Dispatches from GOD OF LOVE tour

August 3, 2012

April 13

Book Launch at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, sponsored by the Remarkable Women of Taos team—themselves a circle of remarkable women.  Toinette Lippe flies in from NYC to introduce me and speak about the two bookends of her editing career: the 1972 translation of the Tao Te Ching by Gia-Fu Feng with black & white photos by Jane English, and God of Love, by me.  Tessa Bielecki drives down from Crestone and takes the stage to talk about God of Love as a contribution to peacemaking among the People of the Book.  Jenny Bird sings the interspiritual chant she wrote just for the occasion.  Over a hundred Taoseños show up to bless my journey.

April 14

Panel discussion for the “Remarkable Women of Words” festival at Mabel Dodge with Toinette about the writer-editor relationship, called “The Alchemy of Editing.”  Another panel on mother & daughter writers later that day with my mom, Susanna.  Dinner that night at the Love Apple with my closest circle of support.  It snows 6 inches.  The restaurant has built a little snowman on the patio.

April 15

Reading & book signing at the Ark in Santa Fe, one of the oldest spiritual book stores in America, founded by beloved Lama friends, Jamil & Arielle.  The Ark has been a champion of my work since my the publication of my first book, Dark Night of the Soul.

April 21

Presentation on “the Interspiritual Quest” at the Spiritual Directors International Conference in Boston.  Video interview on interspirituality in a penthouse suite of the hotel where the conference is held.  John Phillip Newell is the keynote speaker.  Everything he says is what I say in God of Love.  I try to point this out to him later, but I feel shy.

April 22

Anicca, who I’ve known since she was born at Lama, and whose Mom, Ruthie, died in my house of cancer a couple of years ago, picks me up in Massachusetts, where she has a new job as an English professor, and drives me all the way to New York City.  We have dinner at a trendy Asian fusion place with Steve, the wonderful husband of my wonderful agent, Sarah Jane, while Sarah Jane is at some kind of fundraiser for Tibet.  Spend the night in their guest room, which I call “my room,” because they make me feel so at home whenever I am in New York.

April 24

Meet up with my publicists, Meryl & Rachel, at their office in the Upper West Side and walk over to the office of Reb David Ingber, the leader of the Jewish Renewal community, Romemu.  David and I are instant soul-siblings, and gleefully gallop through our conversation.  He is funny and irreverent, and also deep and wise.  It’s clear that God of Love is speaking his language.

April 25

My beloved Ganga Das flies in to meet me.  GD has not been to New York since he drove a taxi here while living in an ashram in the 1970s.  We hook up with Bub, who drives us up to his place (which is KD’s place) to make a nest for the rest of the week.  Bub and GD are old friends, and they’re both rascals, so they crack me up the entire time they’re together.

April 26

Satsang dinner.  Bub cooks an Indian feast.  Old friends gather to greet us, and eat, and sing chaleesas.  Wherever Maharaji devotees are becomes home.  My sweet Melissa comes down from upstate to take care of me, which God-of-Love knows I need (though GD does a damn good job too).

April 28

Speak at Romemu after the morning service.  Great turnout, provocative Q&A.  Kurt Johnson, spokesperson  for the late Brother Wayne Teasedale’s vision of interspirituality, shows up and spends the rest of the day with us, most of which is spent stuck in traffic on our way to Brooklyn, where I am scheduled to do an evening event at the Brooklyn Yoga School.  Jeremy and Lily cook us a vegan extravaganza at their apartment ahead of time.  Ambika, Nina, and Shyama join us there.  They have bought me a box of cupcakes, which I have made sure everyone knows I love.  We head over to BYS and praise the God of Love all night—alternating readings from my book with kirtan by Nina, Shyama, and Ambika.  This is what I was writing about: transcendent moments just like these.

April 28

Early morning phone call.  My dear friend, Bill McNichols, the iconographer-priest with whom I collaborated on Mother of God Similar to Fire, has had a heart attack and is in a coma in an Albuquerque hospital.  He might make it; he might not.  I yell at God (who I’m not even sure I believe in, or ever have, in spite of all appearances), and then I surrender.  Fr. Bill lingers on the border between life and death for weeks, and miraculously recovers.  He undergoes heart valve replacement surgery, and begins his return, forever transfigured.

May 9

Drive to Boulder with my mom for a Sounds True interview on Tami Simon’s “Insights on the Edge” pod-cast, in which she strikes up a conversation with different teachers about the places in their own inner lives where they may be encountering new territory.  I speak about radical spiritual intimacy, and Tami definitely draws me out, provoking my wild and uncensored self.  She calls the interview “Naked With the Beloved.”  It attracts quite a bit of attention.  I can’t help but wonder if I need to find alternative language to “spiritual promiscuity.”  It may be sending the wrong message.

May 11

Drive to Durango with Kelsey, my brilliant and helpful intern.  Give a reading from God of Love at Mercy Regional Medical Center.  Impressed by the gorgeous architecture and landscaping of the hospital—truly a place of healing.  They even have a labyrinth.  They put us up at a restored Old West hotel downtown.

May 12

The community of Durango has endured a staggering array of losses over the winter, and have brought me in to work with both health care professionals and bereaved family members.  We spend a day together in deep dialog and prayerful silence, in naked sorrow and outbursts of irrational joy.

May 19

Fly to Seattle, where I am met by Tessa’s old friend, Laura, and her companion, Jean, who have now become my friends.  They take me home to stay with them for a few days, where they tend me with boundless generosity and loving care.  Lunch with brilliant and funny Brenda, with whom I share agent and friend, Sarah Jane, at the legendary Elliot Bay Bookstore.

May 20

Hosted by the bard, Tim Feetham, at St. Stephan’s Episcopal Church.  The room is sprinkled with incognito priests among lay people.  Confessions by deeply identified Christians about unexpectedly encountering the presence of God in other holy houses (such as Jewish synagogues).  Tears of religious guilt mingled with profound relief.  I begin to suspect that the God of Love is doing her job, and doing it well.

May 21

Hosted by the great sage, Jamal Rachman, at his legendary Interfaith Church of Seattle.  Slip in early and participate in the interspiritual chanting, praising the God of Love in Arabic and Hebrew, Latin and English, Pali and Sanskrit.  Bliss.  Another full house.  More great stories about people’s encounters with the Divine outside their identified faith traditions.  I begin to think I should tape these sessions, but decide to stay in the moment and simply bear witness with the fullness of my attention.

May 21-23

My friend Jules, who lost her soul-mate to cancer a couple of years ago and navigates her grief with more presence and wisdom than almost anyone I’ve met, picks me up and takes me home with her to her little apple farm near Bellingham.  I am getting weary of traveling, and my back is in spasm.  Jules and I walk and talk, eat and sit in silence.  I am restored.

May 23

Jules drives me all the way to Portland.  My daughter Daniela, who moved from New Mexico to rural Washington a few months ago, meets me there with her children, Bree & Niko, who I have been mightily missing.  They come to my talk at New Renaissance Books, and then stay with me at the Inn at Northrup Station–an adorable boutique hotel–a splurge treated by my mom.

May 25-29

“Dying Into Love” retreat with my friends, Will Keepin and Cynthia Brix from Satyana Institute, and Father William Treacy, founder of Camp Brotherhood, where the retreat is being held.  We speak of the transformational power of walking an interspiritual path, drawing from the wisdom of multiple traditions as we make our way home to love.  I hang out as much as I can with Fr. Treacy, who I wrote about in the section called “Fire on the Altar” in God of Love.  He is 93 and a pioneer of interfaith dialog, along with the late Rabbi Raphael Levine.  I give Fr. Treacy a copy of my book and he reads it in two days, commenting on it in great and insightful detail.  I stay with Will and Cynthia the night before the retreat and the night after at their home on Whidbey Island.  We drive across the Island to get to Mount Vernon, stopping along the way to hike down to the shore.  It’s a stunning day—clear and sunny—the only one of its kind the entire time I’m in the Pacific Northwest.  A bald eagle lands on the beach as we are walking, and I burst into tears.  On my last night in Washington, Will and Cynthia take me across Puget Sound on the ferry and treat me to a lavish dinner of grilled salmon and crusty sourdough bread.

June 1

Fly to Atlanta, where I am met by my friends, Bob & Judy, who are hosting me for several days of interspiritual talks and gatherings.  I first met Bob when he brought me to Chicago in 2004 to speak at an interfaith gathering at the legendary social justice hotbed, Lake Street Church, where he was the pastor for 25 years, until recently retiring to Atlanta to be closer to grandchildren.  I always have such fun with Bob and Judy.  They do not take the spiritual life too seriously, which I find refreshing.  Reading and book signing at the Phoenix and Dragon bookstore, where I am beautifully received by the visionary Candace Apple, who feels like a long-lost sister.  Meet Carl McColman, whose books on Christian mysticism I have admired.  His delicate daughter Rhiannon sits in rapt attention in her wheelchair, laughing at all my jokes–much more affirming than plain old praise.

June 2

Bob and Judy take me on a tour of Atlanta.  We visit Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King and his father both preached.  A continuous stream of pilgrims, African American and otherwise, flow into the pews and sit in holy silence in the space where one of the greatest peacemakers of all times bore witness to the God of Love.  Bob and Judy host an elegant dinner party that night with diverse members of the Atlanta interfaith community.  I lead a Havdalah ritual to close Shabbat, which I have never done before (though I don’t confess this), and my Southern friends collectively decide that they will start integrating the observance of Shabbat into their primarily Christian (with a smattering of Hindu) practices.

June 3

Hosted by the twinkling Brother Shankara for a morning talk at the Vedanta Center of Atlanta.  The room fills, the group is vibrant, the silence deep, and the questions challenging.  I am at home in the Eastern traditions and do not feel like an imposter here, which I sometimes do in the Judeo-Christian household.  That evening I speak at the Baptist Church of Decatur, sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book.  I read from the “Feminine Face of the Divine,” which could be shocking around here, but instead is met with courage and delight.  Lo and behold, I find a place at the table of Christianity after all.  The God of Love is everywhere, just as I suspected.

June 4

Fly to NYC for BEA (Book Expo of America, the yearly publishing industry extravaganza).  Dinner with my Monkfish publisher, Paul, who has put me up in a fancy Park Avenue hotel.  Three nights of solitude—what bliss!  We go over my notes for the JBC presentation scheduled for tomorrow, in which I will have exactly two minutes to pitch my book to around a couple of hundred representatives from various Jewish community centers and educational organizations around the country in the hope that a few of them will invite me to come and give a talk to their group.

June 5

BEA.  Thousands of publishers, editors, agents, and authors mill about the enormous Javits Center checking out the latest developments.  I am like a child from the hill country in the city for the first time: dazzled.  I take a cab to Hebrew Union College at NYU to make my JBC presentation.  As I pull up to the venerable old campus I realize my late father went to college here 6o years ago.  I feel connected to him, and wistful.  In the company of 50 other authors, I race to the podium and try to tell my audience how vital (and entertaining!)  interspirituality can be.  I don’t get to most of what I meant to say, and then it’s time to move on.  We retire to the ballroom, where we are meant to mingle with our prospective patrons while grazing at the kosher buffet table.  I can’t even think about food.  I stand there awkwardly, trying to look like I am at ease, waiting for someone to find me interesting enough to talk to.  I feel like a cow at a cattle auction.  A couple of people chat with me, but most of the interest lies with the award-winning sitcom writers and war correspondents.

June 6

BEA book signing this morning—not an easy slot to get, and Paul got me one.  One of many authors in a row, separated by velvet ropes, our respective followers line up to get a signed copy of our new book.  Then I hop in a taxi and rush over to Wall Street where I have been invited to a special leadership meeting for the Occupy Movement.  They are trying to introduce contemplative values and interspiritual perspective into the global conversation about economic justice.  I am aware that I am in the presence of history unfolding.  Lunch with some of the greatest thinkers and spiritual leaders of our times.  This long day closes with a “spiritual publishers” dinner party at a Soho restaurant.  When it comes time to introduce ourselves and say which press we are affiliated with and what we do there, I say, “Hi, I’m Mirabai.  I’m a Monkfish author…. and a Hampton Roads author, and a Riverhead author, and a Shambhala author, and a Sounds True author.”  Everyone laughs.  I feel like a publishing hussy.  Which I kind of am.

July 7

Fly to San Jose with my 13-year-old granddaughter, Bree.  GD is already there.  He was installing the electronic locking system in a fancy hotel in Napa and stayed an extra week to go surfing in Ventura afterwards.  He picks us up at the airport and takes us to his mother’s place—an apartment in the upper story of a converted barn on the property of his sister-in-law and brother—our home base for the California leg of the book tour.  My mother-in-law is 92 and still drives a red mustang convertible, stick shift.  She is a natural philosopher and I depend on her for perspective on the meaning of life.  GD, Bree and I head straight for the beach.  Bree has never been to the ocean.  She rushes to the shore and wades right in, splashing and shrieking.  In between events, GD will take Bree boogie-boarding.

July 8

Reading, talk and book signing at Chochmat Halev, the Jewish Renewal Community in Berkeley.  Old friends show up, like my beloved student Shambo from almost 30 years ago when I was 25 and he was 15 and I had my first job teaching creative writing and Spanish at a private high school in Palo Alto for gifted yet troubled kids.  Now he teaches comparative religions (and something much deeper and harder to define) at a private school for gifted adolescents!  Shambo brings his two moms, who I also love.  We spend the night at the home of Tot, my oldest childhood friend who is an extraordinary tile artist, and her family in the San Geronimo Valley in Marin.  The next day we walk and walk the wild beaches of Pt. Reyes.

July 9

Yahya, who has been reading my work for years and encouraged me to bring God of Love to California, has arranged all my Bay Area events and accompanies us almost everywhere, serving in his quiet, heartful way.  Tonight we have an evening of readings and kirtan at Open Secret Book Store with our satsang sister, Uma Reed.  Tamam Khan, author of Untold, fellow Monkfish author, has been promoting me on her blog, and shows up to support me in person.  This means even more than usual, since Tamam and her husband Shabda have recently become members of the club no one wants to belong to: parents of children who have died.  Their son, much loved DJ Solomon, was killed in an accident in Thailand.  Phil Novak, whose book, The World’s Wisdom, I have used for 20 years in my college classes along with Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions, also comes to the event and asks the juiciest questions.  Phil is Huston Smith’s closest protégé, and agrees to arrange for me to meet my 93-year-old hero next week.  Uma’s kirtan is pure and grounded.  I could sing with her forever.

July 11

Yahya takes me to tea at the home of his teachers, Kabir and Camille Helminski, in the foothills of Watsonville.  I have read their books and followed their work with great appreciation over the years, but somehow this is the first time our paths have actually crossed.  It is instantly clear that we are family.  Before I leave Kabir wraps me for a moment in Maharaji’s blanket, which he was given at Kainchi Ashram over 40 years ago.  I have an exquisite moment of my guru’s darshan accompanied by a rush of shakti and a flood of tears.  That night I give a reading and book signing at East West Books in Mountain View.  Full house, lively Q&R.  GD records a video on my i-phone.

July 12

The cup of this day runs over: a meandering drive up the coast along Highway 1 all the way from Santa Cruz to Pt. Reyes Station.  A radio interview with Wendy McLaughlin for “The Feminine Mystic;” tea with the incredibly supportive and generous Llewellyn & Anat Vaughn-Lee on the patio of their new Sufi center; an early dinner of homemade soup and salad from the garden with our old friends Devi & Allaudin Matthieu, before which we retire to Allaudin’s studio where he plays his legendary piano for us and Devi sings a Rumi song and they talk me into reading a section from God of Love; talk and book signing that evening at Many Rivers Books & Tea in Sebastopol, after which we return to the community house of our hosts, Rob and Stuart, where we drink good red wine and eat dark chocolate and talk about our lives, which for Rob & me includes the obscure blend of an academic background in archaeology and a vocation of interspirituality.

July 13

New Dimensions radio interview with my old friend, Justine Toms, on the campus of the Institute for Noetic Sciences in Petaluma.  Another joyful romp through the fields of mystical longing and social justice.  The interview should be up in a month or two.

July 15

Final California event: a reading, talk, and book signing at Sagrada Sacred Arts in Oakland.  This store defies description and transcends boundaries: books and art objects that reflect a rainbow of paths and practices.  Beauty everywhere, especially in the hearts of our hosts, Mary and Carlo.  We go out for a celebratory dinner in Berkeley with GD’s brother Lance and his partner, Lynne, and our old friend Jonathan.

July 17

We meet my former assistant and forever friend Kaysi and her daughter Isis Blu on the Santa Cruz pier for breakfast.  My mother-in-law Bette joins us.  It is one of those perfect pale blue beach days.  If the weather was always like this around here, I might never return to New Mexico.  Drive into Berkeley in the afternoon to meet my lifelong mentor, Huston Smith.  Phil accompanies us because Huston is deaf and can read Phil’s lips.  When I walk into the room where Huston is sitting I fall to my knees and touch his feet.  He brushes off my reverence and makes me get back up.  We nibble cookies and talk about why we have chosen to focus on what is most beautiful and good in the world’s religions and let other people argue about the historical atrocities and current strife.  I am acutely aware that we are sitting in the presence of a living legend.  GD takes a picture of me with Huston.  I post it on Facebook.

July 18

We drop Bree at the airport and she flies home to the Northwest.  We make our way through the Mohave, heading back to New Mexico.  We listen to CDs of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth along the way.  I have used up all my words.  GD drives and drives.

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