Sunday, June 29, 2008

On the farm

Sunday morning at Rancho Far Side, as Lisa and Djann call this place. Things on the Tassajara fire front are relatively calm at the moment; I spoke with Gina yesterday and she still sounds good, assuring me that everything is okay. So I’m feeling able to shift gears a bit and tell you about my surroundings here, where I will be until July 16.

Lisa and Djann have 20 acres of land on the Rio Chama (“rio” means river), about an hour north of Santa Fe. They moved here two years ago, and they hold a vision of creating a sustainable place to live that welcomes a wide circle of friends and community.

This is fertile land, sitting between the river and the acequia – an irrigation ditch system that was created hundreds of years ago by the Spanish. When they bought the property, the land had been dormant for a while, but Djann and Lisa put a lot of work into it and now there are fields of crops growing… garlic, squash, corn, beans, lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, melons, berries, grapes, sunflowers, and lots more. Last night we had salad nicoise for dinner with romaine lettuce from the garden and grilled albacore and green beans.

This past year, Djann has started up a business – Sunhorse Sustainable Systems – to install solar panel systems and raise awareness of and access to alternative energy technologies. Sunhorse is in start up phase but already has put in solar systems at a few residences and a nearby pueblo.

For as long as I’ve known Lisa and Djann (about 15 years now), they have a wonderful gift for drawing magic and people into their lives, and that’s happening here. This is a lot of land to manage, and recently a ‘wrangler’ showed up to give them a hand – Fred, who now lives in a bunkhouse on the property, and takes care of a couple of horses that are on the land as well as building and fixing things on the property and helping with watering the crops.

So here I am, on this beautiful and magical piece of land with good friends all around, trying to find my place. Creative opportunities seem to flow to me here… there’s the possibility of helping Sunhorse set up a website and maybe help out in other ways, my friend Sharon is working to start up a Buddhist hospice on land nearby and may want support with creating a brochure, and there’s the work at Upaya Zen Center with the chaplaincy training program and possibly more.

The big challenge for me is to remember that I designated this as sabbatical time to rest and renew, to break some old maladaptive patterns and to create a more wholesome and fulfilling life. One old pattern is to say “yes” to everything that comes my way, no matter what the cost to myself. I realize I was wired at an early age to respond to other people’s needs. Not necessarily a bad thing, but important for me to take a deep look at how I nourish myself in the process. And I’m realizing that I want to take some more time to reconnect with my own vision and values.

With that, I’ll close with this great quote from astrologer Rob Brezsny:

“At the heart of the pronoiac [this is the opposite of paranoid… think joy!] way of life is an apparent conundrum: You can have anything you want if you'll just ask for it in an unselfish way. The trick to making this work is to locate where your deepest ambition coincides with the greatest gift you have to give. Figure out exactly how the universe, by providing you with abundance, can improve the lot of everyone whose life you touch. Seek the fulfillment of your fondest desires in such a way that you become a fount of blessings.”

Above: Lisa putting finishing touches on the salad
Below: Djann and Lola the dog survey the fields

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sitting in the Fire

Preparing for fire at Tassajara
photo from Los Angeles Times

It's Saturday morning, I'm in Medanales, NM, but a great deal of my attention and prayers are going to Tassajara Zen Center. I feel like half my life is there.

On Thursday night around 9:30 I spoke with Gina on the phone from inside of Tassajara (she can call me from the one satellite phone there, but I can't call her). She was actually in very good spirits -- along with the 10 or so other priests and students who chose to stay behind and help fire crews, she had put in a long day clearing brush and helping to create fire breaks to protect the monastery should the flames come down into it. She had made dinner for the fire crew the night before and was offering to give massages too... she said she was happy she chose to stay, and it seems that she is in her element. She is a brave woman.

The last updates had the fire at about 3 miles from the monastery with winds possibly coming in from the southeast which would push it even closer in that direction. There's an excellent story in today's LA Times about the fire and Tassajara.

Thanks for all your support and prayers.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Settling into New Mexico

I am settling into my home for the next two weeks here in Medanales, New Mexico. I’ll be housesitting for my friends Lisa and Djann. Hardly anyone has ever heard of Medanales, even in New Mexico. I doubt that it has a Wikipedia entry, but you can tell me! It’s about an hour north of Santa Fe, on the road toward Abiquiu (famous as Georgia O’Keefe’s home).

It’s been quite a week of traveling from place to place, and I’m only now catching up on this blog. There’s a lot more to say than what I’m able to write here. I still feel very much in transition, and am still concerned about Gina and a handful of other residents at Tassajara who have chosen to stay there and help fire crews to prepare for the fire, which seems to be headed in that direction. The most helpful sources of information I’ve found so far are the KUSP page and for a more personal take on it, the blog Sitting with Fire started up by the folks who are based in Jamesburg, off of Carmel Valley Road and at the start of the 14-mile dirt road that leads to Tassajara.

Even so, this first week in New Mexico has been good… here are a couple of New Mexico photos; one of my friends Kristin and Joseph who hosted me my first few days here and one of view from their Santa Fe patio. And many thanks to friends Sharon and Greg who gave me a place to stay for the past few nights at their beautiful, off-the-grid home in Medanales. Sharon took me for a super relaxing trip to Ojo Caliente hot springs this past Tuesday.

Above: Kristin and Joseph on their back porch in Santa Fe
Below: The view from the porch!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In New Mexico

Just a quick check in -- I'm in northern New Mexico, writing this at the moment from the Maya Art Cafe near Abiquiu. Very little cell phone or email access here, so I'm having to improvise ways to stay in touch.

Yesterday, I spent the day at Upaya Zen Center in my role as their chaplaincy program coordinator. It's a beautiful place to put in a day of work!

At the moment, I am distracted thinking about my partner Gina, who is up at Tassajara Zen Center, not far from one of the many fires that broke out this past weekend near the Big Sur area. Sounds likely that they may be evacuated... keeping her and all the Tassajara residents in my prayers.

More soon...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Riding the Rails

Pacific Surfliner starting out from San Luis Obispo, Thursday, June 19

Union Station, Los Angeles, Friday evening June 20

I’m writing this at 7:30 am on Saturday morning, the first day of summer, though I won’t be able to post it till later as there is no internet access on this train. I’m on the Southwest Chief traveling just east of Winslow, Arizona. The sun rose early, and the first thing I could see in its morning rays were the ponderosa pines near Flagstaff. Then an elk having breakfast near the tracks!

We got off to a rocky start last night as the train was delayed by more than an hour – the result of the flooding in the Midwest. On top of that, there were tons of screaming children waiting to board the train – the result of summer vacation, I guess. Los Angeles’ Union Station is an architectural gem, but not so relaxing to wait in, in the near 100 degree heat, and with loud voices telling us how delayed the trains were booming out of the speakers and echoing in the huge chamber of the main waiting room.

I was having second thoughts about my choice to take a train instead of flying to New Mexico, but all is forgiven this morning after a surprisingly restful night and a good breakfast in the dining car (“Railroad French Toast” and a sausage plus coffee). Sat at a dining table with a retired San Francisco policeman and a young man from Mexico soon to start a graduate degree in urban design and architecture at UC Berkeley.

I find it so soothing to feel the rocking motion of the train, the rhythm of the tracks going by underneath us, and the slow, leisurely pace of train travel. No one searches you before you get on a train, and most of your fellow passengers are here to enjoy the journey too… there was something very sweet about seeing adults carrying around their favorite pillows and blankets onto the train, and kids bringing their stuffed elephants, bears, etc. Trains will definitely be a highlight of my nascent Center for Nonviolent Transportation!

If all goes according to schedule, we should be in Lamy, New Mexico, around 3 pm this afternoon, where I’ll hop on a bus up to Santa Fe. All in all, it amounts to about a 19-hour trip.

The Pacific Surfliner from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles was a relatively short, beautiful ride… hugging the coastline for much of the day. That train had electrical outlets so I could keep my laptop plugged in… this one doesn’t, so I’m jamming in the writing here before my battery goes.

The view from the Surfliner, somewhere near Santa Barbara

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

On the road again

The next line is "i can't wait to get on the road again..." Not sure that's completely true for me in this moment, but like a good Sagittarian, I'll probably be fine once I'm in motion.

Tomorrow I drive my car to San Luis Obispo, then leave it parked there for the month, take the Pacific Surfliner train to Los Angeles, stay overnight with my parents, and then leave on the Friday overnight train for Santa Fe.

I really do love train travel... a couple of weeks ago I woke up from a dream and the words "Institute for Nonviolent Transportation" came to me clear as a bell. I thought, "hey, what a great nonprofit to found!" If there is nonviolent action and nonviolent communication, why not devote more energy to considering nonviolent transportation?

I googled around to see if anyone else is already doing this, and it doesn't seem so. But the one reference to 'nonviolent transportation' that I found led me to a really cool person who responded to my email the next day: Prem Makeig, who lives in Brooklyn and makes kickbikes. How very cool!

I'll write more from the train, and from New Mexico. Till then, here's one of my favorite photos from the past couple of months... taken at Fort Point, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco at the end of April.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Blues... and Intentions

Lest this blog seem too blissful, I’m ready to add some dissonance to the mix tonight.

For the past few days, really the past week, I’ve been in a funky mood, having a hard time feeling motivated to do anything, and feeling, well, I hate to use the word “depressed” for various reasons (maybe the topic of a future blog entry) but definitely feeling blue. If I have any addiction it is to chocolate, and I’ve been on a feeding frenzy as of late. Three hot fudge sundaes in the past three days. (But oh were they good!)
There are days when being untethered to any job identity or fixed address feels incredibly liberating. And there are days like today when I feel lonely and adrift. Perhaps things are getting stirred up because the ground beneath my feet is shifting once again as I prepare to pack up my stuff from the Monterey room that's been my home base for the past 6 weeks and head to New Mexico this Thursday. I've moved around a lot the past five years, so my rootlessness feels especially highlighted this week.

So I thought it might be helpful to me and interesting for you to look at the intentions I set for myself at the beginning of this sabbatical, back in April. I’ve been enjoying the blog “How to Save the World” by Dave Pollard, and he’s got a nice entry about intentions. So this is resonating with me right now.

First and foremost, my big intention was to open up space and time for at least six months so that I could more deeply understand the conditions for joy, creative, expression, and intimacy in my life. And then create those conditions for the next phase of my life.

More specifically, I outlined four things that I wanted to practice during this time:

1. Stay in touch with my body, especially in times of stress. This has been a foundational practice for me recently in the therapy work I’ve done with Tina Stromsted, a wonderful authentic movement therapist in San Francisco.

2. Place intimacy, love, and connection and friendships at the center of my life. Okay, I forgot to add to my addiction list – I can be a workaholic. That’s where this intention comes in.

3. Keep an unwavering commitment to my own nourishment. Nourishment in this sense means what it is that I really need… which is often different than what I want. (I wanted those ice cream sundaes!) This practice has been instilled in me by my Zen teacher, Vicki Austin of San Francisco Zen Center.

4. Practice trust and confidence in the natural generosity of the universe, and my own ability to take care of myself in the material world. Fear of not being or having enough is a big one for me… time, money, etc. This period of not having a ‘regular’ job and paycheck is a way to challenge that belief in myself. I wanted to leave room to be support and surprised by the abundance of the universe, and it’s actually been happening a lot as you may gather from reading my blog.

If you're cruising through and reading my blog, I'd love to hear what your current life intentions are, or even what you think about intentions... are they important to you? are they the same or different from goals? what else are ya thinking? Leave a comment below... c'mon, it's fun!

Thursday, June 12, 2008


If you want to be free, learn to live simply.

Use what you have and be content where you are. Quit trying to solve your problems by moving to another place, by changing mates or careers.

Leave your car in the garage. If you have a gun, put it away. Sell that complex computer and go back to using pencil and paper. Rather than read every new book that comes along, reread the classics.

Eat good food grown locally. Wear simple, durable clothing. Keep a small home, uncluttered and easy to clean. Keep an open calendar with periods of uncommitted time. Have a spiritual practice and let family customs grow.

Of course, the world is full of novelty and adventures. New opportunities come along every day.

So what?

from: The Tao of Leadership, John Heider

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Good Work of Friends, Part 2

Back from Tassajara… the workshop on “Mountains, Rivers, and the Great Earth” with Wendy Johnson and Steve Stucky was fantastic, inspiring, and relaxing all at the same time. More about learnings from that coming soon.

Tonight, the next round of highlighting the work of some of my circle of friends. These three people are vibrant artists who have inspired me to devote more attention to my creativity… my medium is writing, but as my psychic (yes, I have a psychic!) recently told me, in a broader sense, I’m an artist of life. I liked that.

* David King: I met David on my first day of graduate school at the California Institute of Integral Studies, a way back in the fall of 1993. David was the coordinator for the anthropology department back then… now he’s a collage artist (and much more). The images he creates combine sensuality, spirituality, and just plain camp and fun -- like the one you see above, titled "Shiva Scott." It’s been inspiring to watch David transform his life over the years so that it centers around his art. You can see his work on his website, or if you’re in the Bay Area, visit him at the Mission Open Studios.

* Jenesha De Rivera: Jenesha and I worked together at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship from 2004-2007. Jinky was BPF’s administrative director in those days and still consults for nonprofits, but it’s been even more fun to watch her cultivate her creative side, manifesting in both writing and filmmaking. Check out her website. Jinky and her partner, Patricia, co-edited the anthology Homelands: Womens Journeys Across Race, Place, and Time (published by Seal Press in 2006), and this weekend is the premiere of her film “Labels Are Forever” at the Queer Women of Color Film Festival this coming Saturday, June 14, in San Francisco.

* Susan Moon: Sue is another colleague from Buddhist Peace Fellowship days. Sue is a writer and editor par excellence – she’s the author of The Life and Letters of Tofu Roshi, the editor of Being Bodies: Buddhist Women on the Paradox of Embodiment and Not Turning Away: The Practice of Engaged Buddhism, and she has written more gems than I can possibly list here. Sue leads writing workshops at places like Tassajara Zen Center and Manzanita Village. Visit her website, which is a little out of date, but keep an eye out for her writing workshops because she’s a fantastic teacher too. I consider Sue as one of my editing mentors (Arnie Kotler, founder of Parallax Press and Koa Books, has been another), and it's been an honor to work with her.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Into the Woods

Today I'm headed up to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Monterey. I'll be participating in a workshop with Wendy Johnson and Steve Stucky. Wendy is also an old friend from my days with the Order of Interbeing, and author of a beautiful new book, Gardening at the Dragon's Gate.

And, I get to visit my partner Gina, whose been up at Tassajara as a student since April. I've been missing her, so this will be a treat.

Tassajara is pretty remote... no computers up there! So I'll be out of touch till next week. When I come back, I'm hoping to see a few comments on my blog so that I know you're out there!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The Power of Friends -- and Mindfulness

Lately I’ve been reflecting on another way in which I am rich… rich in the people I’ve been blessed to come to know and work with over the past seven years, people on the cutting edge of the movement to integrate meditative and spiritual practices into all realms of life.

Recently, the intersection of meditation and neuroscience has been big in the news. If you haven’t yet seen it, watch this video interview with Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroscientist who had the chance to watch her own brain as she experienced a stroke. It’s a powerful tale that illustrates how our brains define our ‘reality,’ and how that reality can so quickly be altered.

I am so blessed to have these folks in my life and to collaborate with them on offering this healing path to wider circles. Here are a few of them.

* Roshi Joan Halifax (pictured above), recently featured in this blog interview with Danny Fisher. Over the past few months, I’ve been helping Roshi to coordinate a Buddhist chaplaincy training program at Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico. It’s such a great program that I’m tempted to enroll myself at some future point!

* Diana Winston, who is the Director for Mindfulness Education at the Mindfulness Awareness Research Center based at UCLA. Diana is an old friend and co-worker from my days at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF). Listen to this interview with Diana to get a sense of her culturally hip yet deeply spiritually grounded perspectives on young people and Buddhism.

* Mirabai Bush, the founder and director of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, where I used to be the research director. I've been assisting the Center in a search for a new executive director -- Mirabai will be retiring after leading the organization since 1997. She will be missed! Her work to integrate mindfulness into society has impacted thousands of people from all walks of life -- university professors, lawyers, social justice activists, CEO's... really quite amazing.

* Alan Senauke, another colleague from the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Alan has now founded the Clear View Project whose mission is to direct Buddhist-based resources toward relief in social change. One big area of Alan's focus right now is Burma, in the wake of the terrible cyclone that hit last month.

All of them are gifted leaders and healers, and I am truly grateful that they are part of my circle friends. In another blog, I'll highlight some more dear friends and their work.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Maia’s FAQ

I’ve been noticing that friends have been asking me the same set of questions. So, here are some answers to those things you may be wondering…

Where do you live now?
At the moment, I am living in Monterey, California. Sea otters are practically my neighbors. I’ll be here until mid-June, then I head to northern New Mexico to house sit for my friends Lisa and Djann.

Are you moving to New Mexico or what?
I’m trying everything out right now. I have the wonderful opportunity at this moment in my life where I’m not tied down to one home or one job, so I can test out a number of places to see where my heart wants to settle… at least for the next phase of the journey.

My partner Gina is currently up in the mountains at Tassajara Zen Center (not far from Monterey) until the end of September. I’m also charting this life course with her, and we’ll both see where we want to be as the summer comes to an end.

I know that I love it in Monterey – the combination of ocean and history and good people. And northern New Mexico has called to me for a long time for the same reasons (except substitute mountains and mesas and big sky for oceans). We’ll see what happens... I have never liked to live a boring life!

What are you doing for work?
I’m trying to hold the spirit of sabbatical, so mostly I am taking this time to slow down, take long walks by the ocean, write a lot, and consider what I really want to be doing so that I make wise investments of my energy and gifts. But when opportunities pop up that seem intriguing and rewarding to me, I occasionally say ‘yes.’ I like to think of these as expressions of my talents rather than yukky old work.

Some of the projects I've been working on are with Upaya Zen Center and the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society. More about that in a future blog.

I've created Five Directions Consulting as a way to connect with people I will enjoy working with. See my business website:

More questions?!