NAMASTE   11 comments

Namaste: the divine presence in me acknowledges the divine presence in you — hands pressed together with a bow.

Such a beautiful greeting, and such beautiful people to greet. I wish everyone could travel and discover there really is no “other.”

One of our earliest stops was the Qumwat-ul-Islam Mosque in Delhi.

I won’t risk reporting too much history — definitely not one of my strengths — but according to our guide, the Muslims decided somewhere around the eighth century to go beyond plundering forays into India and just move in. One of the fascinating things to observe is the apparent intertwining of Hinduism and Buddhism. In the beginning, rather than a military effort to replace Hinduism, Muslim invaders appealed to what seems to be partial conversion, or  a comfortable blending, with individual differences, of dedication to Hinduism and Buddhism. So it was that we spent time appreciating the sites representing both religions — sometimes, it seemed, at the same time.

Notice the “namaste” greeting in this photo as we first entered the Mosque. And that’s where it started — selfies with Mona. Apparently the Indians like little old American ladies. It started with a group of young people, but soon there were groups wanting selfies with me. Thanks to David Osmundson, one of the members of our delightful Smithsonian group, I have this photo of folks taking photos. Oh my goodness, aren’t they beautiful?

Off to the right of this photo, another woman in our company was entertaining her own group asking to be photographed with her.

But it didn’t  end there. Joyce and I found a quiet place to sit while the photographers among us were exploring possibilities. Again, it began with the young folks, but grew to a regular stream. I did get one man to take a photo on my camera so I could have a record of the love and joy I felt.

And besides. It proves I was there.

There’s more. Doug just sent me a few from his camera. Raw and unedited, so a real gift from him who is so professional.

Now I’ve started. I hope it won’t be too long before I’m back with more for our fabulous days in India and Nepal




Now to begin sharing some of my fabulous India/Nepal adventure with you, as I did with a wonderful group of people on a busy,strenuous, well-worth-it Smithsonian tour of India with a few days of Nepal added.

I’m starting with these amazing photos taken and shared by Richard Buchen, our librarian member. I asked his permission to include them here because they are beautiful in themselves and they tell so much.

In Varanasi we witnessed Diwali at the height of its glory and beauty from a boat on the Ganges. This Hindu celebration of light, representing the victory of good over evil, shines like a combination of Christmas, New Year’s Eve, The Fourth of July, and every other holiday we honor in the U.S.  It also brings out the crowds that vastly outdo most of those we might expect in the States.

These two photos shared by Richard are alive with the spirit as we floated down the river in the brightly lighted night as Ganga, the living goddess of the Ganges. ruled over the scene.

To her right reigns Shiva, the destroyer of evil and the transformer, responsible for change through destruction and new creation.

Richard invites you to enjoy some of his other photos.

And I’ll be back with more words and photos.


I’m finally up and running, so to speak, ready to fulfil my intention of apologizing for my absence and beginning to share my report of a fabulous trip to India and Nepal.

And yes, I do apologize to all who have hoped for and expected a response from me at the various sites to which I’m connected. I did indeed take an almost total vacation from all that as I enjoyed a life changing, life-enhancing trip to India and Nepal.

But something more urgent has come up that I need to comment on. I am both sickened and heartened by the tsunami of reports on sexual harassment. Maybe this time we’ll leap toward a more respectful culture.

I hope, though, that we won’t allow ourselves to think these things are going on only among certain groups of powerful people. This time, maybe we’ll be able to push our awareness back to the source – at least as far back as Junior High.

Maybe you’ll respond by telling me I’m lost in old fashioned issues that no longer prevail. If that’s true, then I’ll take some belated credit for the work we did in the women’s studies programs back in the 70s.

Let me explain by telling a couple of stories.

There was the day when a student in the back of the class asked me to define “rape.” “It’s whatever you do after she says ‘no,’” I said, always preferring the short, provocative answer. “Then I guess there’s a lot of rape going on in the High School parking lot on Friday nights,” he sneered, to affirming giggles of those around him.

I know he wasn’t far from wrong. I know the culture reflected in my own behavior at my 35th high school reunion when we were greeting each other with friendly and respectful shared kisses until one classmate thrust his tongue into my mouth. I didn’t go “Ugh, gag, gross!, ichy.” No, I discreetly wiped my mouth and went on with the conversation – couldn’t hurt his feelings and make a scene, you know.

Or the colleague celebrating his promotion who came into my office, closed the door, and grabbed my breast. Gently, so as not to embarrass him (It was a stupid thing to do, after all) I removed his hands and proceeded with conversation.

In neither of those cases did the offender have any kind of structural power over me. It was culture at work.

Just as it probably was at the same time with the teenage girl in the high school parking lot uncomfortably accepting the guilt when her date complained about her teasing. “You can’t stop now after you got me all worked up.”

The writer’s rule is “show, don’t tell.” But I’ll bet we could have a great go-round discussing the complexities involved in those stories.

Now, as they used to say on SNL, “Discuss among yourselves.”

My hope is that today’s issues will promote another leap forward in the honoring of respect and honesty.

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Yes, I belong to Mount Calvary Lutheran Church in Excelsior, MN, and I sing in the choir at Shepherd of the Hill Presbyterian Church in Chaska, MN. Maybe I’m really a Unitarian in heart and mind. Basically I try very hard, with only moderate success, to be a follower of Jesus.

But please – for now, anyway – don’t call me a Christian. Not since the term has turned Jesus into a political icon standing for hate, prejudice, and cruel exclusions, so far from the universal love preached by him and for which he died a terrible, cruel death.

Come December, I will recognize the winter solstice by wishing folks a “Happy Holiday.”

I will not cheer for the idea that the only politically correct thing to say is “Merry Christmas,” in spite of a lifetime — until now — of thrilling to that greeting.







How beautifully and inspirationally our National Hymn ends.  Like the best of hymnody, it invites solemnity, submission, and supplication.

Too often, as with many memorized recitations, we forget the depth of meaning: a call to submission to the lofty ideals the words express and the invocation of prayer that we might make our country ever more worthy of what we proclaim.

There is such beauty in the sight of physically powerful men – and those who join them – in the attentive position of kneeling – the very meaning of which is submission and prayer.

I am grateful for the inspiration.


Forgiveness — Thanks to Jean Budge   6 comments

I owe so much to my friends. Like the most recent addition to my web site — a very moving account of forgiveness where one might think it impossible. I hope you’ll take the time to click on “my web site” and watch it. I think you’ll be glad you did if you haven’t seen it already, and even if you have, a second viewing might be worth it.

Posted October 8, 2017 by Mona Gustafson Affinito in Uncategorized

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