Skip to content

Among the Trees

This week I was able to spend a little time outside during the early dawn hours.  I enjoy and savor the quietness of the mornings.  I can rest in the soft melodies of the birds, the scurry of the squirrels, the wind, the leaves, clouds just becoming visible, adrift in the sky.  My inner dialogue and the world’s still in an easeful slumber.  Lately, I often pause in awe of the trees.  The Grace with which they meet the seasons of their life.  They are a vision of exquisite surrender, not resisting the wind, the sun, nor the rain; simply rooted, their leaves falling and returning every spring.  And if it was meant that they were to be completely uprooted, then that too is included.

This morning my attention began to settle a little lower.  The earth beneath the trees and the beauty in this.  I could feel the earth holding all of these trees through the seasons of their existence.  The earth does not seem to have an agenda, not fixing nor changing.  It just holds what is.

My attention settles a little closer to home, to the terrain of life within me.  Was the earth not holding me through the seasons of life just as she holds the trees?  Is she not holding all of Life, at all times?  Here, no experience and no one is more or less worthy.  For a while, I rest in this open embrace, just the experience itself.  After a few minutes I walk back inside, remembering Mary Oliver’s poem.

When I Am Among the Trees

When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.

I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.

Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.

And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”

Grief and Bravery

These past two months my family and I have been navigating death and loss, one that came very suddenly.  It was as if literally Life pulled the rug out from beneath our feet.  It continues to feel quite surreal.  Emotions have taken me everywhere, from numbness to sadness, anger to acceptance, love back to love.  The peaks and the valleys seem a little less drastic, but they continue to come and go … especially in the quiet moments. 

I invite them in.  Getting consumed by life’s routines almost feels as if it is betraying what should not be forgotten so soon.  Still my heart knows that it won’t ever be forgotten, even if the mind becomes occupied.


I have also remembered how experiencing loss allows my heart to open to our shared human grief.  One’s own pain expands the capacity to be with other people’s pain.  Rather than just a surface level acknowledgement, I am in awe of people who have and are navigating loss of all kinds … and the courage it takes to keep showing up in life, carrying on with one’s responsibilities, meanwhile the tenderness remains.  The bravery that I witness is humbling, and at least for now I am less tempted to fall prey to my assumptions of what people are or are not experiencing.  There is often so much more than what we see.


Perhaps the heart breaking is also the Heart opening, the field of Compassion becoming a little less obscured.



A Tribute to a Life Well Lived

Below I am sharing my eulogy for my dear father-in-law, Shangara Singh, who passed away on July 3rd, 2018.  .

My name is Sheila. I am Captain’s wife, and Shangara Singh’s daughter-in-law.

I held Dad very close to my heart, and in talking to friends in his community, I have come to know that many of you equally held Dad with great love, respect and admiration.  It has been awe-inspiring to hear the stories of Dad’s commitment and devotion to the welfare of his community. Those who experienced his generosity know what I am speaking about. He was often available to help friends and family when they were in need, and he never asked for much in return apart from sincerity and honesty.  He was not one who needed acknowledgement or praise. The act of seva and generosity itself was enough.

As you might imagine, along with community, Dad was wholly devoted to his family.  While as an engineer, he had a precise and sharp mind, as a father figure, he held us all with a warm and loving heart.  With his children, he had the ability to become a child again. It was one of his many gifts. I saw it in the way he related to his granddaughters, Sophia and Sonia.  He way playful, loving and doted on them. In fact, he would affectionately address them as Sonia-ji and Sophia-ji. He was always willing to listen to the many things pre-teen girls are interested in talking about… and available to go to the playground for soccer, to make late night trips to the grocery store for snacks, or to attend the many school functions the girls had.  In fact, I don’t remember him ever saying no to the girls for anything. This was the sweetness of his love as a grandfather.

As a father, he offered guidance, but not too much, nor too little.  Captain and I felt genuinely cared for, but Dad rarely imposed his opinions on us.  He gifted us the freedom to explore and learn, and offered his unconditional support. Often it was his quiet and gentle presence that made me feel so at ease around him.  

The past several years, Mom and Dad were spending summers with us in Austin.  I cannot tell you the numerous ways in which Dad helped us. This past summer he spent countless hours attending to things in our home that needed to be repaired.  I saw the amount of time he was devoting, yet he rarely talked about all that he was doing, nor did he ask for recognition or thanks.  During the summer, I would often have a week or two where I would work full days and need help with the girls.  He always offered support saying, “Sheila, don’t worry. Just tell me how I can help with the girls and I will be there.”  This was the kindness of his love as a father.

Still, some of my fondest memories of Dad are the hikes that we would take together on our summer travels.  He was always the one who was eager to go on when everyone else was tired. He and I would continue hiking; easy conversation weaved together with peaceful silence.  Usually, I was the one who would have to urge Dad that we should turn around and return, in case the others began to worry. The spirit of adventure and love for the outdoors was very much alive in him.

Last though not least, I appreciated Dad’s simplicity and humility.  To me it was a sign of how evolved he was as a human being. He had high ideals when it came to truthfulness and integrity, yet he did not have a strong ego.  He remained humble despite his many life achievements, and he remembered that the simple things in life were in fact the most important. He did not seem to be caught in the waves of constantly striving and seeking for more. He had the capacity to slow down and enjoy the moment. I think because of this he carried a profound peacefulness about him, and this peacefulness was often transmitted to those around him.  I know that I experienced this.

While I have attempted to describe Dad’s legacy as I have come to know it, words cannot fully describe how much he will be missed.  It has been a great honor and privilege for me to have called Shangara Singh my Dad. Though he is no longer with us in physical form, his love, energy and wisdom remains with us eternally. 



The Final Meditation

As I sat in meditation this morning, I could feel the layers of myself soften. Almost as if they were falling away.  A lightness emerged where I was no longer absorbed in the abstraction of thinking, but resting a little more fully in direct experience itself.  The heaviness of identity, history, anticipations, emotions melted for some moments. Even time became irrelevant.


As I returned back to my thinking mind, there was the recognition of meditation as a death.  Death, not in a dark way, but in a way of an ultimate freedom.  We often get caught in the human realms.  We think we are only our history, our identity, our body, our successes and our failures, and yet we are so much more.  All of these layers of experience and humanity can obscure the luminous essence of what is our original Nature and essence.  An essence that can never be taken or given.  It just is.

In those latter moments of meditation, I felt connected to my dear father in law who recently passed away.  I felt the realms where we are eternally connected in a beautifully unobscured and pure way.  Perhaps his passing was his final meditation, where he was returning to the original, undisturbed, and undivided essence.  The state prior to all states, and itself not even a state.

I still long to connect with my father in law in a human way, but for now this offers some solace to the heart.  It was my great honor to call Shangara Singh my Dad.  I will miss him dearly.

Gratitude, iRest Benefit

Today I am grateful for all the individuals who showed up yesterday to explore the practice of iRest® yoga nidra.  Yesterday’s event was a benefit class where donations were suggested but optional, still everyone generously offered what felt right.  All of the proceeds collected will go to the Integrative Restoration Institute, to support the work they do in bringing the benefits of these practices to those less fortunate and often without access to such resources. When I first considered offering this benefit, I was unsure that I had the time or that I would find the space that felt right.  My heart remained curious, and almost as if without much effort, conversations began happening, studio space was kindly offered and the event was set in motion. 

I hold this practice close to my heart.  After many years of exploring meditation and yoga, I discovered the practice of yoga nidra and the nondual teachings from which they arise.  Richard Miller skillfully took these teachings and practice, and framed them to be more accessible to modern day practitioners of any faith or belief system.  The iRest® yoga nidra practice is additionally based on the understanding of how trauma is held in our bodies, the current understanding of neuroscience, and positive psychology.  While a traditional yoga nidra practice often invites the individual to bring forward given images, those images are not always applicable to all cultures or communities today.  Instead, iRest places autonomy in the hands of the practitioner.  They are invited to meet experience as it is unfolding for them, and imagery that arises naturally over the course of practice.  The added emphasis of creating a safe container for the inward journey, and skillful ways to be with experience that might feel difficult allows this to be a trauma sensitive practice.

The foundation of practice is in Being and meeting life as it is, moment to moment.  Here as we take our hands off the steering wheel, something profound becomes available.  We have the opportunity to consciously rest and restore.  We have space to meet experience more fully, to glean the many messages that are being offered, and the opportunity to come into right relationship with life … and, further, to come into harmony with our dharma, the heartfelt purpose that is and has been living within us.

I have benefitted deeply from this practice.  I have had the opportunity to integrate past experiences which before I did not feel like I could safely meet, or skillfully hold.  I have had glimpses into my heart’s purpose and longing, and have felt more at home in myself than ever before.  I continue to be on this journey of homecoming.  I won’t tell you that it looks clean or more graceful, but I feel Grace carrying me along the way.  I am a little more willing to allow moments to be messy and without direction.  This has helped me to feel a sense of freedom in life, and to trust that the obstacles and detours are still steering me in the right direction.

Thank you to all those who came to explore this practice.  I truly appreciate the generosity of your time, presence and donations.  I would also like to offer a heartfelt thank you to Keith Katchtik of Dharma Yoga for offering his studio space and support for this event.