“Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic”
We’ll be back with our regular programming on the first Friday of March, February is all about the girls on taoStyle and Mirabai Starr is a stellar example of a home-grown Taosena.
Her parents (the children of secular Jewish New York intellectuals) loaded their three kids into a car one day in the early 70’s and headed down to the Yucatan, where they lived for a while before returning to the States and arriving in Taos where they stayed.
Mirabai was brought up in a spiritually aware family. She was exposed to the teachings of all Religions and encouraged to explore all and find her own way. During her teens she lived at the Lama Foundation where she met Ram Dass whom she acknowledges as her first Teacher.
She is authentically who she is; there is nothing contrived, pretentious or self – aggrandizing about this truly remarkable woman. No New Age crystal and bubble-head, Mirabai is a scholar and a thoroughly modern day Mystic who has spent the greater part of her life practicing exactly what she preaches, though she does not in any way, preach.
She and I talked over the phone last week and although she wasn’t feeling well, she was as always, kind, open, forthcoming and a delight to listen to.
An accomplished speaker (she makes speaking appearances all over the world) she happens to have the gift of the gab in conversation as well. Bright and eloquent with a great sense of humour and a laugh to go with it, she chatted with me a bit about her life, her new book and where’s she’s at now, after all these years delving into the Christian Mystics.
Mirabai’s first book, a translation of Dark Night of the Soul, was released on the same day (2001) her youngest daughter was killed in a car accident. As a mother, I cannot even begin to imagine the level of pain and grief another mother experiences over the loss of a beloved child.
Mirabai turned inward and found solace in the teachings of the great Christian Mystics, a realm of interest we both share.
I first met Mirabail in 1992. I was hosting an Open Mic here in Taos at The End Of The Universe Cafe every Sunday evening. I had started it with Cindy Lee Berryhill when we moved here from NYC and continued with it after she left for another 4 years.
The place was usually packed and many interesting poets and musicians passing through Taos came and read or played. The Taos Poetry Circus was in full swing back then and great poets were in and out of Taos for years thanks to Anne McNaughton and the late Peter Rabbit.
Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who Run With Wolves) came down from Colorado a few times, Bill Gersh brought Michael Horowitz and others and one night Mirabai came with Natalie Goldberg. I was reading from some of my own work that evening, a book I had begun writing about Mary Magdalene. She introduced herself and I went to hear her read for SOMOS not long after and was hooked.
Her sensitive, exquisite and totally modern translations of the writings of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross have garnered International acclaim and over the past decade her focus has remained on these extraordinary Western Mystics and the gifts they left behind for humanity to discover.
God of Love was somewhat of a departure for Mirabai who takes on all three of the Abrahamic Religions in an effort to encourage Interspiritual understanding. Mirabai gives readers an overview of the essential wisdom teachings common to all three Western Traditions along with engaging stories of Saints and Spiritual Masters and their clarion call for Universal peace and justice.
With God Of Love, Mirabai courageously shared some of her own deeply personal and incredibly moving spiritual experiences including the tragic loss of her daughter and her own dark night of the soul.
She tells me that with her new book, Caravan of No Despair, which comes out in fall this year, she has found her voice as a writer.
“I found my creative voice,” she said. “Obviously the translations were a creative process also, but in this book I really let loose.” She laughed.
“I hope I don’t lose readers,” she continued, “I cuss a bit here, use language I’ve not used before, I’m just more me, I suppose.”
I suggested that perhaps the work she’s done around healing the loss of her daughter has brought her out from the shadows of those great Mystics with whom she found comfort after that terrible tragedy and she agreed.
She’s loving her life these days. Her speaking and teaching engagements keep her busy and on the move when she’s not writing or caring for her extended family. Between them, she and her husband have four grown daughters and six grandchildren. Her life is full.
This new book, in light of the changes we see daily on our fragile planet, could not be more timely.
“It appears that the old structures and paradigms are truly cracking and falling apart now,” she explained, ” and what we are witnessing is a desire (born from fear) to hang onto something that is no longer essential to our spiritual evolution, but I am so hopeful because wherever I go I meet people who are eager to engage in Interspiritual work and who are very open to new ways of understanding.”
In April Mirabai will be participating in a retreat in Maui where she’ll be teaching with Ram Dass and others.
“This is such an honor for me,” she told me, “to be teaching alongside my first Teacher feels like I’ve come full circle.”
And then some. The Dalai Lama says that the Western Woman will change the World. With women like Mirabai in our midst, it shouldn’t take too long!
For more on Mirabai, I encourage you to explore her website, read her blog, order her books if you’ve not yet read them and go and see her when next she’s in your area. She’s truly one of the most inspirational (and inspired) women I know.
Top photo, Lenny Foster
Bottom pic, Zoe Zimmerman
Lyric quote Van Morrison, Into The Mystic