism

Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo was trained by her grandparents. She is the 27th generation to carry the ancestral wisdom of the Ywahoo lineage, committed to rekindle the fire of clear mind and right relationship in these changing times. In 1983, she was recognized by His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche of the Nyingma lineage as Pema Sangzin Khandro. In 1986, Sunray was recognized by His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche as a Drikung Kagyu Dharma Center.

During the same year I was invited to study with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross in Virginia and ended up as her assistant at the five-day “Life, Death and Transition” retreats that she offered in Europe and the U.S. My home also became the first Shanti Nilaya/Elisabeth Kübler-Ross center in France.

Elisabeth had unwavering dedication and a huge heart! She brought “death and dying” out of the closet in many ways and was a dynamic woman, loved and revered by many.

She had such tenderness for dying people and a fierce compassion. We first met at a transpersonal psychology conference in Davos, Switzerland and I was intrigued by her stories, her depth and humor.

Her training was an important opening into the world of death & dying and what I later discovered as “deathlessness.” I incorporated other modalities with her approach and over time was drawn to a more contemplative way of being in the presence of death.

Sonia Johnson rocked the boat with her book, The Ship That Sailed Into the Living Room. I remember hearing her speak at a large women’s conference (some time in the mid or late 1980’s) and though others found her to be “radical,” I found her to be a sane woman who had simply freed herself from layers of patriarchal conditioning.

I saw her only one other time but/and she was the kind of person who leaves an imprint, like some fern leaves do when you hold them against a piece of cloth.

Mary Oliver says, “…They stay in my mind, these beautiful people, or anyway beautiful people to me, of which there are so many. You, and you, and you, whom I had the fortune to meet, or maybe
missed…” 

I began designing collages when I was a child and had created several books combining words & collages by the time I was nineteen years old. The first series of collages that emerged in 1987 & ’88, after nearly two decades of not making time for collaging, were for an exhibition in Portland, Oregon. It was a multi-media exhibit celebrating women’s erotic art. (Yes, this non-self in the process of disillusionment was celebrating sexuality and spirituality simultaneously, seeing no division between the two…)

I was as inspired by conscious eco-feminists as I was by “spiritual teachers.” The seamlessness of reality had settled in. Awakeness is awakeness is awakens after all, regardless of the form or expression it takes.

Several of those early collages were sold and I have only one or two left. It was a wonderful series and being part of a group project stirred, nurtured & awakened a seed, which had been dormant for many years.

I was delighted to be creating collages again and it didn’t occur to me that one day they would be circulating the world as greeting cards.

I have known Rashani since she was thirteen years old. At the time, she was involved in the Civil Rights Movement and already raising the consciousness of her peers in many ways. Over the years, I observed a ferocity slowly growing in her soul ― a livid passion for truth, and for beauty.  She now creates images infused with that passion-intensity, side by side with sublime peace.  She juxtaposes and then dovetails unrest with stillness, loneliness with shelter and hunger with comfort…

One afternoon, I went to visit her. I opened the door to Rashani’s apartment and was stunned to see what she was creating. Breathtaking collages were spread out in every room, leaning against the walls and lying on all the tables of her small living space. For two years, she had been quietly gathering quotations and designing collages as part of her own healing process, following the deaths of several loved ones. She had gathered poignant words from a wide range of teachers, mystics, poets, family members and friends. At the time, she and her son were cutting and gluing the color-Xeroxed designs onto recycled card stock and selling them at spiritual retreats, music festivals and gatherings that Rashani held in bookstores and private homes. This paid for food and rent.

She had found this way to support her son and herself, returning to California after years living in the south of France. I looked at this sea of vibrantly original art, each piece bristling with life, and had a vision that there had to be a way to duplicate these, so she could not only make a better living, but also reach infinitely more people. Now, two decades later, I see her cards everywhere. Once they spoke to dozens of people, now they speak to hundreds of thousands. On reflection, one of the greatest gifts I will have given anyone in my lifetime, is that suggestion to Rashani that she find a way to enable her singular works, her magically healing messages, to multiply… and take wing.               –Dorothy Fadiman

I met Pema Chödrön and Buffie Johnson around the same time, in 1987. Pema was giving a retreat at the Lama Foundation, where I had spent two summers twenty years earlier. It was wonderful to meet Pema in the large geodesic dome overlooking the mesa. She has been a source of clarity ever since we met and continues to penetrate deeply with her sword of truth and compassion.

Buffie came to visit us in southern France, on her way to Morocco, where she spent the summer painting in an ex-lover’s home by the sea. She had spent more than thirty years writing Lady of the Beasts and was ecstatic to visit the prehistoric caves near our home, which she had written about in her book.

I later worked for Buffie in New York City and we remained friends until her death. She was a lively, brilliant & gifted artist whose paintings resembled Georgia O’Keefe’s. She could charm just about anyone and was referred to as the female Joseph Campbell of the 20th century.

She shared wonderful stories about how she and Carl Jung would share breakfast together in Zürich, discussing the Goddess!

In 1988 I began publishing my collages as  5″ x 8″ postcards and a few years later as folding greeting cards with envelopes. I went from women’s erotic poetry to quotes by Hildegard von Bingen, Rumi, Thich Nhat Hanh and excerpts from a few of my own poems.

Due to copyright issues, the collages with Hildegard’s words were never published. The Thich Naht Hanh collection currently includes twenty-five different cards, designed between 1988 and 1996 and the Rumi collection now has twenty-four cards.

More than twenty years ago, Thich Nhat Hanh said that Buddha would not return as an individual but that she was already vibrantly present, in the form of community/sangha. More recently, he said, “One Buddha is not enough.”

This is one of the early Thich Nhat Hanh cards, designed in 1988:

For several years I spent time every Summer at Plum Village, where I was ordained into the “Order of Interbeing” and attended many of Thich Nhat Hanh’s retreats in the United States. I drank in hundreds of his dharma talks. He would tell us that taking notes and trying to understand his words was like catching rain in a bucket. He said, “Let yourselves be drenched by the living dharma!” And indeed I was.

 

"There is only love. All else, repeating stories exhausting themselves."      - Rashani