Tag Archives: Tassajara

365 til 33

30 Jul


If you’ve been following along with my blog since the beginning then you know that I come up with a list of goals to tackle each year. The first year,  365 til 30 my goals included driving across the USA, learning French, learning how to tango, going camping, spending a week at Tassajara, Learning how to cook, volunteering, getting a French bulldog & publishing my writing. I was pretty damn successful that year in accomplishing my goals. To the point of obsession actually. Accomplishing those goals before turning 30 was all I could think about for 365 days. Brian was very happy when that year was over. HA. Over the last few years I have continued to create a list of goals…doing so helps me focus on the things I want from my life…a framework if you will.

365 til…33!


Every year you can pretty much guarantee that one of my goals will be travel related. I am a travel nut! Seriously, why can’t I just travel the world and get paid for it? (Is anybody listening? I’m totally available if you want to pay me to travel) During 365 til 30 my travel goal was to drive across the country (check!)…during 365 til 31 my travel goal was an overseas trip (Brian and I went to Hong Kong and trekked Nepal!)…365 til 32 my travel goal was again an overseas trip but this time for our honeymoon (we took a month off and went to Vietnam and Bali) This year my travel goal is much simpler, all I want to do is take a road trip with Brian. I love road trippin’ with that man. Actually, it was on our first road trip together that I knew I loved him. We were only a month into dating when I asked him if he wanted to take a road trip to Santa Fe with me to visit my friend Chantal. He must have thought I was crazy. Who would want to sign up for that many hours in a car with a person you’ve only been dating a month? The answer to that question is ME! And him I guess Brian as well because he said yes. Luckily, it was a total success. This year I’m thinking a road trip from LA to Seattle. My ideal stops along the way would be….Big Sur, San Francisco, Ashland, Eugene, Portland, Olympia & Seattle.


This year I am dying to learn more about photography. For a girl who appreciates a beautiful photograph, it is a crying shame I can’t shoot one as well as I’d like to. Especially when it comes to this blog, I would love to post higher quality photographs. Well, I guess I do sometimes but sadly they are not shot by me and instead by my photographer husband. With that said, I will be signing my ass up for a photography class as well as making Brian teach me all his tricks. He even has an extra Canon Rebel camera waiting for me. Winning!


You can also pretty much guarantee that one of my goals each year will also have to do with writing. This year it is travel related. I want to publish my various travel (road trip, Hong Kong, Nepal, Vietnam & Bali) essays. Wish me luck!


I want to go vegetarian for a month. Ever since my gallbladder surgery a few months ago I have had the hardest time with my digestion. It’s been driving me crazy! I’ve decided that meat might be the culprit. This coming from an Irish gal who loves a good steak. Sigh. I thought what better time to test out vegetarianism then now! Oy…I’m scared. Any vegetarians out there want to offer some advice?


Decorating our new home has been on hold for a bit now…between shelling out money for our wedding and honeymoon we have been neglecting our home. The space totally deserves more! I plan on decorating with the help of pinterest and my very talented interior designer mother. So here we go…one room at a time.

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365 til monkey temple

19 Dec


 (ALL photos by BHGfacebook page)

Swayambhunath is an ancient Buddhist site atop a hill in Kathmandu Valley. It is also referred to by many as the “monkey temple” because it’s swarmed with wild monkeys! For those of you who don’t know, “play with a monkey” is written on my Wish List for Life that I wrote when I was nineteen. I also happen to appreciate the Buddhist philosophy even more so after my stay at Tassajara last year. So, this was pretty much as good as it gets for me. When the taxi dropped us off at Swayambhunath we were greeted by a massive set of stairs to get to the top- 365 to be exact! This fact made me fall in love with the place even more. 365 til monkey temple! We both bought a gorgeous yellowish-orange marigold necklace from a street vendor before beginning our climb to the top.


Mid way up the stairs we found this exquisite Buddha to take a little break with.




As we approached the top of the stairs, I had my first run-in with the wild monkeys. See them up at the top of picture below?!


Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by monkeys and my excitement quickly changed to fear. I didn’t expect them to get so close to me! Now what, I thought?! All of their little movements started t make me anxious. One quickly slid down the bannister by my hand and I heard Brian’s voice in my head reminding me not to touch the monkeys because they could have rabies. Well, great. I was also afraid that if I moved quickly I would scare them, so I slowly backed away to safety.


Once I found a safe place to watch them I was back to being my happy monkey loving self. They were so comical with their human mannerisms!



After recovering from the run-in with the troupe of wild monkeys, we finished our climb to the top of the stairs and were greeted for our efforts with a sweeping view of Kathmandu Valley. It was refreshing to gain a new perspective of the city. I finally got a glimpse of the mountain range in the distance, although they were still hard to distinguish under the dense haze of pollution. The wind swept through my hair as a little monkey scurried by me.  I glanced up at the huge ancient stupa that stood before me and was struck silent. The sight of it against the blue sky was stunning. Swayambhunath is said to be the most profound expression of Buddhism in Nepal and its history dates back to 5th century. The eyes on the stupa represent those of the all-seeing Adi-Buddha. I could have stared at it for hours without taking in all of its complexity.



As a practice of meditation, Brian and I decided to walk around the stupa rolling the huge prayer wheels. Other than having to dodge a few monkeys, it was quite relaxing.



After watching the Buddhist monks pray and chant we wandered the surrounding shrines. Everywhere we turned incense filled the air . A feeling of calm did too. We found some treasures as well- new prayer beads and a Tibetan singing bowl that makes a beautiful sound when used and has quickly become Brian’s new favorite toy.

On the way out I saw an inscription that read, Om mani padme hum, which means “hail to the jewel in the lotus”. Love this.


23: Dear Tassajara

15 Jun

Dear Tassajara,
It was no accident that you were one of the first goals I tackled for the year. I’d like to think the universe knew I needed to learn some Zen fundamentals before I got too far into this crazy year, because boy, oh boy did the lessons come in handy when stuff didn’t go my way! When I first heard about you 2 years ago, I knew that I would have to find  a way to get to you one day- I knew it was something my soul required. Who doesn’t want to spend a week in silence with no phone or computer at a Buddhist zen center  nestled in the mountains?
So I put you on my “365 til 30” goal list because I thought…what better thing to explore before 30 then the silence of my own head!
You were quite the experience, to say the least! Definitely one of the most beautiful and exhausting (I say that with love) 7 days of my life. My highlights from my time with you..
Being awakened every morning at 5:20 by a person ringing a bell beckoning me to the Zendo (meditation hall) to meditate for an hour in the dark- if I didn’t have to sit upright during this period I would have surely slept through it. But once I stopped complaining about being up so early I fell in love with starting the day this way. There is something powerful about that whole meditation thing!
Getting assigned to clean toilets in the guest cabins as part of my work program. Let me tell you, it was such a joy! I’ve decided that considering I don’t clean my own toilet at home, this had to be some sort of karmic joke. But once I stopped complaining about how gross it was (to myself since I wasn’t able to speak to anyone) I started to lose my emotional response to the situation. By day four, I was cleaning toilets with a damn smile on my face.
The last highlight was bathing nude with Buddhist monks. Probably the only time in my life I will be embarrassed because I HAD a bikini wax. Oh the stares I got!
All in all it was one of the best experiences of my life but also one that had me asking myself what I had gotten myself into?
But my absolute favorite thing about you was the silence you gave me. I have never experienced such silence in my life and it was exactly what my crazy head needed.
Although I quickly learned that a crazy head with no distractions other than its own thoughts is a scary place for a few days until it settles down.
This quote from the Buddha sums up my feelings about you-

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell”.

I sincerely hope we meet again Tassajara…



21 Feb

Coming off yesterday’s post, I am sure this will NOT come as a surprise to you- I have hit a bit of a midlife crisis with 365 til 30. Or, as Maggi, my life coach so kindly put it- “I think 365 til 30 is starting to run you now, instead of you running it”. Ouch. What a painful thing to hear but so true. The ten goals that gave me SOOOOO much joy 6 months ago have started to feel like chores- totally not the point of this project! Maggi has urged me to remember why I originally wanted to accomplish these goals and to focus on the joy and excitement the thought of experiencing them brought me.

 When I started 365 til 30 six months ago,  I was off and running right out of the gate. Full of excitement and wonder, I happily embarked on the adventure of camping and Tassajara. After accomplishing them I moved onto my other goals for the year- learn to cook, master the tango, speak French fluently, work with my favorite websites, publish my writing (I have a book proposal floating around at a publisher…fingers crossed) and volunteer. I have realized these goals are less finite and instead are an ongoing process. I am constantly tending to them.

The last two goals…Drive Across the USA (which I am in the process of planning for April) and getting Frank, my French Bulldog (which will happen when we move) are goals that I am still working towards. With the road trip fast approaching I happen to think about it all the time. I am DYING with excitement to drive across the USA with my girlfriend Rachel– she is the perfect friend to do this with and equally excited! This goal has always been one of my favorites on the list because it’s something I have dreamed of doing since I was little girl and I can’t believe I’m finally going to do it! As the trip approaches though I have started to feel a bit anxious about it. When I put it on the list I always wondered how I would take the time off to do it right. It’s not like it’s ever really convenient to leave your life for 3-4 weeks…work and money are valid concerns. My remedy for the fear is to remember the joy the idea of accomplishing it brings me and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

With so much on my plate I decided I needed a focused plan towards finding the joy in the goals again.

I start another round of tango classes on Monday the 27th for 6 weeks and I will not skip one class…not one!

I will find one new exciting dish a week to learn! (last night it was fish provencal! It was soooooooooo gooooood- post coming!)

I will continue my volunteer work at PATH once a week.

I will spend 4 hours a week practicing my French in preparation for my trip to Paris in July!!!

I will finalize all the details for our road trip from a joyful place instead of an anxious place so that we are ready to embark on the journey in April!!

I will stay positive and grateful about the fact that my book proposal is floating around  in the world instead of anxious.

I will re-stratagize my approach for working with Take Part and Explore- I have had sooooo many meetings with both of them and feel like the timing has been off…but maybe I need to re-think my approach.

I will commit to weekly sessions with Maggi starting this week. It doesn’t matter how busy I am! They will be a priority because they always keep me focused, calm, joyful and on-track.

Oh, and most importantly, I will commit to being grateful and enjoy the process….otherwise what the hell is the point right??!


Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.

Anais Nin


6 Dec


“Just Drop It”

By Pema Chodron

This slogan is saying that when confusion arises not only do you practice tonglen and connect with the heart, but also you flash on the nonsolidity of phenomena at any time. In other words, you can just drop it. Out of the blue, you just drop it.

For instance, on a meditation retreat there are noodles for breakfast. Maybe in the beginning it seems funny, but halfway through breakfast you find yourself – instead of being mindful of the food, the chopsticks in your hand, the other people, and the good instructions you’ve received – talking to yourself about what a good breakfast would be, how you’d like to have a good breakfast like your mother used to make you in Brooklyn. It might be matzo ball soup or tortillas or beans or ham and eggs, but you want a good breakfast: burned bacon, like mother used to make. You resent these noodles.

Then, not through any particular effort, you just drop it. To your surprise, there’s a big world there. You see all these lights glimmering in your empty lacquered bowl. You notice the sadness in someone’s face. You realize that the man across from you is also thinking about breakfasts, because he has a resentful look on his face, which makes you laugh because you were there just a second ago.

The world opens up and suddenly we’re there for what’s happening. The solidity of our thoughts becomes transparent, and we can connect automatically with this space – shunyata -in ourselves. We have the ability to drop the story line, to rouse ourselves.

That’s an everyday experience of shunyata. But it’s also a very advanced practice if you can do it when you don’t happen to feel like it.

If everything is solid and intense and you’re wallowing in self-pity or something else, if someone says to you at that point, “Just drop it”, even in the sweetest, kindest, most gentle voice, you want to punch that person in the nose.