One Step Beyond

Chased by rain and an icy wind off the North Sea we sped out of the lands of Nether at 200km an hour on the ICE train. Every click of track carried me deeper into the continent, deeper into what the hell am I doing here. Just when I wasn’t getting the hang of the Dutch it was on to being baffled by Germans. Luckily I had a German guide with me who handled train tickets, taxi, hotel check-in, joined me at dinner buffet, then left me to fend for myself. I slept well in an efficient and tiny German hotel bed.

I love saying Good Morning to people while running on the trail, sipping coffee, buying celery. So I was happy to make my way to breakfast exchanging “Guten Morgens” and then just “Morgens” as I got hip to the local ways.

I quickly got hip to the fact that it’s not a true German breakfast if you don’t end up with meat sweats afterward. I’ve never eaten so many different animals so many times over for breakfast. But it was good to eat beyond my fill, and write, and drink the one cup of coffee I was offered.

Tying the laces of your pilgrim boots is not a penultimate act. One does not train in seclusion until the grand ordination when the waxed cord bends and dives and draws fast, forever asserting the smooth step ahead as one leaps from the monastery heights. You tie again and again, and some days the knot is uneven as old cobblestones and other days smooth as rail and either way you’re free to strut or stumble on whatever pebbles or broken walls present themselves.


But in Germany I started to get the hang of my ties and the rhythm of the soles of my wingtips, even as the forecast called for more treacherous winter. I ate, I slept, I soaked in the waters my guide showed me. We drank Negronis at the water bar, sweated in the wood-fire saunas at the edge of barbarian woods, stood in cold showers as if rinsing off the blood of Romans.

And still the platform came too soon, as it must. Before arriving at the station we found the church from 822 AD locked just prior to our trying the great iron handle, so we knelt and conducted ritual of metal devotion in the baroque pomp next door.



I said goodbye to Guide and Germany as I boarded the train pointed toward Prague. I showed my savvy by accidentally sitting in first class – oh the horror of conductor and passenger alike! Back to my humble seat to watch as we passed through great cold landscapes, haunted castles on dark hills silhouetted by an ill-setting sun. Germany will never produce vampires who twinkle and equivocate about blood.

Prayer of Germany: Wind and snow, inspire high fires in the hearts and homes of all winter’s people; Blood of this land, drive dancing feet deeper into this world; Steel and stone, teach us to love fierce and heavy with time; Light, last long enough to show all travelers safe haven.


The Single Step

I’m on pilgrimage. That’s what I’ve been gabbing at god and everyone, though I should’ve been asking what the hell that means. Concepts rain: journeying outward and inward away from the known, following ancient routes to sacred places, walking closer to knowing ones Divinity. The world faiths have their pilgrimages, and the world’s faithful follow them. Secular pilgrimages abound as well, many miles eaten by wheels for devotion to sport, music, festival.

I feel myself outside of both but I’ve left my home and my understanding of the Divine and I’m on my feet in Old Country. Where I rest today frames yesterday’s road. Meaning is distilled drop by drop, tended by the days’ intentions: open; surrender; go forth.


As soon as the plane took off into the Cascade Sky I realized I’d been sitting still too long. Too comfortable, too familiar, and now this great unknown expanse of time and continent was making me anxious. The thought of new currencies, transport, food was perfectly unsettling.


I flew out of the sunrise and landed in Amsterdam on New Year’s Eve. Euros in my pocket (thanks Mom), I stepped onto the train, found lodging in Utrecht and a delicious Dutch salad. So it begins.

We toured Amsterdam on New Year’s Day, the garbage trucklets overwhelmed with the devastation of firework husks, broken glass, cigarette butts. I knelt in a Catholic Church and sent my Reiki prayers up through the gilded steeple.


The next day I knelt in what was once a Catholic Cathedral but had been bashed and dulled into a Protestant Church during the fury of the Reformation. (I lamented the waste at the time, but visiting the Vatican weeks later I understood the rage and felt tempted to do some tearing and burning of that perverse opulence myself.)

Just a few days with those sweet pink-cheeked bike-riding sea-strugglers amidst their canals and coffee before boarding the train to Germany. Thank you Netherlands.

Prayer of Amsterdam: May the light of this moon illumine all I love and have left behind, may it show my feet their stance on this new ground, may it see all travelers to safe rest.


A Sip of Hinduism

Continuing my interfaith studies at the Chaplaincy Institute, I attended a module on Hinduism this month. I loved it, and find myself more confused about what Hinduism is than before I went. I count that as a good thing. I learned how to pronounce Ganesha correctly (Ga-nay-sha) and that Hinduism is considered a monotheistic religion. I ate delicious food, I sang kirtan with my classmates, and I caught a blink of a glimpse at the millennia of cultivated wisdom that this tradition holds. Phenomenal. The work of Brant Cortright in his work Integral Psychology, and the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, are profound. My reflections, light and small as a snowflake, are below.


“There comes a time when one asks even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, is this all?” -Aldous Huxley, referenced by Huston Smith in The World’s Religions

The more I’ve read of Hinduism, the less I’ve understood. With every step the ground gives way on either side: the path narrows, the cosmos widens. It will consume all the love I am and make me more.


Sanskrit sings in me much the way Arabic did, an ocean of meaning where I float, fingers trailing the surface. My heart is still cracked open from the soaring depths of our kirtan. To speak Shiva is not to talk about Shiva, but to invoke him.

The mind struggles for order and at best finds mandala: a form suggesting a ladder of comprehension that invokes the unknowable. We lodged on Mt. Hood in a snow storm last weekend: hiked on pristine powder, sat outside in a hot tub of water, stood by a fire and looked upon the mountain shrouding itself in winter.


Every pane a perception of water. Every crystal a vast history and potential for stillness and torrent.

I looked through the glass and saw a thousand Hindu gods in a thousand forms emerging into our world and re-entering Brahman.

The Celestial Ganges cascading down on Vishnu’s head,


flowing onto earth.



To gaze lovingly at an avatar of tenderness


before it’s carried back.



Millennia of wisdom in sage bright eyes. They are all here.


My Soul of Atman.


My Spirit of Brahman.


Kirtan didn’t sing in me until Amma hugged me. Traveling to India hadn’t strongly appealed to me until this module, where I studied, tasted, smelled, witnessed devotions to Brahman in a thousand faces. Kali has always attracted and repulsed me, but I find the balance being in attraction now. I love the swords, the colors, the blood, the sharp edges and life in death.


A follower of Kali, and more broadly, Shakti, often devotes oneself to the five M’s: Madya (alcohol), Mamsa (meat), Matsya (fish), Mudra (parched grain and symbolic hand gestures), and Maithuna (sexual intercourse). My studies continue.