Grace started life as a Catholic and departed as a Buddhist, having shared with Ernest six decades of spiritual learning and practice. Our teachers were Claudio Naranjo, Swami Muktananda, Tarthang Tulku, Dhirivamsa, Pema Chodron, and Sogyal Rinpoche. Grace also worked with Richard Moss and Brugh Joy, and participated in the Nine Gates Mystery School. More on each of these follows.
This photo is of Aunt Helen, who even at an early age delivered profound wisdom. Her body was damaged by polio yet she went on to have nine children, teaching the older ones to take care of their brothers and sisters. Grace admired her great love and perseverance.
In the sixties Grace and I shared psychedelic trips that opened our commitment to the spiritual journey. We soon found our first teacher, Claudio Naranjo. (Grace first met his wife, Marilyn Sherwin, another parent who’s daughter Clara was in Martha’s pre-school.)
Grace and I joined the intensive group Claudio called SAT in the Fall of 1971. He is a teacher who draws upon all major spiritual traditions, integrating their practices with work to gain clear understanding of the shape of our egos and means of overcoming negative traits.
With sixty others, we dove into an intensive three years of “working on ourselves”. Weekly meetings on Thursday nights; sessions with pairs and threesomes of members following indications; weekend retreats with spiritual masters, including the Tibetan Buddhist Tarthang Tulku, Rabbi Salman Schacter, the Tantric teacher Harish Johari, the Vipassana insight meditation monk Dhirivamsa, two Scientology teachers who’d left the “order”, the psychic Bob Hoffman, and others.
Claudio offered a banquet of learning designed to force each of us to find her/his own way onto a unique path of evolution. He taught the Enneagram as a pattern for perceiving both our egos and the way out of their limitations. (This nine-pointed figure derives from a Sufi order in Afghanistan and was adopted by Gurdjieff and his followers. Claudio gained new knowledge of it in the Arica program led by Oscar Ichazo.)
When our work with Claudio Naranjo ended in 1974 our group moved in different directions. Several became followers of Swami Muktananda and invited Grace and me to check him out. I became the 1974 tour photographer and Grace and I traveled with him to Hawaii and Colorado, participating in introductory evenings and retreats. I spent a month in the tour ashram in Pasadena.
Baba was a traditional Indian guru, holding darshan twice daily and teaching a powerful mix of Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism. The latter was very world affirming, almost pantheistic in its call to see God in everything and everyone. Baba led Sanscrit chants several times a day and circle dances in which we chanted devotion to God while dancing for hours.
Grace felt the scene was like a Baptist church and finally chose Tibetan Buddhism as her path, feeling it was more like her childhood Catholic church (without the guilt). I followed her.
One of the teachers Claudio introduced to our SAT group was Tarthang Tulku, a master in the Nyingma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Grace connected with him strongly and after SAT ended, she attended classes with him at the Nyingma Institute in Berkeley.
Grace kept the Pocket Pema Chödrön near at hand for years. When the doctors diagnosed lung cancer and heart disease, we participated in a virtual retreat with Pema via dvds. Grace was attracted by her loving, matter-of-fact style of teaching and the fact that she was a mother raising kids in Berkeley at the same time Martha was a youngster. Pema started as a kindergarten teacher, then became a disciple of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Like him, she explains complex concepts with telling everyday examples of the concepts in action.
Grace and I participated in three more online retreats with Pema, finding a strong foundation for meeting the challenges of cancer and heart disease with peaceful awareness. This built upon all that we had learned from earlier teachers.
Grace and I met Sogyal Rinpoche in 1980 when we spotted a poster for a workshop he was conducting in Seattle. In beautiful calligraphy, it said: “When you breathe out suddenly you don’t breathe in. It is finished.” Over a cup of sake, we invited him to present a workshop based upon his Tibetan Book of Living and Dying at Antioch Seattle, where Grace was a student.
This book became our major guide through the last year, helping Grace to prepare for death by living fully each day without denial.