The Cahanas: Keeping the Faith in the Worst of Times

Keeping the faith, as we are collectively paralyzed in dark and turbulent times, is very difficult. We are in the third year of a pandemic, marked by vast losses of lives, economic crises, homelessness, and food insecurity. The senseless genocide of people in  Ukraine led and perpetrated by the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, is horrendous, blood curling and chilling. It is incomprehensible to most human beings on the planet. If you are someone like Job depicted in the Bible, who was tested with pestilence, disease and waves of losses and gut- wrenching suffering, you can keep the faith without much struggle. However, for people like myself, who are not Jobs of the world, we question where is God in this dark chaos. How can a loving God allow such intense suffering in the world? How does one keep the faith in God in such turbulent times? Where is the human capacity to love, give, share, heal and honor each other? The most difficult test on the spiritual path is keeping the faith in God or Higher Power in the face of darkness and adversity. Even more challenging is spreading the goodness in the middle of intense suffering.

Pondering these questions, I came across a short film, called, “Perfecting the Art of Belonging” directed by Kitra Cahana in 2020.   This short film is a collaboration between Kitra and her father, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana. The film portrays Rabbi Cahana’s circumstances and commentary when placed in lockdown during the pandemic in a long term nursing facility in Canada. Deeply moved by Rabbi Cahana’s holiness, keeping the faith and practice of tikkum olan (Jewish tradition of doing good and social justice), I started doing research about the Rabbi. I discovered his remarkable family members.

Rabbi Cahana is a powerful spiritual teacher in our times. His ministry  is much needed in our world. This post is not just about Rabbi Cahana. The post also includes the remarkable Alice Lok Cahana, Ronnie Cahana’s mother and Kitra Cahana, the Rabbi’s daughter. The story of the Cahana family portrays how the family kept the faith during very trying and painful times and engaged in the practice of  “tikkum olan” which led to the transformation of deep suffering, which cannot be adequately captured in words, to create spaces of healing in the world. Tikkum Olan is a practice in the Jewish tradition for Jewish people to work hard in repairing the broken world. Please forgive me as this is a very simplistic explanation of tikkim olan as I am not a scholar of Judaism. However, I believe that our collective humanity is called to engage in this practice of repairing the world, as it is very broken.


The Fritzer Ascher Society website has a powerful article, which describes three generations of artists in the Cahana family, Alice Lok Cahana, Ronnie Cahana and Kitra Cahana. Alice grew up in a Jewish family in Hungary. She was very close to her grandfather, a community leader and president of a local synagogue. At the age of 15, the Nazi army deported Alice,  her sisters, brother and mother to concentration camps. She survived  the Auschwitz-BirkenauGuben and Bergen-Belsen camps as a teenager. She was the only survivor of her family in the Holocaust. She escaped to Sweden and then, immigrated to the US. Alice Lok grappled with the question of how an omniscient, omnipotent, God of Agape Love can permit  indescribable suffering, such as the Holocaust, where  human dignity was destroyed and people were labeled with numbers, stripped of their names, and executed. Alice’s work focused primarily on the Holocaust.  Alice Lok developed multiple powerful pieces of art, memorializing the lives and voices unheard and destroyed in the Holocaust. Alice’s art is a spiritual monument to not forget precious lives and vibrant communities lost in the Holocaust.  Alice also engaged in tikkun olan. Her pictures honored the dead in the Holocaust and serves as a reminder that this should never happen. According to  Georgetown University’s Center for Jewish Civilization website(2021) post, “Alice defeated Hitler in three ways: she survived; she ended up turning the destructive processes of her Holocaust experience into creative expression–extracting rainbows from the ashes; and she and her husband produced three children (both sons becoming rabbis) and nine grandchildren”.  Alice’s artwork is a powerful reminder of the urgency in addressing the genocide in Ukraine.


Rabbi Ronnie Cahana was a pulpit rabbi for 25 years before he had a stroke in his brain stem which left him as a quadriplegic patient. In her TED TALK in 2014, Kitra talked about  Rabbi Cahana’s journey of healing after a stroke.   The stroke  impaired all his body movement  with the exception of his capacity to blink his eyes.  His brain is fully functioning and alive. His speech consists of sublime spiritual meditations on love, connection and buoyancy of the human spirit, mind and body.

Rabbi Cahana is a brilliant philosopher and gifted poet. He demonstrates the remarkable capacity of the human condition for joy and resiliency when touched by the Divine Force even in the most challenging circumstances. Like Alice Lok who repaired the world through images, Rabbi Cahana uses words and poetry to practice tikkum olan. In the 2014 TED TALK, Kitra Cahana  states her shock when finding that her father is locked in his body due to paralysis. Kitra Cahana discovers that the Rabbi has the capacity to blink to letters and the Rabbi’s first communication was to tell her not to cry because this injury is a “blessing”. Amazing. Stunning. Kitra Cahana describes her father’s healing, and use of adaptive technology to communicate. I am astounded by the Rabbi’s comment that he refused to play the part of a “quadriplegic patient”. He states that despite his paralysis, he soars, dances and twirls in his dreams above the city. He discusses how at  one point, he was very low and his father pulled him upwards. Kitra Cahana makes the astounding point that as the outside world shuts down for the Rabbi, he travels inward to touch the core of his spiritual self, “Higher Self” which may be instrumental in  transforming his experiences of suffering into mystical states.

Rabbi Cahana eventually goes home and ministers to his congregation. His poetry, a reflection of the incredible spiritual wisdom and strength in his soul, is found on his blog. In the short film produced in 2022, “Perfecting The Art of Longing”, Rabbi Cahana very powerfully points out that holiness exists in this world. He points out holiness is when the body is loved. He celebrates holiness in asking for help and receiving help to meet bodily needs. He discusses the holiness in his dreams about the deep love for his wife, Karen. His dreams of dancing manifest holiness. He defies his physical condition as he dances in joy in his dreams. He does not seem angry. His spiritual gift is in transforming his bodily wounding experience to a sacred experience of learning about the holiness in the human condition. His goal is to live fully. He sees holiness in love, relationships and connections which bind us to our families and communities. His family’s love and care for him is beautiful to watch. He also tells his daughter, Kitra, after his injury not to cry because there is much work which needs to be done to repair a broken world. Tikkum Olan.


Kitra Cahana is a photographer, videographer,  director of films and documentaries.  She is a very accomplished woman and created  documentaries,  films and other projects. She received numerous prestigious prizes for her work. Her devotion to her father and compelling images of her father highlight the importance of honoring human dignity. Her work explores the inner world of her father’s soul. She is sharing the gift of her father’s poetry and meditations on love to uplift humanity in our current bleak times. While her father is in long term nursing facility, Kitra Cahana developed documentaries on nurses and doctors in the middle of the pandemic. She discusses that due to her role as a caregiver for her father, she has become an advocate for medical professional and staff in nursing homes.  Kitra also creates documentaries for vulnerable people in long term nursing homes, as they are at high risk for COVID. In an interview on caregiving in the era of COVID-19, for the podcast, Conversation with a Rabbi, Kitra talks about story telling as a form of social activism because it destroys the blindness of society to the pain and suffering of marginalized groups, such as elderly and disabled people in nursing home. Story-telling through video photography allows the world to see the current state of affairs and creates momentum for change. In Canada, the statistics for COVID related fatalities for people in nursing homes is 69%, yet, 1% of Canada’s population live in nursing homes. Kitra founded the organization, Artists-4-Long-term care. She is also involved in the Strength Based Nursing Home movement.



The central first question, why does a loving God allow suffering in the world, remains unanswered to me.  Different religious and spiritual traditions have different theories about this.  The second question is how to keep the faith in God or Higher Power in dark times of adversity. I do not know for sure. Each individual’s test of faith is unique.  But I do know that the astounding stories of Alice Lok Cahana, Rabbi Ronnie Cahana and Kitra Cahana depict how they kept the faith and practice tikkum olan despite intense adversity. They demonstrate strength and buoyancy of the human spirit to transform suffering and transcend to healing actions to repair our broken world.   Alice Lok Cahana honored and memorialized the dead in the Holocaust through her art. The Rabbi Cahana is healing a broken world through his ministry of words and poetry about love and demonstrating the spiritual force to transcend suffering in the human condition. Kitra Cahana is a social activist and video photographer , with the soul of a poet, in advocating for vulnerable people and channeling her father’s work. Incredible people.

Rabbi Cahana ministered to my soul in these dark times because he shows the remarkable spiritual wisdom and strength that is embedded in the human condition. He is an embodiment of the statement, that human beings are eternal spiritual beings in a temporary human experience . He gives me peace that we can endure to better times. He gives me peace that not all is lost. That is an immense gift to me. He is a powerful teacher of maintaining the faith, optimism and all that is good in the world. I believe that God places people, like Rabbi Cahana, in the middle of storms as a reminder of the best in humanity. I hope that readers also receive the ministering of this incredible Rabbi Cahana in the dark times we live in.

I also am a firm believer in the ideology of tikkim olan. Each one of us has the responsibility to repair the broken world. In repairing a broken world, a key priority is that the genocide in Ukraine led by Vladimir Putin needs to end.



Interview with Dr. Carolyn Torkelson: Holistic Health Beyond Menopause

Menopause refers to the process of cessation of menstrual periods in women, marking the end of the reproductive years. What does post menopause mean? Dr. Traci C. Johnson (2022) defines post menopause as a time  in a woman’s life after she stops having menstrual periods for 12 months. Carrie Madarmo (2022) estimated that there will be over 1.1 billion postmenopausal women in the world by 2025. That is a lot of women. According to Katherine Lee (2021), there are increased health risks that women in post-menopause may experience, such as, increased weight gain, heart disease, osteoporosis, urinary tract infections, and urinary incontinence.  It is again important to note that each woman’s experience of post menopause is influenced by her unique biological, sociocultural and spiritual factors. Given my journey in starting to navigate  post menopause, I came across a phenomenal guidebook, Beyond Menopause: New Pathways to Holistic Health by Carolyn Torkelson, M.D.  and Catherine Marienau, Ph.D. I love the book’s holistic approach to post menopause by exploring the multitude of issues related to biological, psychological, social, cultural  and spiritual shifts in women. Drs. Torkelson and Marienau discuss  keys ideas, such as, developing a “web of wellness”, “harmonizing body, mind, and spirit”, self-awareness”, “self-compassion” and “self-advocacy” in a health care system which may not optimally address different health issues of women in post menopause. 

This post consists of my interview with Dr. Torkelson. I found her to be very knowledgeable, passionate about her area of expertise, interpersonally warm and unique in terms of her training and experience in holistic or integrative medicine. She started her career as a nurse practitioner in a holistic clinic, and then, attended medical school with a focus in preventative care and holistic health. She practiced family medicine for ten years, and then, joined as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine. She also completed her masters degree in clinical research and conducted studies on integrative medicine. She  is a pioneer in integrative medicine because she discussed that there was no formal training in integrative holistic medicine when she started her career and therefore, she actively explored this area and became involved with the American Holistic Medical Association. I found it particularly intriguing that she studied indigenous healing approaches, such as, Native American healing systems,  Tibetan medicine and also worked in Guatemala. Dr. Torkelson is currently an adjunct associate professor at the University of Minnesota. I am super excited to present my interview with Dr. Torkelson on post menopausal women’s health through a holistic perspective and the importance of implementing evidence based changes in women’s lifestyle in promoting wellness rather than only focusing on disease -centric model of addressing symptoms.  I very highly recommend this book. I love her discussion of the five pillars of health: restoration and sleep, nutrition and digestion, movement and exercise, emotional well-being (“healing power of love” and “listening to our body, emotions, thoughts”) and connection to others. This book also has chapters on multiple critical areas, such as, balance, sleep, weight issues and diet (“viewing food as medicine”), alternative healing techniques, anxiety, fatigue, hormone replacement therapy, sexual health, and brain health. The book addresses the important areas of nurturing the mind, body and spirit. Much gratitude and appreciation to Dr. Torkelson in her generosity for doing the interview and sharing her wisdom and knowledge.






I agree with Dr. Torkelson that post menopause may be a prime time of growth and self actualization for women, especially emotionally and spiritually. Psychological changes in post menopause vary, such as, shifts in identities, roles, relationships, body images, jobs, finances, grief and loss issues related to life transitions and sociocultural factors which impact aging women, especially in  our American  culture that is obsessed with youth. People’s chances of navigating  life transitions effectively are likely to increase when the number of their resources for coping and protective factors are greater than their risk factors. Spiritual factors, including relationship and encounters with the sacred, can serve as very powerful protective factors in finding new meaning, purpose and fostering resiliency in different phases of life. I feel that Drs. Torkelson and Marienau’s concepts of  “web of wellness”, “nourishing the body, mind and spirit”, “pillars of health”, and healthy relationship with self (self awareness, self-compassion,  and self-advocacy) and others can be helpful to any human being. I hope that this post encourages readers,  no matter your gender or age, to cultivate these concepts in promoting health and well-being.


Other very cool resources from the authors:  

Carolyn Torkelson

Podcast by Gail Zelitsky and Catherine Marienau






 Johnson, T. C. (2022). Your Health in Menopause.

Lee, K (2021).  5 Health Risks Women Face After Menopause.

Madarmo, C. (2022). Menopause Facts and Statistics: What You Need To Know.,there%20will%20be%201.1%20billion%20postmenopausal%20women%20worldwide.

Torkelson, C, & Marienau, C. (2023). Beyond Menopause: New Pathways to Holistic Health. CRC Press.






Are You There, GOD? It’s Me in Menopause…

The pairing of God and menopause hearkens back to the famous, bestselling  book, “Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret” by Judy Blume, where Blume explores tween related issues through the character of Margaret. Margaret is faced with menstruation (e.g. first period, sanitary napkins), her personal relationship with God ( without a particular religious affiliation) and boys. I love Margaret’s prayer notes to God about her various problems, such as, her father’s accident where she is worried about his finger being cut off by the new lawn mower, asking for help in “growing her bust”, questioning whether she should celebrate  Christmas or Hannukah, and visiting different churches and temples, as her parents have different religious backgrounds. I love Margaret’s raw honesty in expressing her feelings to God, especially, her frustration that she is “not normal” because she has no religion and has not started her menstruation. She even angrily breaks up with God for a while after both sets of grandparents try to force her to choose a religion. I relate to Margaret in some regards.  I, too,  formulate short email- like prayers (with capital letters and exclamation marks) in my mind during stressful times. Like Margaret’s prayer notes to God about her menstruation, I sent a lot of prayer emails during my struggles with menopause. The experience of menopause during the pandemic  hit me like a ton of bricks, kicked me in the butt and knocked me over.  Without getting too much into the meandering details of my own particular menopause experience, I found myself  physically, psychologically and spiritually shaken and stirred during my perimenopausal and menopausal experiences. Drastically different from the movie character, James Bond’s general philosophical approach to his turbulent adventurous life, “shaken, not stirred” (which is also how Bond prefers his vodka martini).

Like menstruation in the past, menopause is still very much a taboo topic. Please note that the experience of menopause is not monolithic. The World Health Organization (WHO)   views the experience of  menopause as influenced by biological, familial, psychological, social and cultural factors in each woman’s life. This blog post addresses menopause through the lens of the biopsychosocial-spiritual model of psychology. Menopause refers to the end of the menstrual periods in a woman’s life. There are many symptoms associated with perimenopause (before menopause) and menopause.  Whiteley and colleagues (2013) reported the following specific menopausal symptoms from women in their study: hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia/difficulty sleeping, forgetfulness, mood changes, decreased interest in sex, joint stiffness, anxiety, vaginal dryness, urine leakage, depression, and heart racing. Whiteley and colleagues (2013) collected data from the 2005 United States National Health and Wellness Survey of women in the age range of 40-64 years, where 4116 women in the sample experienced menopause compared to 4695 women who did not experience menopausal symptoms.  The WHO frames menopause as a public health challenge because, even though, half the world’s population experience symptoms related to perimenopause, menopause and post menopause, these symptoms are not openly discussed in many families, communities, work-places or health care systems. The Society for Endocrinology reported that 75 % or more of women experience symptoms of menopause and 25 % of women  report severe symptoms of menopause. In the Harvard Business Review, Alicia A. Grandey (2022) discussed the stigma of menopause impacting women in the workplace. It is also important to note that the time of menopause may also be a time that many women are considered for leadership positions in their work domains. Stefanie D’Angelo and colleagues (2023) conducted a research study of 400 women in the United Kingdom, who were working in their time of menopause, and found that one-third of the women reported difficulty coping with their menopausal symptoms at work. These researchers found that three symptoms, psychological factors of irritability, tearfulness, anxiety and depression, severe headaches,  and aches, pains in the joint, contributed to the most difficulty in coping at work.    Additionally,  Dr. Wen Shen and colleagues,  (2013) found that out of 510 residents in obstetrical -gynecology training in the U.S, only 100 residents reported a formal menopause learning curriculum in their residency programs and 78 residents reported that they identified a menopause clinic to train further. This speaks to the importance of finding a physician who is trained in menopause as there appears to be alarmingly high numbers of physicians not trained in this area of menopause.

In my own journey of reading about menopause, I came across Dr. Dana E. King, Dr. Melissa H. Hunter and Jerri R. Harris MPH, ‘s (2005) book, “Dealing with the Psychological and Spiritual Aspects of Menopause: Finding Hope in the Midlife”. I found the book very informative, rich and impactful, especially due to the book addressing menopause through the biopsychosocial-spiritual lens. This book addressed the seismic psychosocial and spiritual shifts that may be  occurring in menopause, critical to explore and navigate effectively for the overall health and well-being of women.  Dr. King and his colleagues discussed  major psychological shifts that women may be experiencing during the biological changes, such as, facing the empty nest syndrome, taking care of elderly parents, grief , loss and regrets,  shifts in partnerships where their partners may be experiencing their “midlife crises” and difficulty managing menopausal symptoms with work demands, especially, in work places with minimal support. Dr. King and his colleagues addressed the sociocultural factors impacting women in midlife, such as, overall stereotypical  images of psychological and physical decline in aging women. The authors argue that spirituality of women can serve as a powerful resiliency factor as women face many changes in midlife and develop new identities, explore meaning and purpose. I agree that women develop spiritually with wisdom and excellent skills to navigate life as they age.

I am very honored to present my interview with Dr. King, a family physician, researcher, and prolific author in women’s health and spirituality . He retired as professor and Chair of the Department of Family Medicine at West Virginia University School of Medicine. He was an associate professor of Family Medicine at Medical University of South Carolina, completed an academic fellowship at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and received his medical degree from University of Kentucky. I was struck with Dr. King discussing that although he is a male physician, he learned much about menopause by listening to  his female patients and co-authors.  I very highly recommend the book as it also lists numerous resources for women dealing with menopause. Please see video link for my interview with Dr. King. Much gratitude to Dr. King for his generosity in sharing his knowledge and wisdom with compassion.

Video Link for Interview:

Interview with Dr. King


Concluding Thoughts:

Margaret Simon, Judy Blume’s character, renews her conversations with God in the final chapter after she starts her periods.  Margaret writes, “Are you still there God? It’s me, Margaret. I know you’re there God. I know you wouldn’t have missed this for anything!. Thank you God. Thanks an awful lot….” (p.171). Like Margaret, I am deeply grateful that God or the Divine Source got me through the menopause mess I was in. Also a big thanks to my doctors, nurses, family and friends for all their support.




Blume, J. (1970). Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret …,  Atheneum Books.


King, D. E., Hunter, M. H. & Harris, J. R. (2005). Dealing with the Psychological and Spiritual  Aspects of Menopause: Finding Hope in the Midlife. The Hayworth Press, Inc.


D’Angelo, S., Bevilacqua, G., Hammond, J., Zaballa, E., Dennison, E. M. & Walker-Bone, K. (2023). Impact on Menopausal Symptoms on Work: Findings from Women in the Health and Employment after Fifty (HEAF) Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and  Public Health, 20(1), 295-312. doi:10.3390/ijerph20010295


Grandey, A. (2022). Research: Workplace Stigma Around Menopause Is Real. Harvard Business Review. real#:~:text=A%20recent%20survey%20of%20women%20in%20the%20UK,people%2C%20and%20just%20a%20third%20would%20disclose%20openly.   


Society for Endocrinology (2022). Evidence Based Recommendations on Menopause Management Advise Individualized Care.


Wen, S., Ducie, J.A.,  Altman, K., Khafagy, (2013). What Do Ob/Gyns In Training Learn About Menopause? Not Nearly Enough, New Study Suggests. John Hopkins Medicine.


Whiteley, J., DiBonaventura, MC., Wagner, J-S., Alvir, J. & Shah, S. (2013). The Impact of Menopausal Symptoms on Quality of Life, Productivity, and Economic Outcomes. Journal of Women’s Health. 22(11). 983-990. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2012.3719


World Health Organization(2022) Menopause. 









What’s Forgiveness Got To Do With It?

Forgiveness has a lot to do with freedom from painful emotional states which allows us to live and love well. Recent research studies in psychology have  found the beneficial effects of forgiveness on emotional and physical health.   The concept of forgiveness is discussed in various spiritual and religious traditions. I came across Dr. Fred Luskin’s fascinating research on forgiveness training,  a particularly important topic of intersectionality between psychology and spirituality.  Forgiveness skills exemplify the concept of “practical spiritual practices”, which may enhance well being. Thus, I am very excited to present my interview with Dr. Fred Luskin regarding his phenomenal and impactful book, “Forgive For Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness”. Dr. Luskin is the cofounder and director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project. He received his doctoral degree in counseling and health psychology from Stanford University and has done many years of work in forgiveness research. He is an acclaimed scholar, professor, psychologist and has written numerous  articles in academic journals.

I found Dr. Luskin to be very knowledgeable and wise with a sense of humor as he discussed his forgiveness research results. I was struck with his discussion that he started research on developing an evidence based skill set for forgiveness as he found that the field of psychology did not conduct much research on this important skill. By conducting his research, he discovered that forgiveness is a set of teachable skills which can lead people to let go of their suffering and pain in response to being wounded and allow people to gain some agency and freedom to navigate life intentionally without becoming prisoners of past hurts. He also clarified the misconceptions of what is forgiveness versus  what it is not. Forgiveness is not excusing, forgetting, condoning or minimizing past hurts. It does not mandate reconciliation with the person who hurt you. Dr. Luskin emphasized  that forgiveness is a choice that must be made by each individual without any duress. He normalized the experience of emotions, such as anger, frustration, rage, bitterness, deep sadness, anguish and suffering after being wounded. He discussed that these  emotions need to be acknowledged and processed through the passage of time in safe places  before the option of forgiveness is explored. I also loved Dr. Luskin’s discussion in the book that the wounding process often violates one’s rules and assumptions about life. He described the critical idea of “unenforceable rules”, which we all have, that are grossly violated in experiences of being wounded. Dr. Luskin discusses that when this state of inner emotional equilibrium is disrupted over extensive periods of time  by the past wound and  we are stuck in anger, we need to explore the option of forgiveness. I also love Dr. Luskin’s description that forgiveness is a resolution of the grief process when something happened that is not wanted or something that is desired did not happen. During the interview, we discussed that the grief process is universal but unique to each person based on diversity factors, like cultural and familial factors. Different people grieve differently. Grief and loss are deeply painful experiences of groundlessness due to intense negative emotions and questioning of the assumptions that we had about our lives and the world before the wounding experience or loss. I agree with Dr. Luskin  that  forgiveness work is for oneself and a critical process which contributes to  “inner peace” and “acceptance of life as it is”.

This post includes my interview with Dr. Luskin. I  firmly believe that forgiveness skills should be on the menu to explore in cultivating wellbeing.  I very highly recommend Dr. Luskin’s book “Forgive For Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness”.   He discusses conceptual models of interpersonal and self forgiveness, practical tools for forgiveness practice,  and stages in developing forgiveness skills. Dr. Luskin also discusses the health risks associated with chronic states of anger. He demonstrates vulnerability and compassion as he writes about his own wounding experiences which initiated his research on forgiveness training. I was also struck by Dr. Luskin’s friendship with the late Ram Dass, who is one of my favorite spiritual teachers. I love Ram Dass’s description of the “earth curriculum” that we, human beings, sign up for. Ram Dass characterizes the “earth curriculum” as including deeply contrasting experiences:  beautiful, awe-inspiring and wondrous moments versus dark,  horrific experiences filled with anguish. I completely agree with Ram Dass. The “earth curriculum” is rigorous and challenging at times, such that, we may sometimes stumble, fall and have to get up again and again.  As the biopsychosocial and spiritual model of understanding human beings is prevalent in psychology, I agree with Dr. Luskin that the spiritual dimension of human beings may offer the possibility of great resiliency and strength. Ram Dass (formerly known as Dr. Richard Alpert while a psychology professor at Harvard University) discussed that the spiritual dimension may help people transmute negative and painful experiences in the “earth curriculum” to narratives with underlying meaning and purpose. 

Hope readers find this post on forgiveness helpful. Many thanks and much gratitude to Dr. Luskin for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do the interview. Please see the link below for my interview with Dr. Luskin.

Interview with Dr. Fred Luskin: Forgive For Good


Concluding Thoughts

The tools of forgiveness can be powerful in allowing us to let go of our pain and suffering to past hurts from interpersonal relationships and give us freedom to enjoy the present moment. Dr. Luskin talks about forgiveness skills  freeing us of past hurts so that we can nurture healthy relationships with people who love and care about us in the present.  Self forgiveness is a key factor to self acceptance and self love. Forgiveness tools can allow us to live and love well. It allows us to seize the day (Carpe Diem).

The cultivation of forgiveness in self and interpersonal relationships is critical to enhancing the art of “relationship yoga”, coined by Ram Dass. I love Ram Dass’s discussion of yoga of relationship as grounds for spiritual and psychological development. Forgiveness can be an important tool in facilitating the equanimity produced by yoga practices within the context of relationships.


Note: This is not a therapy site. Please seek professional medical and mental health services, as needed.




I am very honored and excited to present my interview with Mr. Jason Stephenson. I discovered his powerful and soothing sleep meditations in 2020 when I was struggling to sleep some nights during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zara Abrams (2021) wrote an informative article in the Monitor in Psychology through the American Psychology Association regarding the link between sleep and physical and mental health. Abrams (2021) discussed the rise of sleep difficulties many people experienced during the pandemic and noted many factors may have led to this phenomenon, such as, blurring of boundaries between home life and work due to virtual workdays, more stress, uncertainty, limited social support, disruption in routines, more screen time, and increased alcohol use. Additionally, Leah Campbell (2021) wrote a powerful article in Healthline about a phenomenon called “coronasomnia” (sleep difficulties during the pandemic). It is important to note that there are many different approaches and treatments to enhance sleep quality, quantity and routine.

I am deeply grateful to Jason Stephenson for his sleep meditations and sleep stories because they helped me immensely to sleep soundly and peacefully. Now his meditations are part of my nightly ritual before sleep. This post consists of my interview with Jason Stephenson. As I did some research about Jason’s background, I found him to be immensely popular. He is the founder of Relax Me Online Australia. Jason Stephenson’s Sleep Meditation Music you tube channel has 3.01 million subscribers with 879 videos. His you tube channel records 789,408,373 views. He talks about sharing a “peace” of his life with viewers and his goal is to help people cultivate “immense harmony” in mind, body and spirit. He has been a meditation teacher and practitioner for many years. I am also impressed by his commitment to public service as many of his sleep meditation online videos are free. Despite his success and popularity, I found him to be very humble, authentic, composed, and wise beyond words. I am tremendously honored to interview him. Again, I have much gratitude for his sleep meditations and how positively they have impacted my sleep.





I am struck by how Jason gently and compassionately invites listeners to participate in deep breathing and body scan exercises, and sensory engagement to be in the current moment. Jason’s meditations calm me to implement mindfulness practices, especially nonjudgmental observation of the unruly nature of my erratic “monkey mind”, which is often focused on anything, but the present moment. Jason’s narration of sleep stories is marked by vivid, beautiful, calming visual imagery, affirmations of an individual’s inner wisdom. For me, Jason’s sleep meditations facilitate my surrendering process into the sleep journey as a safe and sacred experience in a kind and compassionate Universe.



Abrams, Z. (2021, June 1). Growing concerns about sleep. Monitor on Psychology 52(4), American Psychological Association. ttps://

Campbell, L. (2021, March 1). “Coronasomnia: How The Pandemic May Be Affecting your Sleep”, Healthline. be-affecting-your-sleep

Stephenson, J., Sleep Meditation Music.







There is agape love in the world. People doing heroic things and saving other people’s lives  with no personal gains. I have an unique story of agape love that saved my father’s life. My family and I celebrated Ramananda (Ram) Ganguly, my father’s eighty first birthday yesterday. He is a powerful influence in my life. He sent me an article that was posted in the website ( on April 1, 2023. This post is Ram’s article  about his journey from Virginia to California after immigrating from Kolkata. The article is transcribed by Amitabha Bagchi. I have posted the article for the blog with Ram Ganguly’s authorization. For me, this article is an affirmation of the goodness and kindness in most human beings, which I am a firm believer in. Whether one believes in the Divine Source or Divine spark within people, people are generally good and have tremendous capacity for agape love.  This gives me hope as we live in difficult times.



“I must say I am not much into miracles and supernatural stuff. I have limited faith in a Supreme Being. But I am convinced that angels were looking after me on that fateful trip from West Virginia to California late in 1985.

First a bit of the background to set the context. After graduating in 1963 from the School of Mines in Dhanbad, I went rapidly through post-engineering training, practical experience (by working at coal mines) and a government-administered Competency Test to become a colliery manager in the Raniganj coal belt. Life was indeed good until the Government of India (GOI) decided to nationalize coal mines over a two-year period (1971-73). The impact on me was immediate and severe: I lost my managerial position, had a substantial pay cut, and lost most of my perquisites.

I bounced around for the next six years between field jobs — in and around mines — and a desk job in Ranchi. In 1979, I was made aware of, and then applied successfully for, an engineering position at the Zambia Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM). I joined the company as a Senior Design Engineer at an attractive salary. Also in late 1979, my sister, who had emigrated to California, sponsored me and my family for Green Cards so that we might come to the United States as immigrants.

I joined ZCCM in a very pretty part of northern Zambia with excellent weather. The one issue, though, involved children’s education. There was a local English language school that went up to grade 6. After that, the mining company supported all-expense-paid education (including managed travel) for schooling anywhere abroad for the employees’ children. I sent my daughter, our eldest child, to a boarding school in Kodaikanal. In 1985, when the time came for me to think seriously about sending my two boys to attend, say, the Mayo College in Ajmer, I decided to take a break and come to the USA.

In July 1985, I came with my family to Los Angeles where my sister lived. I found menial work and sent out oodles of applications to American mining companies with no success. I decided to buy a car and, at the suggestion of a friend, drove to and through the mining country of the US: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Virginia. Little did I realize that my long 22-year experience in mining — most of it in a senior capacity – would count for so little in America. My efforts from October through mid-December yielded just two job offers at an apprentice level in coal mines!

Finally, around December 15, a friend of mine told me of a vacancy at the Department of Mine Safety in Charleston, West Virginia. I managed to land an interview with the Chief Mining Engineer on a Thursday of the week before Christmas. The interview went so well that I got a verbal job offer, subject to medical test, to be followed by a written offer with salary. My luck was beginning to change at last!

That Friday evening began a downpour that was incessant, and it came on the heels of the 1985 Election Day Floods ( – also known as the Killer Floods of 1985. Taken together, they were the worst floods in West Virginia in 100 years and led to widespread property destruction and considerable loss of lives. The Governor declared a state of emergency and froze all hiring by the state government. I heard about it on the Sunday evening newscast.

The Chief Engineer called and confirmed the news on Monday. He told me to come back in one year. I was completely heartbroken. I decided then and there that there was no hope for me in the mining industry in the USA. I started my trip back to California with a heavy heart.

1. Somewhere Past St. Louis, Missouri

It was a dreary, miserable day when I drove past St Louis on my way back to California. The sky was overcast and the atmosphere raw with a sense of foreboding.

I was some distance past St Louis when it began to snow – slowly at first, then steadily and with greater intensity. I had no prior experience of driving in snow. I tried to do the best I could, going slowly and carefully.

Suddenly, the car sputtered and showed signs of stalling. That too was a new experience. With a lot of effort, I moved to the side of the highway when the car stopped completely. I was marooned in a sea of white, pristine snow.

I looked around. Not a soul anywhere – no car in sight. Only a dim light was visible in the distance. The choice before me was grim: freeze in the car or go out to seek help. Choosing the right option was a no-brainer.

I stepped out of the car and began walking toward the distant light. My clothing was fit for Kolkata or California. With only a light jacket, without a hat or gloves, I was clearly ill-equipped to face the brutal Midwestern winter.

I trudged through the accumulated snow for maybe 10 to 15 minutes. By the time I reached the light, my hands and feet were frozen, and my face was numb. It turned out to be a garage for repairing automobiles. The garage was closed, and the light came from the door of the adjacent room or office. I did not have the strength to lift my hand to knock on the door; I banged my head on it instead. A tall man opened the door, and I literally collapsed in his arms.

The man lifted and deposited me gently on the floor. He covered me quickly with several blankets, then put his hand under it to gently massage my chest. Some minutes passed before I was warm and conscious enough to speak.

I saw that there were two mechanics. They had shut down the garage and were getting ready to go home. After I had recovered somewhat from hypothermia, they fed me warm milk. They showed me the refrigerator and the bathroom and told me I should spend the night there. The room had a fireplace which, they assured me, should keep me warm through the night.

“You know how to put a log in the fire?” my savior asked.
I stared blankly at the roaring fire in the hearth. I did not have a clue.
“I will put enough wood to last through the night.” The man’s voice was reassuring. He could understand my helplessness.

The two men left and came back sometime later with food. I was famished and took no time to wolf down the fare on offer. Thus refreshed, I began to worry about my car. The mechanics told me not to worry. Nothing would happen to it overnight in the snow. They would look into the car’s problem in the morning.

The next morning, my car was towed to the garage. The problem lay with a frozen radiator. You do not need anti-freeze in Southern California, but the Midwest in wintertime is a different matter. The two guys fixed it – replacing damaged pipes and all – and led me to the now running car.

I offered to pay them money for labor and parts.

“Don’t worry about it,” was their reply. They were happy that they could nurse me back to health from near death. “Just drive,” they quipped, “and do not stop until you reach California!”

2. Amarillo, Texas

It was early evening of Christmas Eve when I drove into Amarillo, Texas. Spotting a motel with a “Vacancy” sign. I made a beeline for it and went inside with a feeling of relief.

The young woman at the desk startled me with her greeting: “You poor bastard!”
“What was that?” I said, mildly flustered.
“You realize you won’t get any food in town?”
“Oh, really? But I am starving.” My voice cackled with anxiety.
“You pay for a room and get settled. Let me see what I can do after that,” said the receptionist.

I paid and got a room. There were not many guests in the motel. The young woman shut down the reception area and left. I was left to ruminate on the situation. Back in 1985, there were very few stores and restaurants that were open the night of Christmas Eve.

Later that evening, the young woman came back with a plate heaped with food. There were poultry and ham, mashed potato and sweet potato, pasta and vegetables. It was sumptuous as well as delicious — easily one of the best dinners of my life.

When I offered to pay for the food, the young woman refused. She looked sincerely pleased having shared her family’s Christmas feast with a complete stranger. Hers was an instance of generosity and warmth that is forever etched in my memory,

3. Epilogue

As I look back and reminisce about that drive from the East Coast, two thoughts come to mind. The first is one of horror to contemplate what might have happened to me. The second is a sense of relief and gratitude at the Midwestern hospitality that I received. I cannot be sure about angels in heaven, but I surely ran into flesh-and-blood angels in the Midwest on that return trip to California.

Luckily for me, my story has a happy ending. I gave up on my plans to continue in the field of mining and enrolled in classes on computer software. I was still a quick study, found the area interesting, and transformed myself in a short period of time from an unemployed mining engineer to a happily employed software engineer and manager”.

Source: Ramananda Ganguly (April 1, 2023)

Trranscribed by Amitaba Bagchi





Finding Hagar: God’s Pursuit of a Runaway

I recently read Dr. Michael F. Kuhn’s brilliant book, “Finding Hagar: God’s Pursuit of a Runaway”. Dr. Kuhn has lived for about 25 years in different parts of the Middle East (Egypt, Lebanon) and North Africa. He is a professor, scholar, and a prolific author. He is a highly accomplished person with a Master of Divinity and a Masters in Arabic language and literature. He completed a doctoral degree in the field of Muslim-Christian relations. He was a professor of discipleship and Biblical theology at the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Lebanon and teaches as an adjunct faculty at the Fuller Theological Seminary. He is an elder, teacher and pastor in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

This post is regarding my interview with Dr. Kuhn. I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Dr. Kuhn regarding his book. I found him to be very kind, generous and erudite as he brought to light the importance of Hagar, who briefly appears in the Bible. Dr. Kuhn’s writing is clear and concise, with clear arguments depicting Hagar’s story with compassion and wisdom. In his writing, Dr. Kuhn challenges us to reflect on our interactions where we may be labeled as “others” and with people that we may consider “others” in our lives. This is an essential point given that we are currently living in a deeply divided country and a fractured world.

Interview Transcript on “Finding Hagar: God’s Pursuit of a Runaway”

Dr. Michael Kuhn (M.K.)
Dr. Anindita Ganguly (A.G.)

A.G. : Welcome, Dr. Kuhn to the blog, GOD, and i. I very much appreciate your generosity in discussing your phenomenal book, “Finding Hagar: God’s Pursuit of a Runaway. Much gratitude for your patience as we had major hiccups in technology today. I was struck by your description of the story of Hagar in the Bible as a “love story” between Hagar and God. Having attended catholic school for years, I have heard about the story of Hagar. However, given your background in studying Arabic language and literature and living for many years in the Middle East, you have a very nuanced and compassionate view of Hagar and Ishmael, as blessed abundantly by God, not cursed. You describe Hagar and Ishmael’s story as a prequel to the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.
I was also struck by your discussion of God Is Love, which I agree 100%. I also loved your view of your work with other people through the relational framework of love. Another powerful reason that I read your book on Hagar was because most people, including myself, have experienced being the “other” but not so severely marginalized as Hagar. We also encounter people that we categorize as “others” or “Hagars” in our lives. There are so many diversity factors in life, where people can be in the category of the “other” based on their ethnic backgrounds, politics, religious views, languages and cultures.

Please tell me about yourself and how this book on Hagar developed.

M.K.: I am very privileged to be interviewed. I am an American and I grew up in North Carolina. My journey included living in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. I lived for years in Arabic speaking countries, such as, Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco. I am a follower of Jesus and went there as a witness and servant of the church. I know that readers of the blog have faith perspectives very different from mine. While living in other countries, I was the outsider or other and I wanted to be included in the culture. I saw the generosity of these people and beauty of their collective culture and importance of the extended family. During my visits to the US after 9/11, I saw westerners and Christians fearing the Muslim world. There was a broad-brushing of the Muslim world as consisting of fundamentalists, which is unfair and untrue. Therefore, I wanted to write about my enriching experiences of interacting with people in the Middle east. I was interested in talking about the story of Hagar as she is the symbolic mother of the Muslim people and Ishmael is the symbolic father of the Muslim people.

A.G.: What is the story of Hagar and Ishmael?

M.K.: The story of Hagar and Ishmael is in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament or Book of Torah. Hagar was the Egyptian slave of Sarai, wife of Abraham. Sarai was not able to bear children and therefore, she had Hagar bear a child for Abraham. This may seem very odd in our current times, but, in those ancient times, it was customary that if a woman could not bear children, the servant of the woman could bear children for the family. Hagar had a son, Ishmael, with Abraham. However, there was jealousy between Sarai and Hagar and Hagar looked down on Sarai after Hager became pregnant. Sarai was abusive to Hagar. In the chapter of Genesis 16 in the Bible, Hagar’s flight is depicted as she runs away from the abusive behaviors of Sarah. During her flight in the desert, Hagar, a pregnant and runaway slave encounters a Being, The Angel of the Lord.

A.G.: It is profound and beautiful that Hagar, a nameless person owned by Sarai, names this Being as “El Roi”, the God Who Sees and Hears”. In this encounter, God knows her and calls her by name directly as she is not referred by her name in the story thus far. I think that to be seen and heard fully is being loved in relationships.

M.K.: A severe form of depersonalization and dehumanization is when someone’s name is cancelled. The narrator tells us that her name is Hagar, but she is referred to as “servant of Sarai” until she encounters God in the story. When Hagar encounters God, He named her and asks her where she is coming from and where she is going. This is a God who asks a nameless, runaway slave about her dreams and aspirations. This is a slave that is cast out by society.

A.G.: As a psychotherapist, I find this story of God seeing, hearing Hagar and naming her as very powerful. I see the power of listening as critical to the healing process. The power of listening creates safe spaces of dignity, respect, and agape love, where one is a witness to someone’s experiences. This is a God who sees, hears, and listens to Hagar, unheard and unseen in all aspects of her life. This resonated with me. God’s Grace is for everyone.
You also discuss in your book that the Angel of the Lord, whom Hagar encountered in the Old Testament, was Christ in pre-incarnate form, before He incarnated into flesh as a human being. In the New Testament, Christ in incarnated form, was radical is that he reached out and interacted with marginalized people. That is one thing I love about Christ was that he was bold and fearless in reaching out and healing people that society deemed as outcasts, such as, the woman in Samaria. Christ shook up society, culture, and religion. He fiercely challenged dominant institutional power structures in his times and championed the marginalized people. Christ deeply experienced marginalization in human form as He was born in a manger and crucified mercilessly.

M.K.: Being seen and heard is critical to healing. I have family members, who are therapists, who emphasize that being heard and seen in relationship are important in healing as we are often wounded in relationships. Hagar is valued and given dignity in her interaction with the Angel of the Lord, who I believe to be the pre-incarnate Christ. In his incarnate form, he interacted with the woman from Samaria who was estranged, shamed, unable to bear children, passed from man to man. Christ told her “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father… 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Bible, John 4: 23- 24). I believe this opened a space for this woman to belong and to worship, something she had not experienced before. Christ created this welcome for persons who were alienated and estranged—Hagar in the Old Testament and the Samaritan woman in the New Testament. His invitation is open to everyone to know God through God’s personalized love.

A.G.: I have questions about the section where you write that Hagar’s story points to the “uncomfortable reality” in all of us. You discuss beautifully that like Abraham and Sarah, human beings are complex and we have conscious and unconscious biases or conditioning from our environments. We have both social identities of marginalization and privilege which may lead us to form stereotypes of “others” and interact with “others” as less than us. We may have difficulty seeing ourselves in the humanity of “others”. I know that when I have been seen as the “other” in my life and experienced generosity, compassion, and kindness from people, I am very grateful for the grace.

M.K.:. God is very inclusive in His Grace towards all kinds of human beings. However, as human beings, we may have difficulty accepting people, who we define as “others”, like Hagar. Hagar was definitely a threat to Sarai because Hagar, a slave, bore Abraham a son, which Sarai was unable to do until this time. In Hagar’s encounter with God, who sees and hears her, she feels valued, acknowledged and loved and begins to heal. Her identity is no longer from her history of slavery and servitude, but, rooted in her relationship with God. Perhaps, this healing process allowed Hagar to go back and serve in the house of Abraham and Sarai.

Hagar gave birth to Ishmael. When Ishmael was in his early teens, Sarai gave birth to Isaac. After the birth of Isaac, Sarah’s jealousy for her son was aroused by an incident between the two boys. She asked Abraham to cast out Hagar and Ishmael in the desert. The Biblical story is very poignant. Hagar weeps. Exhausted and thirsty, she lays her son under a desert shrub to die. She moves away so as not to see Ishmael suffer. The Angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar, saying: “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” (Bible, Genesis 21:17-18). Hagar had once been “under the hand” of Sarai as a slave. Now her own hand, as a free woman, is to bring life and health to her son. As the story concludes, God shows Hagar a well and she gives Ishmael water to restore his life.

A.G.: God blessed Hagar as a free woman. What about Ishmael?

M.K.: Hagar and Ishmael were not cursed, but abundantly blessed. Ishmael became the father of a nation of 12 princes, just as Israel had 12 tribes. He was also given his own land as were the twelve tribes of Israel. Abraham becomes the forefather of Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities.

A.G.: So, Hagar and Ishmael were blessed and prospered. You talk about some misconceptions about Ishmael.

M.K.: The Angel of the LORD tells Hagar that Ishmael will be a “wild donkey of a man ; his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers” (Bible, Genesis 16:12). We usually think of a donkey as an insulting word, stubborn and unwise. Unfortunately, contemporary readers often read this passage as an insult to Ishmael. Some even refer to this passage as a “curse.” I think this is an unfortunate misreading of the text. The word used for donkey is not the common “beast of burden” which is often used to insult others. In this passage, the donkey in question is the desert donkey of the Middle East. This animal is a sturdy survivalist, a master of the desert, independent and freedom loving, not subject to human domestication.

Furthermore, some read the promise that Ishmael will live “opposite (or east of) his brothers” as a promise of continual enmity between the descendants of Ishmael and the twelve tribes of Israel. But this, again, is a misreading of the text. Quite simply the text says that Ishmael will live “before the face” of his brothers. That is exactly what happened as Ishmael’s tribes settled south of Israel in the desert land of southern Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Ishmael and Isaac were not enemies. In fact, the two sons buried their father Abraham together. The current geopolitical conflict in the Middle east should not be read back into the text of the Bible as is commonly done.

A.G.: Although I loved the book on Hagar, I struggled with the notion of how a loving God could command Hagar to go back to serve in the home of abusive Sarai. Abusive relationships are harmful to the mind, body, and soul of a person. It is never Ok to abuse anyone, and no one should have to endure abuse. My interpretation of this event of Hagar going back to Sarah’s house is not an endorsement of going back to an abusive place. I believe that this is a broader metaphor that sometimes when we face hardships in life, God sees and hears our cries and gives us the strength to walk through the challenging times to get to a better place. God blesses us in the peaks and valleys of our lives.

M.K.: Anindita, may I also add to your comment above. I agree that returning to ongoing abuse is ill-advised. In the case of Hagar, we have no indication that abuse was an ongoing feature in the household of Abraham and Sarai. It is more likely to be a single incident that led to Hagar’s flight in Genesis 16. It is clear that giving birth to Abraham’s son gave Hagar a place of honor in the family. It is also clear that Abraham loved his son Ishmael. He even pleads with God to let Ishmael be his heir after God informed him that Sarah would give birth to another son. Hagar, then, was the mother of the presumed heir of Abraham for 13 years (until Isaac was born). So I believe she returned to a protected place and an elevated status.

A.G.: Thank you  very much for the powerful book and the interview. Many thanks for your patience with the technology problems.

Concluding Thoughts

Dr. Kuhn’s book is powerful, insightful and challenges us in our interactions with “others” : that we stretch ourselves to see and hear perspectives of “others”, who are very different from us. This contributes to seeing parts of us in “others”, recognizing common ground to reach goals, which is helpful to collective humanity.



Dr. Michael Kuhn



Interview with Dr. Sherry Ruth Anderson: Women’s Spirituality

I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Dr. Sherry Ruth Anderson on the themes of women’s spirituality and aging based on her two books. Sherry and Patricia Hopkins (1991) published “The Feminine Face of God: The Unfolding of the Sacred in Women” and subsequently, Sherry published (2013) “Ripening Time: Inside Stories for Aging with Grace”. Both books are brilliant with thoughtful insights about women searching and encountering the sacred or Divine in daily life throughout the life span and practical applications of spirituality in living with meaning and purpose. Both the books discuss cultivating skills for well-being. Sherry is a very accomplished woman with a doctorate in psychology, former associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto Medical School and former head of psychological research at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry, psychotherapist, author, and former head teacher of Zen Buddhism at Ontario Zen Center. She currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and has been teaching in the Diamond approach since 2000. Patricia Hopkins is also a very prolific author, who has written numerous books, and works with different spiritual organizations.

 This post consists of my brief discussion of the books and my interview with Sherry.  I found Sherry to have a very intelligent, loving, wise and compassionate presence. As Sherry shared her experiences with passion, warmth, and wonderment, I was immersed fully in listening to her. After the interview, I felt light-hearted and remembered the importance of “being” in the journey of life in general, rather than overfocusing on the “doing mode”. One of my goals in life is to cultivate the “being mode”, especially as I am now an empty nester.  I very highly recommend these two books to readers due to the clear and concise writing style, profound knowledge and wisdom discussed, especially, cultivating skills in finding meaning, purpose and well-being in life.



I first grabbed Sherry and Patricia’s book, “The Feminine Face of God: The Unfolding of the Sacred in Women” as I was searching for the feminine face of God after my mother passed way at a very young age. Having had a mother and being a mother myself, I have a deep longing for the Divine Mother figure to take over the duties of protection, unconditional love, and compassion for me in my faith journey. During my experiences of growing up in India, I was exposed to the Divine Mother images (“Ma” or “Devi”), characterized as sources of shakti (strength), wisdom, love, and compassion. I think of the Divine Mother, as characterized by the female qualities of God, who manages the everyday affairs of her worldwide children, humanity, at large. Even while attending catholic schools, I related better to Mary as a mother figure. I found Sherry and Patricia’s discussion of “Shekinah” (feminine face of God in Judaism) and Sophia (feminine face of God in Christianity) very fascinating. I have heard of feminine faces of the Divine or sacred in other religious or spiritual traditions. For example, in my previous blog post where I interviewed Ms. Helwa about Islamic spirituality in her book, “Secrets of Divine Love”, she discussed that Allah’s love for his children is greater than the love that a mother has for her children. Buddhist traditions have female bodhisattvas, like Tara, known as “Mother of Liberation,” who teaches about qualities of compassion (Karuna) and loving- kindness (Metta).

Another reason that the book was very powerful for me was that Sherry and Patricia interviewed spiritually mature women in different walks of life about their encounters with the Divine or sacred in their daily lives and how these spiritual experiences translated to living lives with deeper meaning and purpose. I love the rich and complex themes in the book about practical applications of spirituality in living meaningful lives. One powerful theme is regarding the uncharted nature of women’s spiritual journeys, where women are often traveling unknown and uncertain terrains with letting go of roles and norms prescribed to women in patriarchal societies. Sherry and Patricia discuss the theme of women feeling guilty and selfish when starting to do things for themselves as women at times are socialized for roles of caregiving and pleasing others. Another theme describes the duality of the homecoming journey: the joy of finding the true authentic, inner self, and the painful process of the home-coming journey, which may include anxiety, depression or “dark night of the soul”. The impact of women’s spiritual development on their relationships is also discussed with rich insight. I, especially, loved Maya Angelou’s powerful ideas about prayer, as Sherry and Patricia interviewed Maya Angelou, who is one of my she-roes.

Sherri and Patricia interviewed women throughout Canada and the United States. It is important to remember that womanhood is not a monolithic group, but, has great diversity within the group, based on various sociocultural and geopolitical contexts (social structures, roles, and norms).



This book presents the aging process as a “ripening” phase, which can lead to spiritual awakening and maturity. I found Sherry’s writing on the aging process of women to be very wise, humorous, and brutally honest, inclusive of the light and dark aspects of aging. Sherry discusses that despite the longevity revolution, where people are living longer with the help of modern medicine, there is no direct map of aging for women. Due to lack of existence of a map for aging, women must discover and walk their own paths. She argues that to age wisely, women need grace, courage, and greater comfort with vulnerability. I love her diving deeper into the Jungian concept that evening phases of our lives tend to be different than the morning phases and we need to embrace this, rather than deny it. She writes about the myths of aging in a youth celebrating culture, which we internalize and then project our fears of aging onto others.  Sherry elaborates that rather than fighting the aging process, we need to develop curiosity for the ripening process (unfolding and unwrapping of what is developing with age). She writes that the gifts of aging are many: more presence or being fully present in mind, body and spirit in daily life, more openness to the sacred in daily life, more comfortable with selfhood, and birthing of elders (holders of wisdom and stories for guidance in living life, links to ancestors, ancestral knowledge and serving as glue in holding communities together).  Sherry is bold in talking about her vulnerable experiences. She very candidly writes about her experiences with cancer and how hearing about the diagnosis of cancer initially stopped her world. With her treatment of cancer and follow up where she is given a clean bill of health, she talks about her gratitude and appreciation of life. She depicts the joyful experiences of the sacred in seemingly ordinary aspects of daily life, such as walks in nature, eating breakfast with her husband. After reading the book, one recognizes the profound sacredness in the ordinary tasks of life.

However, she points out that the gifts of elders are not always wanted by our youth obsessed culture. The discussion of intersectionality of ageism and sexism in patriarchal cultures, where younger women are valued more than aging women, is also very powerful. Sherry is also very honest about the tough stuff of aging, such as grief and loss of what was, processing endings, and the loss of youth which is cherished in our culture. She talked about the fears of aging, such as, fears of decline in health, dependency on others, and death. Hard topics that most folks grapple and struggle with.


Please see link below for video of my interview with Sherry. 

 Interview with Dr. Sherry Ruth Anderson: Women’s Spirituality

 Contact information for Sherry:



There seems to be no map or charted terrain in either women’s spiritual development and or the aging process. Sherry and Patricia invite each woman to share their journeys and help each other. I will end with Sherry’s beautiful and uplifting comment in her book, “Ripening Time: Inside Stories for Aging with Grace” that each person must live fully no matter what age he or she.



The Radical Act of Surrender


 Tibetan prayer flags represent prayers sent to heaven. Tibetan prayer flags often have the image of  the Tibetan mythical creature, wind horse, or Lang-Ta, who carries prayers with the speed of the wind and strength of a galloping horse. I love the visual image of surrendering prayers through Tibetan prayer flags. Different religions and wisdom traditions have practices of surrendering to the Divine Will. The topic of surrender is complex and the practice is tough. During my years of attending catholic school, the most incredible practice of surrender I read about was the crucifixion of Christ. Christ, God-man, cried out to God in anguish and sorrow about what lay in front of him in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He questioned God about whether God had forsaken him at his deepest point of agony. But, then He surrendered to God and accepted that “not mine”, but, “Thine Divine Will be Done”. I was amazed, scared and stunned when I read this in the early years of catholic school. How could a loving God ask this from His beloved  son? It was baffling beyond words and my thought was I don’t think I like this “Divine Will” thing. As I have matured, I see the magnificence of Divine Grace in Christ’s crucifixion. It was for the salvation of humanity. I am a believer that this is a God of fierce and relentless love, who climbs the steepest mountains and dives into the depths of human despair and anguish,  to rescue and heal souls. 

The struggle in surrendering may vary for different people with diverse issues. As I have matured,  I have started rethinking the surrendering process.  The pandemic was a wake up call for me about the fragility and impermanence of human lives.  I am sitting with the underlying uncertainty in life and chide myself for my arrogance at my pre-pandemic assumptions of certainty. To be honest, I struggle mightily with the surrendering process. My central fear is if the “Divine Will”   leads to possible cataclysmic upheaval in my life. Frankly speaking, I am tired of upheavals. I prefer peace and quietness. I am a creature of habits, structure and schedules. Another facet of  “Divine Will” is that it is very much unknown territory. No human being really knows the “Divine Will”. There is a level of comfort in known versus unknown territory. Bono (2022), lead singer of the famous U-2 band, writes in his book, Surrender: 40 Songs and One Story, that the word “surrender” is possibly the most powerful word in the English language. When I think of surrendering to a Higher Power, the serenity prayer comes to mind. The central message of the serenity prayer is praying for wisdom to differentiate between factors in our lives that we have control over, versus, factors that we do not have control over. The serenity prayer encourages us to proactively  make the changes that we can in areas within our control so that life is easier.  These changes often require skills of contingency planning, anticipating and problem solving in facilitating change. However, there are factors in life that one does not have control over. One of the most frustrating things in life is trying to change factors that are beyond our control. This results in wasted energy, negative emotions, exhaustion, and a sense of depletion.  This post consists of some reflections on the surrendering process.  Again, please remember, I am a neophyte in the surrendering process.


Although I love U-2’s music,  I did not know much about Bono’s faith journey until I started reading his book, Surrender: 40 Songs and One Story. Bono’s book is captivating as the first chapter opens with his experience of struggling to breathe  in a hospital emergency room waiting for surgery.  Struggling to breathe, terrified, and grasping for his faith, Bono had an epiphany. He writes that in all the different  names we give God, “Jehovaaaah,  Allaaaah, Yeshuaaah”, we revere God as the giver of breath and life. No breath, no life. Bono points out that we do not have control over the two most fundamental aspects of our lives: when we are born and when we die.   This led me to question why I struggle with surrendering other parts of my life, which are insignificant and puny, compared to the grand events of birth and death. I am learning to recognize that after I have identified the “uncontrollable” factors in life, why not surrender them to a Higher Power?

In his book, Surrender: 40 Songs and One Story, Bono describes surrender as “the moment you choose to lose control of your life, the split second of powerlessness where you trust that some kind of “higher power” better be in charge, because you certainly aren’t.” (p. 540). Bono argues that the strategies to remain in control are very different than the strategies of surrender. Bono talks about his leap of faith and surrender in his marriage, family and music. Another beautiful example of surrendering to a Higher Power was discussed by Tim Allen’s character in an episode of “Last Man Standing”. Tim Allen used the metaphor of a compass in discussing surrendering to a Higher Power. He stated that a compass  points “north” all the time, which is critical when we are lost in our paths. He stated that just as we can count on the compass as always pointing north, the Higher Power, God or Universe, similarly will point in the right direction in the surrendering process.


 On the website,, Dr. Amy Johnson  writes a wonderful article on the themes of letting go of control and surrender. Dr. Johnson defines surrender as  “stop fighting. Stop fighting with yourself. Stop fighting the universe and the natural flow of things. Stop resisting and pushing against reality”. She writes :  Surrender = Complete acceptance of what is + Faith that all is well, even without my input.”. The key is the recognition that my input is not needed in certain situations. Bono has an entire chapter, “Get out of the way” in his book.  Amy  Johnson states the importance of a core belief in a “Friendly Universe”, that has your back, is very helpful in the surrendering process. People develop core beliefs about the Universe based on different experiences.   This is a super complex topic and I have no definitive thoughts on this. However, I will share briefly my understanding of the  research literature on applying attachment theory to attachment style to God.  Psychologists, such as, P. Granqvist and L. A. Kirkpatrick (2008) have applied attachment theory (the bond between an infant and a primary caregiver) to discuss our attachment style to God or God image (how we see God). John Bowlby was a pioneer in attachment theory and he  discussed that the nature of attachment with our parents set the template for our future intimate relationships. According to the attachment to God theorists, compensation hypothesis posits that people view the Divine One as a parental figure of agape love and a secure haven, who guides and protects them, to contrast to their  inconsistent and unreliable earthly parenting figures.  The correspondence hypothesis suggests people view God as having the same characteristics as their parents. So if you have  punitive and emotionally distant parents, your image of God may be a punitive and distant.  However, if you have loving parents, you may see God as a loving and kind God.

If you believe in a God of agape love that has your back, you may be less stressed about needing to arrange every detail in life. However, it may be difficult to surrender to an unseen Higher Power or God if people in your life have  repeatedly let you down and you have a belief system that  “I cannot trust the world and need to rely on myself” or “the only way to get things done is to do them myself”. I know many people who are livid with God for traumatic events in their lives. I recognize that God is a loaded word where people have many emotions and biases as throughout history, groups of people  have hurt or oppressed others in the name of “God”. I like the idea of a  “Higher Power, as you see it”, as discussed in the language of Alcohol Anonymous recovery groups. Some folks find the word God or Universe as too abstract and they use the concept of  a Higher Power, something bigger than themselves, ASSOCIATED WITH  EXPERIENCES OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. I know people who talk about surrender strategies as handing over insurmountable problems to their grandparents, or other relatives who passed away. They talk about the unconditional and powerful love from their relatives and these relatives serve as connections to the Universe. They often talk about the great love that they have experienced in the relationships with loved ones. I used to work with an individual who defined his “Higher Power” as his family and he believed that the love for his family, especially his young children, was a powerful intrinsic incentive for maintaining his recovery.

I, too, have been angry at God regarding certain events in my life. There are times when my faith has been shattered and I have broken up with God. I believe that like in any relationship, we, as human beings, have different emotions, positive or negative. Someone once told me that God is Big Enough and He can handle my anger and rage and reminded me that I need to deal with my own anger. I did not like this comment initially in my stage of wrath and fury. But, I agree now that this person made a good point.  I recognize that feelings are human experiences, and perhaps part of the faith journey is to process feelings and thoughts about God or the Universe in safe places, just as one may process feelings about other relationships.   My faith journey is partly dealing with my thoughts, feelings and figuring out what is the lesson the Universe is trying to teach me. The surrendering process for me is let go and lean in to learn the lesson. My experience is that if I do not learn the lesson the first few times, circumstances will repeat where the lesson presents itself. 

I believe that as God seeks relationships with us, He reveals Himself in our faith journeys. For example, Bono talked about discovering agape love from his mom. After the devastating and horrendous trauma of losing his mom, Iris, at age 14, Bono discusses his  grief as a lost, “motherless boy”, yearning for his mother in a “house” that was no longer a “home”.  Bono also reflects on his rage in his youth at his emotionally distant father.  He describes his faith journey of discovering  a  God of Grace, who was very interested in the details of his teenage life after the loss of his mom.

  Perhaps, the practice of faith teaches us about the nature of the Universe or God: friendly, loving, kind or not. Practices of faith are key in building a relationship with the Divine Source. Different people have different practices of faith. I love Bono’s argument that his faith is “not a crutch”, but, requires a level of boldness, guts, and sheer courage in an impermanent world.   Bono discusses his fascination with the story of the prophet Elijah, who was waiting to hear God’s voice.  Elijah did not hear God’s word through the earth shaking and celestial fire, but, through  “the still small voice”.  Bono describes his faith as a practice to quieten the noises around him to hear God’s voice.  Bono talks about hearing God’s voice in his relationship with his wife, children, band members, and serving impoverished and vulnerable people. Bono views his songs as prayers and discusses the sacred power of music to help navigate people through turbulent times.

I love Amy Johnson’s differentiation between the energy of control versus surrendering. Amy Johnson describes the energy of control as stemming from fear to avoid certain outcomes. She describes that the fear response often is tied to the fight or flight response.  She very accurately describes that working super hard to control the “uncontrollable” often feels  chaotic,  stressful and “out of control”. She discusses imagery of control energy as  rowing a boat upstream against strong currents in the river. Blood, sweat and tears to move the boat against the current. She describes surrendering energy as letting go of the oars, turning the boat around and riding the boat with the flowing currents.

Amy Johnson suggests asking ourselves three questions to determine if we are entangled in “control energy”. Am I fearful of an outcome? Am I involved in someone else’s business? Is there freedom in letting go? These questions may be guidelines in transitioning from control energy to surrendering energy.



In all honesty, I have surrendered after having my butt kicked and lying flat on the floor after all my control strategies failed miserably. I have learned that there is no winning against the Universal will. 

Different people have written various perspectives on the surrendering process. On the website,,  Dr. Wayne Dyer discussed surrender as  releasing the “ego mind” that we can fix the problem. Dr. Dyer discusses  that surrendering may appear as handling the big problem to our “senior partner”, God or Universe, who walks with us .My goal is to surrender earlier in the process and not wait until I am punched in the face or kicked in the butt and groaning in pain, lying on the floor.  In exploring the surrendering process, I am learning the practice of reflective delay before decision-making in highly stressful situations. People seem to use different practices of reflective delay, such as, silence practices, prayer, journaling, working out or walking in settings of nature to connect to the Divine Source or inner wisdom of the Divine Spark. In practices of reflective delay, one may need to differentiate factors that are in our control versus uncontrollable factors. In terms of undesirable uncontrollable factors, one may need to process thoughts and feelings in safe places and then, try to implement radical acceptance strategies (“It is what it is”). Reflective delay practices help reduce reactive reactions to difficult circumstances. It is empowering to intentionally respond and adaptively work on “controllable” factors to make life easier and joyful. Intentional responses to uncontrollable factors may include letting go or surrendering to the Universe or God. I am discovering that this surrendering process to the Universe or God allows me to stay out of messy situations.  There is great relief and peace in this. Peace is a beautiful thing.



Please note that this is not a therapy site. Please seek medical and mental health services, as needed.

Bhajans: Songs of Worship

Different religious and spiritual traditions include songs and music in the worship of the Divine Source or God. Music and songs are  powerful parts of worshipping the Divine One. Music and songs of worship can be powerful in strengthening one’s faith in difficult times. According to the website, The Rabbinical Assembly, the human soul is compared to God’s candle.  In difficult and challenging times, the soul, like a candle in a storm, may quiver and tremble  at times. Songs of worship can be helpful at times to keep the candle lit when the candle is caught in tempestuous storms.

I have memories of hearing beautiful hymns during mass while attending catholic school. One of my favorite songs of worship that I learned while attending catholic school, is “Amazing Grace”. The experience of Amazing Grace has been deeply moving for me as the song affirms God’s  infinite grace in our lives, and God’s unconditional love, or agape love.

In the Hindu tradition, bhajans are songs of devotion or reverence and worship to the Divine One. My mom, Anuradha Ganguly, introduced me to the tradition of bhajans in group worship formats. My mom loved bhajans and sang passionately to the Divine One. She sang with pure bhakti (devotion) and passion. She believed that bhajans were her offerings to the Divine One. I remember my mom telling me that her words of the bhajan sprung from her heart, even though, she was not a professional singer. My memories include my mother having one of the best voices I have ever heard. Her bhajans reflected the bittersweetness of her walks through peaks and valleys. She and I were very close and we shared with each other the exhilaration  of our victories and depth of anguish in our defeats. She is a reminder that the human journey is not easy, but, arduous, walking with a God, one cannot see with the five senses. Yet, my mother walked on with her unshakeable faith and her God. She believed that her God was bigger than anything she faced. She often talked about a God, characterized by shakti or sheer strength, often attributed to the feminine aspects of Divine Energy in the Hindu traditions. My understanding of shakti or the female Divine cosmic energy is that this cosmic energy is critical in the dance of the cosmos, a cycle of creation, sustenance and destruction. In Hinduism, Divine energy can be described as having masculine or  feminine features. Please note that I am not a scholar of Hinduism.

Circling back to bhajans, they may be offered to both female or male aspects of God.  Bhajans are accompanied with percussions instruments, harmonium, a keyboard instrument and dancing at times in group settings in places of worship. Bhajans include variations in rhythms, with rapid rhythmic beats or slower beats. Some bhajans include a lead vocalist and a chorus following the lead singer.  The bhajan lyrics and melodies vary according to the different emotions expressed.   My experience of bhajans include devotees expressing the depth of emotion in praising the Divine One’s Compassion (“Karuna”), pleading and crying out to the Divine One for Grace in resolving difficulties, trials and tribulations, alleviate distress and suffering, and praying for the Divine One to strengthen the devotee’s faith in the Divine. Some bhajans include praying for blessings, joy and (“ananda”). Other bhajans include prayers for prosperity. Bhajans sometimes proclaim the relationship with the Divine One, as closer than one’s “father, mother and/or best friend”. I remember my mother being a solo vocalist, often without any accompanying instruments, in her bhajans. Her devotion or bhakti shone through her voice. Memories of my mother’s bhajans are mixed with the beautiful smell of sandal wood incense in the temple.

This post is about keeping our candles lit especially in difficult times. This includes different methods, like devotional songs, prayers, chanting mantras, hugging loved ones, or creative acts (painting, writing) etc. I recently started listening to the bhajans, especially  bhajans which were sung by my mother. For me, bhajans  nourish the soul, especially in challenging times. I am attaching  one of my mom’s favorite bhajans. I attached the English translation of the Hindu version (Om Jai Jagdish Hare) from the website, Temples in India  It is a reminder of Divine Grace from the Divine Source and also that the Divine Spark  is within all of us.

Om Jai Jagdish Hare

Om, Victory to You, the Lord of the Universe,
Swami, Victory to You, the Lord of the Universe,
The difficulties of Your devotees,
The difficulties of Your servants,
You remove in an instant.
Om, Victory to You, the Lord of the Universe.  1

Whoever meditates on You will get Your grace,
Whoever meditates with a mind free of sorrows,
Swami, with a mind free of sorrows.
Joy and Prosperity will come to them,
Joy and Prosperity will come to them,
And distress of body (and mind) will be relieved.
Om, Victory to You, the Lord of the Universe.  2

You are my Father and Mother,
And my refuge,
Swami, You are my refuge.
Apart from You there is none else,
Swami, there is none else,
I aspire for.
Om, Victory to You, the Lord of the Universe. || 3 ||

You are the Puran Paramatma,
You are the indweller of everyone,
Swami, You are the indweller of everyone.
You are the Parabrahman and Parama Ishwara (Supreme God),
You are the Parabrahman and Parama Ishwara (Supreme God),
You are the Lord of everyone.
Om, Victory to You, the Lord of the Universe.


Concluding Thoughts

Hope readers protect their candles  and keep them lit until storms subside.


Please note that this is not a therapy site. Please seek medical and mental health professionals for services, as needed.

Interview with Dr. Raymond Moody on his best selling book, Life After Life.

I am very honored and privileged to present my interview with Dr. Raymond Moody, a philosopher, scholar, physician, psychiatrist and prolific author. He received his doctorate in philosophy and taught for years as a professor of philosophy and then attended medical school and practiced for years. He is credited with coining the term “Near Death Experience” in 1975. He introduced the topic of “Near Death Experience” (NDE) into the mainstream discussion with his bestselling book, Life After Life, published in 1975. The book has been in publication in current times due to his the book’s selling status.

This post includes my interview with Dr. Raymond Moody. He discusses his study of Greek philosophers, such as, Plato, who described people’s encounters with death and dying. He also integrated other cultural traditions, such as, the Tibetan Book For the Dead which includes topics of death, dying and references to NDEs in the Bible. The book is compelling, beautiful, and moving in people’s retrospective accounts of NDEs. I am fascinated by Dr. Moody’s discussion that  people who report NDEs point to a key life lesson for humanity is to learn how to love. Dr. Moody also pointed out that many of the people who report NDEs state that this experience transformed their lives to focus on love rather than chasing external factors, like accolades, degrees or titles. I was also fascinated to learn from Dr. Moody that the debate about whether NDEs are rooted in neurochemical reactions of the dying brain or point to consciousness existing after physical death (after life) dates back to philosophers in antiquity, such as debate between Democritus versus Plato.

Hope readers enjoy Dr. Moody’s interview. I found him to be interpersonally  warm, genuine and kind as he shared his wealth of knowledge. Here is the link for Dr. Moody’s interview.




Dr. Moody beautifully  and eloquently integrates his thoughts on philosophy, medicine and the wisdom of living well that he learned from interviewing people who report NDEs.  I appreciate  his generosity in sharing his knowledge and wisdom.  I highly recommend Dr. Moody’s, book, “Life After Life”.

Dr. Moody discussed not having a particular religious or spiritual tradition, but, a relationship with God. Dr. Moody’s current book regarding his relationship with God is called  God is Bigger than the Bible . It was published in 2021.He discusses that the human mind cannot comprehend God. He beautifully discusses his thoughts on his relationship with the Divine. . He also discusses negative reactions he has received from people regarding the new book.


Please note that this is not a therapy site. Please consult medical and mental health professionals, as needed.