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Archive for the ‘India’

There’s A Post I Won’t Publish

August 27, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Coal, Faith, Family, Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, Health, House, India, Living, Love, Meditation, Molly, Mom, PlumTV, Uncategorized, Valet Battleship Parking

A few days ago I received a message about something very painful that happened in the past, something that I had done. The event was horrible and was my fault, but what had led up to it was just as horrible and hadn’t been my fault, but the message I got didn’t mention any of that. It just tore open the old wound for all to see.

I’ve been exhausted. Like, really, really, hit-the-wall kind of exhausted, and so when the note came I faltered a little bit because I didn’t have any resources, any strength, to bear up against it. Now, after a few days and some small successes, I’m feeling much better, much stronger, and the note doesn’t have the same impact. I can see it for what it is now: just a big mistake that will end up hurting the writer far more than it ever could me. That said, the note did change something profound in me. Something snapped and finally released, and as I finished reading I knew it was time to put some things away.

I’m apparently going on a long trip, but I think it’s one of mind and not of body. My meditation practice slipped in the last two weeks because we’ve been working just too damned hard. The President & First Family have been on-island and we’ve been all over them, filming, editing shows together quickly, and wringing ourselves out. Well, it’s done now. The “Obama Shows” have aired and the crazy summer season is drawing to a close–which is why I can write this from home at 9:30am on a Friday. :)

One of the things I have to put away are the cats. I spoke to the Animal Shelter here and will likely be dropping the cats off in another week and a half. This will be terribly difficult for me. I care for them very much and am not, as we know, at all good with letting go of things I love. But I don’t want to care for them any more. I just don’t want to. They’re hard in terms of upkeep, and remind me too much of a past I want to turn away from so I can finally move forward in a brand new direction. I’ve been in limbo for over two years. Two years. A lot of that was the economic crisis, but at least 50% was due to raw wounds that have been taking too long to heal.

In mid-Sept. I’ll finally “move” back home and have some serious time to work on the coal film. THAT’S where I live now: in my work. I’ll try to craft a happy life despite the hole in it where Mom used to be, but the main focus will be doing what I do: making stories that I hope will have some impact on even just a few people. And I’ll travel. I’ll go to all the places Mom always talked about but was too afraid to visit. I’ll stay longer than one does for “vacation,” and I’ll get to know new cultures.  I’ll read and I’ll write, and make sure–as much as I can–that my friends are healthy and know that I love them.

We’re all in limbo, in transition. Chogyam Trungpa, the late Buddhist teacher used to talk a lot about negative/uncomfortable emotions being preferable to straight-up happiness because there’s so much energy in them. He said it’s better to walk right into the center of ill feelings and just hang out quietly because what you’ll learn will blow your mind.

Bon voyage, everyone. :)

Address the Front

August 17, 2010 By: admin Category: Faith, Family, Filmmaking, Going Home, Happiness, Health, House, India, Living, Love, PlumTV, Unemployment, Valet Battleship Parking

"Untitled" by ImaginationRoom (http://imaginationroom.posterous.com/)

I don’t know where to start. This morning I’m feeling a lot of fear mixed with stress mixed with the intellectual knowledge of peace and relaxation. This job is just too much, I think. There is literally NO BREAK. I have one or two weekend days each week and they don’t even help me to catch up on sleep anymore. Tina was right, I need to train someone to share the load. I thought I had been doing that. Looking back now at May, June and the first part of July, I can’t understand at all how Hannah survived overseeing the show as well as ads creation. Insanity.

I spoke last night with a woman who is back from the brink. She has Lyme disease and mercury poisoning, but because she has a lot of money, she is alive. I’m afraid to watch the documentary about Lyme that she financed. I’m afraid for my friend Su, who has Lyme, and afraid for myself that I may not have the courage to help her the way she needs to be helped. At the moment I am stressed out enough just watching over my own life. The mortgage. Always the mortgage. But for me that struggle is worth it because I am surviving and my house is my life-raft.

Could I do this job again next summer? I might not physically or psychologically be able to handle it. If Courtney stays then I could train her in May and June and then, hopefully, something will have turned for me so that I can leave as Hannah left this past July. I just can’t imagine doing this all again. Not without someone like me to share the full load.

I saw “Eat.Pray.Love” last night–the Hollywood representation of one of my favorite books. The movie, frankly, sucked. I’d needed it to not. I’ve needed some kind of heart vacation for a while. Not romantic, something to help me feel at peace. I stayed in the movie while others left, not because I had hope, but because the images, at least, were something I’ll be able to hold on to later. And, hell, Julia Roberts is pretty, so…

There’s no one way to tell a story, but if you’re going to try, you have to settle on a direction. The director of Eat.Pray.Love, I think, shot a 6-hour film. Pity we didn’t see that version. Another film, “The Kids Are Alright,” reinvigorated my love of movies and visual story, and showed a decent, hard-working, loving family. Two lesbian parents and their teenage kids. I thought ti was wonderful. A friend thought it was insulting to lesbians worldwide because of something that happens in the story. Her anger and staunch position nearly destroyed the tender story for me. I got sad listening to her just not letting it go. There isn’t just one way to tell a story, and so you shouldn’t get mad at one interpretation.

I’m exhausted. This post is one, fucking stream-of-semiconsciousness, isn’t it? Sorry about that. I’ll try again tomorrow. If anyone sees a thruline here, please comment so I’ll know what the hell I’m talking about. :)


ala Nilda

February 03, 2010 By: admin Category: Blogging Dinner, Coal, Cooking, Family, Food, Happiness, Health, House, Humane Food, India, Love, Michael, Molly, Mom, Recipes

Before I go another back-breaking minute of transcribing a long interview for my coal film, I’ll pause to tell you about a treasure I just found…

When Mom died I did three things: gathered all her clothes and jewelry and farmed them out to family, friends, and charities; brought home my third of her ashes (morbid, I know, but I really wanted “her” near me); and collected as many of her cookbooks as I could find. Specifically, I searched for books that had her writing in the notes and margins. Mom thought in recipes all the time and when she had an idea, she’d write it down. Everywhere. There are bits of loose paper, newspaper articles, notecards, and books written all over in Spanish and English. Names of spices and proteins, temperatures, and cook times.


Today, as a break from the transcribing and in the name of finding something yummy to make for dinner, I pulled out one of her stacks of random recipes clipped together with a metal binder and looked through them. What I found are recipes and memories:

“Chicken Curry, Juthica.” Juthica is an old family friend and a good one to begin this list with. Mom and Juthica met through their Yale connections in New Haven, CT in the 60s and became good friends. Mom always liked strong, independent, and smart people and Juthica was certainly that. One day while I was in my sophomore year in college in NYC, I got a call from Mom telling me to come home immediately, that she had someone she wanted me to meet. It was in the middle of the week and so I reminded my usually VERY academically-minded mother that I’d be missing a day of COLLEGE if I came home. “I know. It’s worth it. Come tonight,” is all she said. I got on the commuter train early the next day and met Juthica that afternoon. Like my mother before me, I was instantly entranced by charismatic Juthica–a native Bengali of Calcutta–and resolved to help her with the humanitarian aid project she’s started only a few years before. Little did I know that this would be the first spark in a film career that would have it’s first international accolade (“Soma Girls”) because of Juthica.

“Alfajores.” These are basically the cookies to end all cookies. Think of an oreo where the chocolate cookie-part is a butter cookie and the middle squishy part is half-hardened caramel spread. My brother would beg for these.

“Roast Pork ala Nilda.” Nilda was my mother’s name and almost nothing in her repertoire of savory dishes would exclude cumin. That’s where the “ala Nilda” bit comes in, I think. Not surprisingly, therefore, this dish has a bunch of fun spices as well as cumin and on the notecard includes the instruction: “Let sit for ten minutes, then serve with the pan juices.” Neither my mother nor I have ever met a pan of juices we didn’t like. The theory is that if it’s slurpable with bread, it’s “FOOD.”

When I was much older and had only a modest number of recipes that I could cook well, my mother bemoaned her former strictness in the kitchen. Even though she came from a traditional culture where women were suppose to learn the “domestic arts,” she hated having me underfoot when she cooked. True, I did have an annoying habit of grazing as things got prepared (something I also plagued Molly–another fabulous cook–with), but that wasn’t it. I think she just needed her space clear. The kitchen was her church, her fiefdom, her production studio and she needed it controlled in order to create her masterpieces. Thankfully, I have a very good sense of smell and memory for the flavors and dished she created and so even though she made me stand at arm’s length, I saw most of what she did and how she did it.

Today I still cook only a few of my mother’s dishes–I’m slowly building up the amount that I memorize–but the ones I know have their impact. Recently, I made Mom’s Bolognese sauce for Michael and Laura. Michael flipped when he tasted it. I saw the memories and joy fly across his face. It must have been almost ten years since he’d last had it with pasta. That sauce has a Molly memory too: her family loved it so much that they used to commission it. Or, sometimes, when I was making it for just Molly and me word would get around that “Alexia is making meatsauce,” and before we knew it we’d have many more at the table for dinner. :)

Mom’s meals used to feed armies of children in New Haven, mostly Michael’s friends who, if they became “regulars” soon saw themselves being cooked-for specifically. “I’m making the pie for David,” Mom would say of Michael’s best friend. I’d have to have children in order to have those kinds of numbers of people climbing through my house, but when there’s a group event that I’m either hosting or contributing too, I always make something of Mom’s. It’s an easy way to make people happy and introduce a whole new crop of devotees to “ala Nilda.”

The (un)Civil War

January 14, 2010 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Family, Going Home, Happiness, Health, House, India, Living, Love, Molly, Mom, Photoshop, Valet Battleship Parking

When Ken Burn’s The Civil War was broadcast on PBS it quickly became a family event for my father, my mother and me. My brother was still living in Boston at the time, and so he didn’t watch it with us. In the film there was one much-quoted character who stood out: Mary Chestnut. I loved her first because my favorite actress, Julie Harris, played her voice, but then grew to love her for her words and herself, even though she was a Southern secessionist. 😉


As I mentioned in previous posts, since Mom died I’ve been reading mostly about death, but exclusively non-fiction. As I come to the end of Isabel Allende’s latest book I panic wondering what could possibly come next. Then I get another cryptic, from-the-universe type of message and before I know it am pulling out books I’ve been carting around for years and have yet to read. All are books that had been originally inspired by The Civil War, one being “The Private Mary Chestnut,” Ms. Chestnut’s “Unpublished” civil war diaries.

Last night, returning from a concert of Hindustani classic music with friends, I glanced over at my livingroom bookcase for no reason at all. Something drew me to the stack of books hidden in the back row of the top shelf, the place reserved for books of no current importance. There were four books in total that I pulled out: “The Private Mary Chestnut,” “The Granite Farm Letters,” “Bullwhip Days,” and “Richmond During The War.” All are civil war rememberences, diaries or oral histories, and will be my next reads. Why? I’m not sure, but do feel there’s some connection to be made between my recent sense of closure, however odd it is, and the struggles and losses of those who, over a century ago, walked the earth on which I now live. They struggled in a conflict that tied up their hearts and caused them to tear each other apart. The connection I feel to that may have to do with a new sense of gratitude and grace. Like the folks in these books, who lived on this land, I have a choice in this moment. Incredible. As my friend Maninder said: “It’s like a game show, you can either take the $100,000 you’ve already won and walk away, or play it and possibly lose it all.” Like the folks who survived the Civil War, I am trying to eek out a new life from ashes. No, my war(s) weren’t waged with guns, but they did last too long and covered a lot of ground. And there was emotional pain. I’m luckier in that no one died.

I will be remade this year, whether by my own hand or others’. I’m looking forward to it, but it will change a lot, I think. Whatever this phase is that I’ve been in for so long is now, finally, over. I think it started when I was 26, when I first started having intimate, committed relationships. I’m not sure, but hopefully Mary Chestnut and the others will help me find clues and, ultimately, answers. Why not? Worked for Nicholas Cage in National Treasure… 😉

See? Still looking behind me for answers. Hidesight, something-something-something… :)

What A Strange, Strange Trip It Is…

November 29, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Aperture, Coal, Faith, Family, Happiness, Health, House, India, Living, Love, Lumix Pix, Molly, Uncategorized, Video, Yoga

So much has happened since I last blogged that it’s a struggle to settle on a place to start…



Did I tell you about Chicago? I traveled there for two reasons: to participate in the wedding of my dear friend Robin to her glorious, gorgeous, amazing wife Lindsey; and to film several interviews for The Dirty Truth About Coal.

The trip was a revelation. I have been out of work since March and “Soma Girls” was doing well. When I went to Chicago, therefore, I was 100% an independent filmmaker. I wasn’t making any money, but I was making great art and having the time of my life. For one week I had the great privilege of staying with my family–Lucy, Carlos & Xochi. Lucy’s sister is married to my brother, but all three families (Lucy’s, mine & Carlos’) all get along so well that I call them my inlaws. Conventions be damned! :)

Anyway, the filming was amazing. Lucy, an employee of the EPA, connected me with people, information and groups I would never have known about and so the interviews I got during my trip solidified that I have an amazing piece of work on my hands. Creatively, the trip was a thrill and layered with validation that, yes, indeed, I’m very good at this and should absolutely keep going.

Then there was the wedding… My friend Robin, even though she’s only one year older than I, has always acted as if she’s my mother or, at the very least, a very important older sister. Her grace with and care of me over the years has been one of the cornerstones in my life that has contributed to my success of self and profession. She has always been there for me and so to see her so in love and bringing to bear all her energies to this wonderful, beautiful match was a gift. Robin is a whole’lotta woman and she somehow found her perfect mate in kind, gentle, but also solid, loving and capable Lindsey.

“Soma Girls” World Premiere

On November 13, 2009 my latest documentary–a 27-minute short called “Soma Girls”–had it’s world premiere at the Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival in New York City. It was a full-circle feeling for me. I have toiled at this “video thing” for a while now and, although I’ve had (in my mind) many successes, to have one as big and public as this was all the way BITCHIN’. :)

Upon hearing of our selection into the festival, Nandini and I had scrambled to get the last of the technical sections of the film done. This meant color correction and sound mix. The drop-dead dates for both ended up being one day after I got back from Chicago, which meant that while I was in Chicago I had to export the film in the proper format for both vendors. The problem? I didn’t have the film with me. :) All thanks here, then, go to my friend Drew who lives up the street from me and has a key to my house. He’s also a techie so when I asked if he could go in, get the hard drive the film was on, pack it up VERY, VERY CAREFULLY, and then ship it to me overnight in Chicago, there was a profound feeling of confidence of my part. :) Once I got the drive I re-arranged one shoot for Coal so I could have a day to prepare Soma Girls. Juggling indy film projects and then having dinner with extended family–not a bad day’s existence.

Once I got back from Chicago I went straight into the sound mix in Boston on the same day Nandini was doing the color correction in New York. We’re so very “2.0,” aren’t we? 😉 Both processes went very well and I was able to send the sound files to the color-corrector/masterer with plenty of time.

Nandini then dropped the digibeta master off with the festival folks and that was that until festival time. The festival was great and is better described on the SomeGirls.org blog. Suffice it to say I had a great, great time. Having this experience for the first time with a film I made with one of my very favorite filmmakers, Nandini, was a thrill and a privilege. It was the perfect “first.” :)

Inspired Yoga

The week after the festival, in fact three days after I’d come home, I left again for another indy gig. I had been contacted several months ago by a yoga instructor in DC. She had her own studio and a large following of students, and was interested in making a DVD of her intermediate level practice. I was flabbergasted, flattered and very excited as I’ve wanted to make an instructional yoga DVD for a while. It’s really hard to do because, in addition to being instructional it needs to be interesting/beautiful. Thankfully, one of my favorite camera people in Boston, my new pal Nikki, was available to shoot. She has an eye I knew I’d need and so with her involvement I felt 100% confident that I could produce something of value for Kyra, the instructor.

Kyra’s style of teaching and, really BEING is about soooo much more than yoga. She embodies the need to make people feel better about themselves in every way, and so that’s what Nikki and I were able to find during the shoot. One of my strengths as a director, I think, is my ability to really understand a person’s vibe and make the work bring that out. However we did it, we did it, cuz at the end of the first day of shooting–three cameras!–a bunch of us reviewed the footage and were amazed by it’s beauty. Somehow Nikki and I had managed to not let the existence and job of the cameras get in the way of Kyra’s message, a message she delivered with a fluid and seamless one-hour sequence. Kyra was AMAZING.

And that was only Day 1. Day 2 of shooting involved filming “pickups,” anything we felt needed more attention/a different angle, and recording the Voice Over.

Now, recording a voice over might sound straight forward at first, but remember this needed to be a ONE HOUR voice over. Because she’s incredible and a trooper, and committed to her work, incredible Kyra did the whole goddamned thing in one take. Perfectly. :) Nikki and I were amazed. “Is this not how this usually goes?” Kyra asked us after we’d reviewed the first take (oh yes, she did another entire take). “Noooooooooo,” we replied in unison, gleefully. :)

The perfection and efficiency of the voice over–something I didn’t expect at all–made it easy for me cobble together a solid rough cut that same night. Therefore, when Kyra got back from her evening classes at the end of Day 2, we were able to have her give the whole thing a listen to see if there was anything she wanted to record again. There was, we did it, and then went to sleep.

Day 3 was equally awesome. Nikki was in charge of the day’s shoot which will become the introduction to the DVD. Kyra had written a 2 minute intro that welcomes the viewer, talks a bit about her philosophy/her story, and describes what’s to come on the DVD. Nikki made ART out of the shoot at the DC Arboretum at magic hour. Magic hour is Nikki’s wheelhouse. A word of advice if you hire her to shoot for you: describe what you want, bring her to the location, and get the fuck out of the way. Because Nikki and Kyra were so in tune with each other, this footage is gorgeous and totally in sync with the vibe Kyra and I want for the DVD. :)

Thanksgiving & Today

That brings me to today. I came home from DC in time to have one day in Hudson before going to the Vineyard for a restful Thanksgiving. I celebrated mellowly with Dad, Sarah, and Sarah’s beautiful mother, Emily. Being on the Vineyard is always restful and restorative, and so I’m home now after having slept a lot and recouped some of the energy spent on the last couple of months.

Voila. I hope this makes everyone feel caught up. It certainly makes me feel that way. :) As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts. This life is nothing unless it’s shared. :)

Much love & thanks to you all,


Make Something

November 12, 2009 By: admin Category: India, The Film, Uncategorized

I never thought I could be a filmmaker. You all–who read this blog–know that when I hear that word I see Martin Scorcese and then shrink back into the dark obscurity from which I came, but tonight, all that changes. Tonight, at the Indo-American Arts Council Film Festival, where my film “Soma Girls” will premiere tomorrow night, I hear director/creator Mira Nair, and all of a sudden I knew what I’ve know my whole life: there are no rules. You fucking well go off and do what you need to do and the universe steps up with other stuff/support that reminds you that you’re not insane. :)

Tonight I was given the clear message that there’s no room for resting on any laurels. The deal is that you’ve got to go, go, go! As an artist, I have a responsibility to break my back making things–for the moment it’s films, but maybe later it’ll be something else. Maybe music. :)

Mira Nair said: “To be brave comes with pain.” I understand that completely. This is the legacy that’s been passed down to me from my mother and father. Each of them took risks given their contexts, and each of them succeeded. So, it behooves me to keep moving.

I don’t know if I’ll be alone forever, but there may not be anyone willing to stick by close enough as I move. it’s a lot to ask, isn’t it? I pray, in the quiet, that there’s someone for whom my jumping up and down is enough, but it may just not be in the fucking cards, y’know? If so, then that’s my lot and I have to accept it, because what I’m sure of is that, in Ms. Nair’s words: I have to keep making things. It’s the only thing I know, and the only thing–other than family–that’s remained consistent.

To all you artists out there, and I’m speaking to everyone who reads this blog as I feel everyone is an artist: KEEP MOVING. Keep making your stuff. Don’t worry about money, time, or love–those things will find you when you most need them. Maybe that’s a doomsday message, but FUCKIT; in the end, the art will be what remains. :)

Temptation vs Disaster

October 27, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Family, Going Home, Happiness, House, India, Living, Love, Mom

Mom jumped off the bridge once that I know of. A leap of faith. She came to this country on the premise that she’d be staying for the summer, when, really, she was staying forever…


She said she always admired my courage, the bravery I had about traveling and trying new things. As the generations are different I had no idea what she was talking about until I was much older and saw in those younger than me that which I would never have the courage to do.

Temptation comes along when you least expect it. No… that’s not right… The saying I remember was “LOVE comes along when you least expect it. It comes in,” my teacher said “and fucks up your life.”

I can remember in college what temptation was. It was men and simple, easy sex. There wasn’t any promise there, just fun, and I had a lot of fun. It was only when I began connecting with women that temptation stopped being simple. Maybe it was just flat-out cuz I was gay and the women meant more to me than the men, or that I felt closer to them than men, but the problems began when I realized that what I was feeling wasn’t just fun anymore… it was love. All the time. The ability to be casual died on the spot… and I have been in varying degrees of pain ever since. High-bottom, I know, for someone who’s been to India and seen what my friends there do, but this is the way of things.

Monday’s Girls

October 18, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Happiness, Health, India, Love, Meditation, Mom, Valet Battleship Parking, Video


You’re all familiar with this photo, I’m sure. It’s the one I use whenever I need an “avatar” or ID pic. It’s one of two that were taken by one of my best friends from college: Andy. She was into photography while we were studying acting and movement at Tisch (NYU), and this one was taken on the NYC subway one morning, too early. Hence, the large cup of coffee. This, I think, is the best candid shot of me ever taken. It’s hard to get me looking natural in shots. I inherited my awkwardness in front of the camera from my mother. It’s okay, though, as there are other gifts I’m grateful for… :)

The other shot from Andy was taken on a trip we made to Boston with another girl we didn’t actually like. See, there was a large group of us from ETW, the Experimental Theatre Wing–a specific school within Tisch that embraced the avant garde and modern dance. We were all very tight, like family, and young and gorgeous and energetic and talented, so I can imagine there was a fair amount of envy from folk who weren’t in the group.

Anyway, so this other woman who came with Andy and me to Boston wasn’t part of crowd and it was strange, but we still managed to have a good time. Andy and I cared for each other a great deal and always just wanted to have fun. The additional strangeness of that trip, though, was that I remember feeling that college was winding down for me. Andy still had two more years, but my ride was ending, and it had been one hell of a ride. I can’t imagine anyone having had a better, more exciting, more fulfilling time in college than I did. Sophomore year I learned about ETW and switched acting studios to join them in Paris for one year. From a year’s sabbatical with my family when I was ten, I knew Paris already like the back of my hand. It was, and is, home. Then, coming back to NYC for my final year, thinner, smarter, older, wiser in a way… was amazing. New York has always “delivered” for me and I will always be grateful.

These memories are coming up today because I found the cassette tapes Andy and others made for me during that time–the title of this post is the title of one of the tapes. A group of my girlfriends from ETW spontaneously got into a habit of going out to dinner every Monday for a few weeks. We’d go to the same place in the Village just off Washington Square Park. An Italian restaurant that had incredible food at student prices, and that catered mostly to older, single gay men. We were so out of place when we went in there that we sort of naturally fit. And, anyway, as there was always an army of us–6 or more every week–it wasn’t like we were going to allow ourselves to be intimidated out.

Looking back at all my experiences brings today’s into relief. Molly recently had a show she called “Metamorphoses” to reflect on all the changes that have gone on her in life recently. I wasn’t at the show, but have noticed that almost everyone around me has been going through massive changes. First and foremost, everyone is breaking up. Between us, Molly and I know about 6 to 7 couples that split in the last 6 months. Add my friend Nikki’s count and the number gets oddly large. So what the hell is happening? I haven’t figured it out yet, but it does make me feel like looking back is okay, now that things in my life have settled down a bit after recent storms.

Meditation class has, I think, had the biggest impact because it gave me the tools to help make my reflection productive. I’ve noticed things in me that are different from when I was in college, but more importantly I’ve noticed the things that are the same. That’s what we’ll be spending the next few weeks staring at people. Ya ready…??? 😉

In the meantime, I’m going to let the joy of a few new events wash over me. I am immensely grateful for the success of “Soma Girls,” and for a few wonderful new people I’ve met who have opened my eyes. :) Here’s to a fabulous Fall, y’all. Thanks for listening. :)

New Perspective

September 03, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, Faith, Family, Happiness, Health, India, Living, Love, Meditation, Valet Battleship Parking

Screen shot 2009-09-03 at 7.42.56 AM

“When we trust our creativity we encounter a supreme kind of enjoyment –
an amazement at the natural unfolding of life beyond our ordinary way of looking at things.” –Kongtrul Jigme Namgyel

The painting above, as well as many other wonderful abstracts can be found at Rinpoche’s website here: http://www.kongtruljigme.com/index.php This is the mane I went to hear speak last night. I love that a Tibetan Buddhist on his path of teaching Westerners about mindfulness and compassion, is also a painter. :)

So, the talk–called a ‘Dharma Talk”–was terrific. I expected it to blow my mind but was still shocked it actually did. The topic of the talk was fear and fearlessness. He began the way you’d expect, talking about fear’s root being in attachments. We all have fears and the task is to meditate on them in order to discover their origins. Their origins are always in attachment. We have attachments to people, to moments, to things, to an idea, etc. Fear comes when our attachment becomes too strong, like we want to win something. We are so attached that we lose the ability–in that case–to be rational, and that leads us to get all twisted up and we feel bad. So the key is to identify our attachments and then work with them…

Part A: Attachments

Once you identify the attachment you sit with it, look at it from all sides and try to see how/why it’s affecting you so much. This isn’t a fun part of the process because you eventually come to realize that you could do without the attachment. I’m still fuzzy on how to release the attachment altogether, but there’s probably some merit to that. Or maybe not, maybe we just become comfortable having the thing in our lives with the understanding that we can’t allow ourselves to go too far with it.

Anyway, while you’re stuffed with attachments, you’re fearful. You’re so attached/invested in so many things that that’s where all of your energy is going. Your blind to other things around you, or your perspective is distorted from fear. In this state you can’t help anyone, and helping others is the crux of compassion…. so the idea is to clear your mind of all that muck so you can become strong. This, obviously, will take a long time as we will have to spend years identifying all of our attachments. I don’t think enlightenment stays at bay during this time, I think you can have moments of enlightened joy at every stage–realizations–but overall things take time.

Part B: Awaking To Fearlessness.

There is strength in fearlessness, and Rinpoche emphasized that we not think of fearlessness as being “toughness.” Fearlessness, I think, means having courage in the world, having the courage to do things for the greater good and not for the self. That’s only the tip of the iceberg, but I haven’t quite figured out the meaning of fearlessness just yet. All I know is that when you release a whole, whole lot of your attachments you “awake,” are reborn as a new, fearless person. I like that. :)

Part C: Compassion Toward Self

So, this is the part that I think will take years: learning to love and have compassion for yourself. Again, these teachings seem to be only about 75% linear, you don’t have to follow Step 1, Step 2, Step 3. I think you get realizations along the way and, in the bigger picture they could stack up to look more linear. But we’re not supposed to think like that, is my feeling.

Anyway, so once we’ve achieved a certain comfortable measure of fearlessness, we then have to focus on loving ourselves and giving ourselves compassion. I don’t even know where to begin with that so I’m just going to leave it alone. I just know that in order to be able to have compassion for others and do good in the world, you have to give it all to yourself and that’s just HARD. maybe it’s a Western thing, though, because I see many, many, many more Americans having trouble with self-love than most other cultures. It may be because our sense of the core family has died off. We run away from our families when we should stay with them–or at least the ones that aren’t self-destructive. For some this is much, much harder than for others.

Part D: Compassion Toward Others & The World

This is what it sounds like. Rinpoche seemed to say that this is not you running around all over the world trying to fix everything, it’s just you by example, I think, following the path of peace and living your life in a peaceful way and having that be your biggest impact on others. Obviously, though, you could teach the dharma or, if you’re my friends Alison & Bryan, you could open a computer and job training school in Kolkata, India for low-income and low-caste folks. THAT’s walking the path if there ever was one.

You have to have a lot of confidence in yourself before you can have the strength to do something like what Alison & Bryan do.

Part E: Enlightenment

This is the big payoff. I have no idea what this looks like, feels like, etc. I don’t know anyone who’s enlightened. So, if you get as far as this stage let me know what it’s all about… :)

So, I was very pleased with the talk and with Rinpoche. I’m not a buddhist, but no one was or is asking me to be and they’re still all very generous and open about non-buddhists coming to their classes and workshops. This is phase one for me: realizing there’s an avenue other than pain. For now, for me, it’s about perspective and self-reflection. Those aspects affect everything. I move more slowly these days so I can have time to take things in and try to understand them, and I wake up early–6:00am!–so I can have even more time in the day. Meditation certainly does give you more energy, that’s for sure.

I hope this offers something to anyone reading it. I had a very good time at the talk and look forward to learning more. :)

Fine Cut

July 27, 2009 By: admin Category: Abandonment Journal, India, Mom, Video


This is the “Discovering: Shuktara” team in NYC for a super-swanky awareness-raising party and screening. From left to right: me, Davin–Associate Producer, Alison, David Earp–shuktara founder, David (DJ) Justice and Christy Smith–directors. Alison was the one who hooked us all up. She and David live in Kolkata and she found DJ & Christy as they were doing their round-the-world trip in 2008 for their organization, Discovering Deaf Worlds. Alison met me in 2007 when I went to Kolkata to film a fundraising video for The Shadhika Foundation. When DJ and Christy were talking about going back to Rochester and wanting to make a film, Alison suggested they contact me. The rest is history… :)

During editing on “Discovering: Shuktara” in Nov/Dec. 2008, DJ dubbed my studio “The Birdhouse.” The man who built my house and additional out-building in 1897, J.O. Girardin, had his own business. He was a roofer and his company was called “Bird Roofing.” Something about that name stuck with me. My mother has always loved bird images, and used to make Peruvian-looking bird sculptures out of the extra wood left over from the building of the addition to the Vineyard house. Anyway, when DJ & Christy arrived to edit that first time, I told them that story and David declared my aerie studio-above-the-garage “The Birdhouse.” :)

The film is doing very well. If you go to the DDW site you’ll see that it’s in four fests already and that’s probably only because the guys didn’t have enough time to add notations about more fests. :) I’m very proud of the film and of having worked with DJ & Christy. They are your dream directors: passionate, have a strong vision, and committed to the work and not their egos. It was a wonderful experience that I would repeat any day.

This last trip to NYC was a doozy. Lots of running around and not enough sleep, but I did meet some terrific people, had a chance to reconnect, if briefly, with the pals above, and did some GREAT work on “Soma Girls,” which I can’t wait to see fly out into the world. The good news about that film is that Nandini and I had gotten some amazing and valuable feedback a while ago and did a great job this past week of incorporating it into our existing timeline. Stepping back after finishing, we were floored and thrilled that the changes made a HUGE, HUGE difference. The film is BETTER. We’re committed to treating the sex workers, who are the mothers of the girls of Soma Home, with the utmost respect, and we feel we’ve managed to do just that in such a mellow, organic way that it flows very naturally within the rest of the story. As a result, the film is really about women more than it is about the girls, their difficult childhoods, their mothers’ circumstances, or even India. It feels like a universal piece.

Also, something changed in me just before I went to NYC, and it carried over to while I was there and to today. There’s an awareness and greater sense of self and self-love that I hope will last. I have tools now to counter many of the demons that usually approach, and don’t feel even half as myopic as I have recently. The chains may finally be off and I may be able to love again, or, really, possibly for the very first time. There’s A LOT more that needs to be practiced, made solid, but I can see clearly now, the haze has gone. 😉 I know the next few months are going to be incredible for “Soma Girls,” and I look forward to the great ride. It’s all been a very long time in coming. Lastly, if I can finish production and post on “The Dirty Truth About Coal” before the end of the year, I will have made three massive films in one year. :) And on top of that, if I can squeeze in the concert video of “Vishwa Mohan Bhatt,” and short-short of Megumi Hiromitsu talking about her song “Reflections On Sangeet” then this will have been one of the most amazing and life-changing years I’ve ever had.


More pix from NYC:


Davin and me acting the fools


Christy & DJ chatting with Lee.