I broke my foot falling off a rooftop in India after running from the tsunami trying to save some orphans. That was the rumor going around back home in Nashville after the tsunami in December 2004. Granted, all of these things did happen, just not all at the same time.
We don’t always recognize when an experience or decision is an actual turning point that will affect us for the rest of our lives. It’s only in hindsight that we appreciate these pivotal turning points. I would never have ended up in India running from the waters of the tsunami, marrying an Indian man, starting an orphanage and yes breaking my foot, (just not all in that order), had I not been fired from the Chopra Center, a huge turning point!
I love asking people if they can recall when their childhood beliefs no longer worked for them and if they know the turning point or time in their life when they became a seeker. In fact I created a podcast called Turning Points around that very question shortly after I started writing my Memoir. My book Turning Points is about my life long journey as a seeker, playing hide and seek, losing and finding my authentic self in turning point after turning point through out my life. It turns out to be a common theme for many seekers. If you are reading this, most likely you are a seeker and you have already thought of and pictured your own turning points…you see, it is a thought-provoking question that seekers resonate with.
When I moved to Nashville as an illegal alien from Canada to pursue a music career at the age of 23, I was struck at the desperation I saw around me. Musicians, singers and songwriters all waiting for their big break. I didn’t feel much joy in them as they were pursuing their dreams. I made the decision that I didn’t want my happiness to depend on whether I would or would not get a record deal. This was a major turning point in my thinking. I didn’t know yet that unlimited peace and happiness was inherently within me and that search would become a running theme for the rest of my life.
Freedom has always been important to me. When I was young this manifested as the freedom to quit university to play music for a living, the freedom to move to Australia for a year and even the freedom to leave Canada permanently to pursue my dreams. Yet I came to realize that the freedom that I valued was simply a natural expression of a timeless quality within me that I wasn’t in touch with yet. This is where the only true freedom exists. But I don’t want to get ahead of myself because this insight took me decades on the planet to embody as the journey unfolds in my memoir Turning Points.
As a child, not much was constant in my life. At eleven, my mom took my little sister and I away from our older brother and Dad. She ran away with one of my father’s employees, a younger man, and we changed our last name to elude a Private Investigator. We moved a lot and I was in thirteen schools by tenth grade. Poetry and music were a connection to a wise comforting voice within that informed me that the only person I could count on was myself.
The only thing that was consistent in my life was my connection to something greater than myself. I have always known God, also known as The Universe, Yahweh, Allah, Jesus, Nature, Consciousness. It is odd to me to question, “Do you believe in God?” That is like asking, “Do you believe in your parents?” I know God. I know God because I have always been able to remember before I was born. That was my first turning point that I describe in my Memoir; I was part of consciousness and I knew where I was going. I was excited to be born as I could see ahead that I was going to live a spiritual life and help others. I was saying goodbye to my friends, souls that I felt love and connection to, that surrounded me. We were all conscious energies, each a facet of a massive energy of light that was God and we were part of that brilliance, all one, yet separate expressions of the one. When I opened my newborn human eyes, I saw masked faces looking down at me as they carried me to another room and placed me in an incubator. I weighed barely five pounds and was three weeks premature. When I was old enough, I liked to draw that heated cubicle for my Mom, those old incubators they used back in 1963. This clear memory that I have, before there was a me, has informed my life, running in the background of my consciousness.
My Memoir Turning Points includes details of how I suffered from endometriosis and experienced whiplash over a dozen times in a number of different car accidents. Dealing with physical pain caused me to have an on-again, off-again secret relationship with painkillers for 30 years. A drawback from years of taking the Canadian over the counter codeine aspirin caused a painful three-year long struggle with a stomach ulcer that miraculously disappeared the day I learned to meditate. A huge turning point, something woke up in me the day meditation came into my life. In contrast, I felt like I had previously been wandering aimlessly. Meditation set me on a clear path that helped me see that the ME that I had been counting on all these years was fickle. I realized SHE was not the true source of my happiness and not my authentic self but only a pacifier that had moods and desires.
I first found the truth inside myself on a 30 day silent meditation retreat I attended before I turned 30, just eight months after I was first introduced to meditation. There were hundreds of mattresses placed on the floor of an empty office building taking up the entire 21st floor so that 500 of us could sit comfortably to meditate all day. After meditating eight hours a day for three weeks, the Ramada Inn elevator bell dinged as it reached my floor signaling me to step off. I felt floaty walking down the hallway to my hotel room. There was a massive silence within me as I stepped forward to look in the mirror at the end of my bed in my small room. I looked into my eyes and saw myself looking at myself. That sounds strange to say but those were the only words that came as there seemed to be no personal me as I looked in the mirror. Looking back at the image in the mirror was the vastness of the universe looking through my eyes but there was no personal me. I didn’t yet have the understanding of what I was experiencing. What I did know was that nothing I could ever do, be or accomplish in my life could ever come close to this bliss I was feeling inside. I knew going forward that all of the answers in my life would come from this vast stillness. This was an important turning point since up until that time I was sure music was my path yet all of that changed after 30 days of silence.
That turning point would seem like the end of my spiritual-seeking but I came to realize that the experience of life is an infinite spiral with no beginning and no end. The next thirty years have been an integration of this knowingness with many turning points and painful escapades as I share in detail in my Memoir. My life could read like a good Indiana Jones action adventure because I never did buy into what society would call success. Maybe it was because of the spiritual knowingness coupled with my gypsy-like childhood, but I said yes to whatever and wherever my heart took me. I am not saying I did not have pain and heartache, but once I found the truth inside myself, I was no longer cut to the core with pain. Once a chapter was over, I cried it out with tears and pillow bashing. The pillow bashing and yelling at the Universe were always a turning point. In Turning Points I describe how each time my heart broke from disappointment, failed businesses, friendships ending, lovers leaving, you know, life, I was able to recover with some great songs to tell the story of my pain. I was determined, never deterred and also an eternal optimist. I never got stuck in belief systems, relationships, jobs or regret. I never held onto grief or sorrow and once I said goodbye to something, I was done. I guess you could say my letting go muscle was strong and fully flexed. I just kept moving forward creating and recreating how I walked in the world. This is also a quality of the movement of consciousness – malleable, flexible and ever changing. I realize now that I was living life from that level of knowingness and so my life was a reflection of that inherent freedom. When you allow that expression to come forth, it is easier to move forward, at least it was for me.
A few years after the 30 days of silence, I started studying with Deepak Chopra and he became my first spiritual teacher. I would fly out to San Diego to study with him and eventually became part of the Chopra Center family singing at many Chopra events. The first time I travelled to India was with Deepak and in due course I moved from Nashville to San Diego and started working at the Chopra Center.
In Turning Points I describe after three years, my free spirit was ready to leave the Chopra Center but getting fired made it easy to change my plane ticket to India and depart with an open ended trip, let go of my condo and put my things in storage, (for the next eight years!). A few years later I had a full- blown three-day Hindu marriage ceremony in India. My Indian husband Satya and I had a wonderful marriage for ten years and we never fought before, during or after our divorce but the strain of living on two different continents and spending only half the year together took a toll on us. We continue to be the Mommy and Daddy to 33 children at our Orphanage in South India.
An important turning point that I chronicle in my Memoir is when in my fifties it took a journey to Peru and six ayahuasca ceremonies to figure out ‘why’ a propensity for painkillers while being on such a deep spiritual journey. Laying in bed for four months with adrenal fatigue that was caused from complications of detoxing off Suboxone, a ‘special’ prescription medication to get me off pain killers, I watched a documentary called DMT, The Spiritual Molecule. After the movie finished, I knew I needed to travel to Peru. I found the retreat center and the shaman from that documentary and was there throwing my guts up six months later. We were deep in the rainforest with no cell phone service, no internet and very minimal power. The ayahuasca medicine showed me the first night in the ceremony that I was born an empath and because I had the memory of before I was born, I had made a childish decision to take on my family’s karma/pain. The painkillers allowed me to continue to ‘wrongly’ take on the pain of others.
One has to have tenacity to succeed at anything in this world. I didn’t have staying power for much of anything including my studies, music, relationships, money, careers, but I did have a commitment to my spiritual journey, always. They say it’s best to dig one large deep hole in life rather than many shallow ones. My pathless path has been digging many shallow holes and fortunately for me, they finally collapsed into one big hole to the center of myself, my truth where I found my authentic self. My authentic self is the part of me that has been looking through my eyes since before there was a me. It has not changed. It is unborn and will never die. Water cannot wet it, wind cannot dry it. I carried on seeking until I found the truth within myself. Even though the seeking has stopped, that doesn’t mean my spiritual journey is over. In a way, it has been a new beginning. The great traditions say it is important to know yourself. It seems strange that we need to know ourselves as we live with ourselves from the day we are born until the day we leave the planet. However, most people do not know themselves clearly. I now know myself clearly and in that knowing I have found infinite, a ground of being that is shared with everyone and everything. I have a deep peace, contentment and joy that I get to relax into every single moment of every day. I longed for it, I searched for it and I found it, finally. Once the seeking stopped, there was an ease in my approach to everything in my life. This understanding continues to unfold in beautiful ways that seem to be infinite. That was a turning point of becoming a human being rather than a human doing.
I could never have imagined all the twists and turns my life would take. I can only see now in hindsight that it has all been divinely orchestrated with the exact amount of pain and suffering needed to push me, bend me, stretch me and crack me open at just the right times. Life never really turns out the way we think it will. Thank goodness I didn’t get what I wanted, but I got exactly what I needed. This is the journey I share in my memoir, Turning Points. How I found the truth inside myself, and really, in spite of myself.
I woke up from the illusion of the pain and suffering that life can be when you look at it one dimensionally. We all have these turning points, these times in life where our perspective shifts. Oprah calls it aha moments. I call it turning points. Many times it is only in hindsight that we are able to decipher the why code. You know, the ‘why is this happening to me’ you shout at God or the universe in your most destitute moments. I lived it and now you can read about it in Turning Points and perhaps find some of yourself in my story. As the great teacher Ram Das said, “we are all walking each other home.”