Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Walk in the Park

For You

This post by my son - one of his favorite computer games. If you get tired of playing you can keep the nice guitar music playing in the background, like we are doing right now, while doing other things.


Information Ramana's Garden

Start your exploration of Ramana’s Garden and Dwabha’s work by watching these videos.

http://ambassadorsforchildren.org/www2/?action=invite, An interview with Dwabha in India at Ramana’s Garden produced by Ambassadors for Children. Dwabha presently has 60 children living with her – her children – and 189 children arriving every morning to attend school where they receive an excellent education, learn to speak fluent English and are not abandoned during their teenage years, but further educated to be teachers, electricians, plumbers, doctors, nurses, bakers etc, depending on funds and children’s abilities.

http://www.ifilm.com/video/2866372, A wonderful documentary produced recently about Ramana’s Garden and Dwabha, also known as Dr. Prabavati. It starts with a yahoo commercial – just wait it out – it is the right video. Our friend Dwabha has been in the news a lot lately. If you google Dwabha, Dr. Prabhavati, or Ramana’s Garden you will have your work cut out for you. Many volunteers and souls in need of finding new meaning in life venture out to India to visit her, and work with her in her project. The children always benefit, and the volunteers and visitors always benefit more. There are many travel blogs from these volunteers and supporting organizations that make surfing the net is a bit confusing. Therefore I am compiling this list of the most important links and explanations to ease the search.

How to donate
Dwabha’s website: http://www.sayyesnow.org/ – the US foundation at http://www.friendsramanasgarden.org/about/about.html for tax-deductible donations. For more information call or write to Dwabha at:
e-mail: choosingyesnow@yahoo.com
phone: (91-135)-243-5558

There are other foundations in other countries - India, Spain, Holland, England - you can find on her website above.

For even more information visit the following sites throughout this text and the additional links at the bottom of the page.

We live in such affluence in the West, yet our hearts feel drained when we see the need of others around us here and in the world. In Ramana’s Garden, where the children who live there have seen the absolute worst in their short lives, there is a different kind of abundance - the kind money can’t buy – and they dish it out daily in large quantity to anyone who comes to visit. Smiles, hugs, singing, dancing, celebrating life as it is and cultivating gratitude and hope in the face of incredible odds. In return friends and volunteers leave money with Dwabha for food, shelter, schooling, clothing etc. It disappears quickly even in India, when you have 244 children to take care of and have to travel around the globe once a year to remind your sponsors and friends that you are still fighting the good fight. In spite of the recent press coverage and success stories - life for Dwabha and her supporters is still very much hand to mouth every year. We hope to change that in the very near future as much seems to be happening at the moment that gives us hope for future financial independence – if everyone keeps their promises.

Ramana’s Garden is linked to the West in two extremely important ways. Harvard and many other Universities send their medical students for their internships, and for full academic credit every year. Not only do the children in Dwabha’s school, but also the surrounding population benefited by this regular, free medical care.

Another organization, LeapNow of America, through a lawyer in Marin County, sends troubled teenagers in groups or 30 annually to spend two weeks in a work and meditation retreat with Dwabha at the summer mountain camp, and then a week with the children in Ramana’s Garden. In five years, not one! of these youngsters has returned to crime or drugs - an unprecedented success and valuable model for rehabilitation. For letters from all kinds of different volunteers go to http://www.sayyesnow.org/volunteer.html

We have known Dwabha for over a decade and have helped her along the way, whether we needed to buy land, leases, tents, or airline tickets. Through many of the difficulties over the years we have come to know her, her courage, her faith, her trustworthiness and her integrity, and can vouch for her to our friends. We have been to Ramana’s Garden with our children, know many of her children personally, and have with great joy watched their progress over the years.

We have also learned much about the business of charity. Most foundations take 5-10% of all donations – no matter how small or large the amount of the donation. Thousands of dollars end up in the pockets of these foundations – legally – but in our humble opinion immorally. Foundations are nice because the donors get to deduct their donations from their taxes, but not all their money reaches the children. We have opted to donate directly but have also worked on setting up foundations run by individuals who think like us – that every penny should go to the kids.

Other Informative Links
http://www.dailysouthtown.com/news/insight/409881,031INS4.articleprint, an article by Associated Press that was published around the world recently.

http://www.leapnow.org/about/staff.htm, the organization through which a US lawyer is sending troubled young people to India

http://www.sayyesnow.org/volunteer.html, letters from various kinds of volunteers.

http://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/mcclusky/mcclusky5.html, a young woman volunteer’s travel report who visited Ramana’s Garden.

http://www.willowstreetyoga.com/workshops/danaAndSeva.html, Travel report from a volunteer at Willow Street Yoga center in Washington DC, who started the US foundation through which tax-deductible donations can be made

http://www.pegasuschildren.org/works_newhome.html, a fantastic new way to build solid and cheap housing using dirt as the main building ingredient. Several of these houses are being built at the Mountain Summer Camp right now.

http://www.pacificdomes.com/index.html the origianl domes that started Ramana's Garden ten years ago.
http://www.goldenbridgeyoga.com/uploads/images/ramana.html, another video – not as good as the other two – posted by the Yoga Studio to the Stars in Hollywood called Golden Bridge and run by Gurmukh.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramana_Maharshi, Who is Ramana Maharshi?
Dwabha studied with his oldest and most important disciple, Papaji, who told her that her time with masters was finished and that the River Ganga was to be her master from now on. She went there and lived in a cave until a spring flood washed away all her meager possessions which included her passport, ticket home, money etc. In the videos she briefly talks about how the poorest of the poor took care of her, offering her everything they had, only to worry about it being enough. It is when she decided that that was all she wanted from now on – to learn from them this ability to give with such abandon.

Through supporting Ramana’s Garden anyone can make a big difference in not just these Indian children’s lives but also to keep it all going for the many volunteers that work and learn at Ramana’s Garden every year, who come from all over the world and from all kinds of backgrounds. Making a donation is great and rewarding - much needed help that is deeply appreciated. Also consider visiting, to personally see your generosity at work in this magical place called Ramana’s Garden where the most beautiful flowers grow.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Ramana's Garden

The quote at the top of the small print page, opposite the title page in Here You Are, by Ramana Maharshi, which is also in Here You Are - on the small print page opposite title page: "No one doubts that he exists, though you may doubt the existence of God. If you find out the truth about yourself and discover your own source, that is all that is required" - is equivalent to Jesus' saying: "The kingdom of God is within you." (Luke 17:21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.Luke 17:20-22 (in Context) Luke 17 )

Here You Are is my way of saying the same thing, and to remind adults that children are closer to this kingdom within than any of us.
Mark 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.Mark 10:13-15 (in Context) Mark 10 (Whole Chapter)

If this is a religious message you could say that Here You Are is a religious book. But - is the truth religious? - or just the truth?
Religions only differ in their interpretations of their teacher's teachings. Their teacher's teachings all teach the same thing. The truth. The truth of All-One-ness. The same truth Physics teaches. The truth of interconnectedness. The logical conclusion of this truth is the practice of kindness, compassion, respect - which all religions teach. But, it does not take religion to understand this or to practise it. It takes a heart.

Heartlessness is what millions of children are subjected to in our world. Someone who is trying to counter-balance this is my friend Dwabha in India who runs an orphanage for destitute children there, called Ramana's Garden. Having been brutally tortured by a cruel stepfather herself, her compassion for the plight of these children is powerful and uncompromising. She is making a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of children.

I recently had to put together information about her (see next post) for a British woman who had just traveled to India and was moved to do something about children in that country, but didn't know where to start. Unfortunately many non-profit organizations are frauds and one needs personal friends who are intimately familiar with the ones that do make a difference, the ones that use the money for the children instead of their own employees and fancy headquarters.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


God has become a problem. Everyone associates him with George Bush. What a PR nightmare. God needs rebranding, as does Allah. Christians are seen as people who vote for George Bush rather than as people following Jesus' teachings - namely the Golden Rule - called compassion and kindness in Buddhism. Muslims are seen as people who are suicidal maniacs rather than people who are surrendered to God. Or was that Jesus who was surrendered to God?

I kept God out of Here You Are on purpose - invisible to the naked eye - the same way he is invisible everywhere you look. Invisible and obvious - not named - as in Judaism. Closer to us than our own breath, observable in our children's eyes. Hidden in Here You Are, between the lines, and somewhere near the final pages - found there by many in the end.

When I asked my son tonight whether he had anything to say about Here You Are I could put on my blog he said:"Well, you can tell them it is very relaxing and calming in stressful times." There you go.

Lame No More

No, I have not healed the lame - yet. This is about my son, who in Kindergarten, when I first read Here You Are to him, through himself backwards onto his bed, laughing. I took that as a clear sign that Here You Are had magic. I have read many children's books to my children for over twenty-eight years and this had never happened. The following week, when I read it to his Kindergarten class, one of the boys quietly got up, came over to me and gave me a long, silent hug. It felt like a Thank You hug. He was the only African American boy in an all white classroom, which has to be a bit of a drag at times.
Well, as my little Kindergartener learned how to read more and more, chapter books no less, Here You Are was not a book we read. It just became the "thing" that kept Mom so busy, spending hours on the computer and in the art studio. The day came, two years after Kindergarten, when I faxed the printing contract to China with half of my saved money. With the fax machine still humming, my son announced: "Mom, to tell you the truth, Here You Are is not a real story. Maybe OK for Kindergarteners, but I really don't think you should publish it. It's kinda lame. Sorry to tell you the truth, Mom."
Too late - I figured God just was trying to keep me humble. I laughed out loud, but my heart sank with visions of beautiful shiny copies rotting in storage.
Yesterday he was really, really sad. He had gotten sick on his last day of second grade and had missed field-day, the First graders singing "Fare Well", the graduation ceremony, his teacher reading Here You Are to his class, and exchanging Good Bye-s with his teacher and friends. He had to get picked up mid-day because of a stomach-ache. It was the sadness we feel when there is something that can never be re-enacted, something missed forever. His little face broke my heart.
"Can you read Here You Are to me, Mom? It will make me feel better and calm me down." I couldn't believe my ears. We ended up playing "well actually". "Here you are, standing on the ground...well actually, lying in your bed! Here you are, under the big, blue sky...well actually, under the big, wooden ceiling! Here you are, amongst the trees, the flowers and the butterflies...well actually, amongst the pillows and the sheets." He creatively added anything funny he could think of until the final pages where it all got calm, and then the little pay-off in the end. "How come Here You Are always makes you happy in the end, Mom?"

Monday, June 18, 2007


I was recently invited to read "Here You Are" at the Seattle Children's Hospital. A four-year-old little girl sat down with me on a red couch, excited about such a shiny, colorful book she knew I was going to give to her as a present. I started reading and when we read the "Why am I here" page she told me she was here for waiting. As we moved on to the Wondering pages, she said she was wondering whether her Dad would ever come home. That he keeps leaving and coming back, but that he hadn't come back in a long time. We just wondered together about it in silence for a while. I was wondering about the circumstances her family might be in. Was it a divorce, a soldier Dad away on duty, or something else? We were strangely OK without answers, both of us, while looking out of the window next to us, with the leaves on a tree blowing in the wind outside. After a nice moment of silence and waiting we read the rest of the book that she seemed very satisfied with. She proudly held her new shiny book with her right arm that barely fit around it, while holding on to her rolling lillie-pad IV stand with her left as she left the playroom.

It reminded me of Osho, an Indian Mystic, who once said:"For those who can wait infinitely, things happen instantaneously." One of my favorite statements about enlightenment.

Monday, June 4, 2007


"What does forgiveness mean to you?" Oprah Winfrey asked her guest, a young British woman who had lost her legs in the London subway bombings. "It just means peace to me" she answered. What a beautiful answer. The one who was forgiving, and the one who needed to be forgiven, had disappeared. There was no-one there. Only when there is no-one there - no "I" and no "You" - can there be peace among us, and God's presence becomes known to us.

The suicide bomber is dead of course, not playing golf somewhere enjoying himself on two healthy legs. Sometimes peace is a lot harder to come by. But it is always possible. No matter the size of the waves of the ocean, deep down it is peaceful.