Insights, Plumbing, Death, Sex, and Earthquakes

Insights, Plumbing, Death, Sex, and Earthquakes


It has been an interesting week here in my isolated high mountain home in Ladakh. I just finished a seven-day silent meditation retreat connected via zoom at special times with a beloved teacher and sanghas in the US. The 12-hour time difference was a challenge and I missed large sections of sharing meditation with the group as their days were my nights, but grateful for what support I had.

Each day was a series of 45 minute sitting meditations separated by 30 minute walking meditations from 6 am to 9 pm with a couple hours break at times for eating and harvesting veggies. No technology, phone off, no emails, texts, calls, only the zoom connection a couple times a day as I listed to a dharma talk or sat in meditative silence with folks on the other side of the world.


Before each sit, I made an altruistic intention that my efforts would benefit others. Often it was general, that my efforts would benefit all beings, or for those suffering.  It is an interesting practice, to offer my efforts or the results of this practice for others. I found it energizing. It helped me continue to push myself to sit, to not give up, to offer all my work to ease suffering of others, or to offer happiness. It is so much easier to do this work with my heart focused on the gift to others, to all of humanity, to specific individuals or groups, to this precious earth. I would gladly do this work not for my own peace or happiness, but to bring less suffering and more happiness to others, because that is also my happiness.

Without a doubt, meditation is the hardest work I have ever done. Continually trying to watch the mind takes a great deal of effort and concentration, repeatedly returning to the breath and then watching the mind wander off, returning again and again. Yet I often feel it is the most important thing I could be doing. Over time and practice, and it is practice because it requires me to keep trying, keep returning time and time again, it has opened my heart to myself and others, allowing more compassion, more generosity, more love to flow and receive. During the latter part of the week it became much easier to see the mind become quiet, at ease, even pleasant body and mind experience.

I am continually surrounded by the subtle sounds of water flowing, birds talking or passing over in a swoop, leaves blowing in the trees, the morning chants from the Buddhist monastery across the river, or the call to prayers from the Muslim mosque. Now, I noticed a new sound, the falling of leaves. Within this short time, the season has begun its shift from summer to the imminent winter, the leaves turning yellow and golden, cool breezes and the dancing of leaves on their fall to the earth. Each day, witnessing this change, the impermanence of life, seeing each moment distinct, never to be repeated. So sacred. To have the awareness of life in a second as it changes and passes. Too often I am lost in thinking, planning for the future, remembering the past, and missing the fleeting present.

And I realized a few things, gained a few insights, readjusted my belief system. I have been holding the belief that all my emotions are based on my thinking, on what I allow myself to think about, ponder, dwell on. So I try to consistently choose what I allow my mind to hold. Yet that is not completely true. At times, emotions arise unrelated to thoughts. Who knows where they come from. I might awake with anger or sadness, or irritation or frustration. So I am learning to be a bit more gentle with myself, accepting that I have not necessarily created these emotions. I am still careful to explore if my thinking is creating the discomfort but am also learning to just see emotion for what it is. When I experienced resistance to doing the meditation work, and there was a lot of that, I began to just hold it in my arms. “What a strong will you have! You must be tired, constantly fighting. Here let me hold you.” Or when sadness arose, tears trailing my cheeks, the catch in my throat, again I was able to just hold it, like a child in my arms, just holding and comforting until it too passed. No thoughts needed, just compassion and love and acceptance. So, a little more gentleness and kindness towards myself with whatever came up. No resistance. I love the equation:   Suffering = Pain  x  Resistance

So, the last day of a retreat, it is often one of integration, moving from the world of silence and beginning to bring what awareness we have practiced into our modern day practices of connection with others, emails, texts, etc.

Hearing work happening on the ridge above my land, well not my land, but the land upon which I am blessed to live, I decided to do the Ladakhi thing, make hot tea and take with snacks to whomever was working. Heading up the hill with the thermos and my dried fruit and nut mix, and a bag of apples a passing neighbor had gifted me from her tree a few days before, I greeted all and shared what I had to offer. Apparently, they were all working on trying to fix the waterline that has been blocked again for the last several months.


The system here is quite entertaining really. Everyone wants and needs water, obviously. So the new technology of plumbing, ie laying pipes from a water source down the side of the valley to offer drinking water for home use (not for the fields as that is a system of canals and river/glacier runoff) is still in the infancy stage. Each year, the pipes are blocked for many more months than not. As there is no filtration system, pipes continually fill with rocks, sediment, leaves, etc resulting in the same blockages year after year. To find a block, the procedure is to saw through the metal pipe and see if water is running. If so, then they move down the line to try again another spot. Each cut section is wrapped with a piece of car inner tube to secure the pipes together again. This works, for a while but then each time the pipe is moved or with just time, this also breaks down and leaks. Ah well. This continues down the pipeline until they can locate where the block is and try to clean it. And then some pipes are buried deep enough, 3 feet, to avoid freezing in winter while others sections lay on the ground, guaranteed to freeze in winter. I swear, if I could get a group of volunteers to come here, I think I would look for plumbers to teach the local “plumbers” about ways to avoid these annual issues. But then, I just smile, watching the unfolding of events, the way of doing things, and let go of my judgments and my “superior knowledge” of how things should be done. Letting go of the frustration the need for water continually brings. Life has been going on for thousands of years here, and it will continue, whether or not we have the convenience of water near our homes.


A little later, one of the workers came down to my house to fill bottles with drinking water. I had a sign on my door “In Meditation. Silence Please”. He called out, completely ignoring my sign or perhaps he doesn’t read English. I brought out my bucket of drinking water and we filled his plastic bottles. Then he said, “Can I ask you a question?” I tried to explain that I was in silence, meditating. He might not have understood, as he asked me “Are you a virgin?” I said “What?” “Are you a virgin?” he repeated. I was shaken completely out of my calm presence.  I said “No. I am 60 years old”, like that explains something. Well for me it did. “Yea, but you are not married. Would you have sex with me, just a little sex? All my friends tease me because I am 20 years old and still a virgin. Please, please, I am begging you, just a little sex” as he is touching my feet out of respect and then down on one knee, begging. Shocked. I said No, don’t ask me again. He continued begging and I continued being more forcefully direct. I tried to explain that he should be proud and not to worry what others say and bla bla, realizing he was not able to hear anything I said so why waste my words. Wow, first bit of talking and I am solicited by a 20 year old, for just a little sex. And what the hell is just a little sex? Funny, crazy, wow… Ok, a little ripple in my serenity for a bit..


Returning to my meditation practice, I sent him metta, and myself, and you, and all beings in the sky, under the waters, etc. As I am sitting, I sensed a rumbling and a roar, the doors began to shake and rattle and I realized this was not some meditative induced metal phenomena but an earthquake. I grabbed my kitten Luka sleeping between my legs, warmest spot in my house, and raced outside. As all things, it passed, impermanent, rising and passing away. It left me again rattled, eerie having been in such an aware state and feeling the building and release of the earthquake, a 5.4 earthquake I later learned.  The things a day will bring.


An early painting of Joey ?Zuni's
As I began to look at emails, I found that my precious friend Joey, a young Zuni (pueblo indigenous tribe in the southwest US) had died. I met Joey when I was living in Zuni as an archaeologist a lifetime ago. He was twelve at the time. His family became my family. I taught him to drive my ol’ Toyoto ‘Coroda’ on the dirt roads surrounding the pueblo. As he got older, his mother asked me to teach him about sex and protection, as it was something she dreaded. So I taught him about condoms, about respect for women, women’s orgasms, etc. As he grew he become an incredible artist, paintings, carvings from bone and antler inlaid with turquoise and corral, jewelry, fetishes (stones carved to represent spirit animals). He was commissioned to do murals in hospitals and on gymnasium floors. Some of his paintings were sold as cards by the Smithsonian Institute. He was so gifted, so talented. 

The precious driftwood he carried back for me from the Colorado River, Grand Canyon

Joey Zuni
Once he was chosen to represent his tribe, along with young artists from numerous other tribes to visit the source of many of the origin stories often represented in their art. As a group of 15, they floated the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon for a week. As they went along, Joey would spy a piece of driftwood floating and get his raft near to collect it. He was teased all along that he was collecting firewood on the way. When he returned home, he brought gifts to his family, Grand Canyon coffee mugs for mom and dad, and a bag of weather, sacred driftwood for me. It was the greatest gift anyone has ever given me. Decades later when I sold my home and everything I owned, I kept the wood he had given me, from the depths of his heart. I have them here with me now, one of the few precious possessions that I kept and carried with me to the Himalayas. A life lost when not even forty years old. The shock of his absence is still resonating; the initial disbelief felt in my mind and body as I hold this precious wood, the gift of a heart that knew and honored my heart.

I wonder what today will bring?

And how was your week?


  1. Oh, if only the whole world's humanity could learn the lessons you have learned!!! This world would be in a much better place. Love your blogs....

    1. i am learning every day. Each challenge is an opportunity to learn, to grow, to open my heart a little more. Thank you Suzie, for all your support and love.

  2. For no reason that I could see, I stumbled upon an email from your blog today while staying in a hotel in New York completing my own writing and meditation retreat. Everything you wrote lined up with things I have been contemplating. I was glad to read of someone else pursuing silence and meditation, because it is something I have been pursuing and I have felt self-conscious for going against my family and societal norms. This blog was exactly what I needed.

    I have been following your posts in spirit for some time, but only today did they happen to arise to the top of my inbox. I am so grateful they did. Love from America! - Michaela Ginder (717) 649-0698

    1. Greeting Michaela from Ladakh. So glad we are able to c connect here, sharing the journey of exploration and compassion. I am trying to write more and I guess you are a subscriber, so it sends the post out as email (which is a terrible format I am afraid), but clicking on the link at the top of the email will take yuo directly to the blog post. Looks like you figured that out.. Wishing you the best in your journey and thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Kelly, it was a joy to sit with you in retreat this week and experience the highs and lows of our days together. I am so happy to read your blog. Thank you for sharing your extraordinary life. Love, Lissa

    1. So grateful Lissa for your presence as well. You radiate joy and beauty and it has been an honor to sit with you. Thank you for exploring my blog and sharing a bit of my life here. I am so rich...

  4. Hi Kelly cara! So nice to be here in your space, and reading your daily adventures! You are so gifted! Love to you, sister!

    1. Oh, I am so , so delighted my friend to share this journey with you!!! Thank you for your continued love and support and encouragment!! I am so very rich!!


  5. I really loved reading your blog. It was very well authored and easy to understand. polished stainless steel pipe

  6. I love your beautiful words, images , heart. Blessings.


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