By Leslie Lindsay
Family, adventure, connections, and generosity abound in Dena Moes’s THE BUDDHA SAT RIGHT HERE, an American family’s travel odyssey to India and New Delhi.
GOLD AWARD for Travel/Essay from the Independent Publisher Book Awards!
I’ll admit it: I’ve often thought about selling the house, pulling the kids out of school, and high-tailing it to…where? I don’t know, exactly. Ireland? The Tuscan hills of Italy? Some bucolic mountain meadow in Switzerland? Any of those places would do. Maybe someplace more remote, more gritty. But would I? Really?
Dena Moes does. She and her husband and two daughters head for India and Nepal, where they have a spiritual awakening, see a better way of living their life…it will challenge your parenting and how you look at the world. And her luminous new memoir, THE BUDDHA SAT RIGHT HERE (SWP, April 5 2019) delves right into this.
“Prepare to be Inspired! The Buddha Sat Right Here will open your heart, crack you up, and maybe even change all the ways you engage in parenting, adventure, and spiritual path. Dena’s writing is magical.”
– Ariel Gore, author of We Were Witches and Hip Mama’s Survival Guide
Here we are at the height of spring. It’s a time of reflection, of renewal, and perhaps a time to make a new start. You don’t have to go on an eight-month odyssey to another country–but maybe a smaller, more powerful change will do?
I’m so honored and grateful for this lovely essay by Dena–it’s an inside look at her journey–personal, spiritual, and literal. So, grab your favorite beverage and settle in.
THREADS OF ENLIGHTENMENT
by Dena Moes
I was trying to be an American Supermom, and failing. From the outside we looked like a perfect family, but on the inside I struggled with anger, resentment, and dissatisfaction. I was a midwife, providing home birth care for women in our community, and on top of that I was trying to “ do it all” – keep a beautiful house, cook organic healthy meals, have my kids in enrichment activities, and keep a marriage going. I was overwhelmed by handling all the details. I loved my work, I adored my kids, and yet – I would look at myself in the mirror, dark circles under my eyes, and wonder, “Is this it? I have everything, so why do I feel miserable?”
When I first recognized this unhappiness, I thought, “There must be something wrong with me. I am not trying hard enough.” Women are so good at that. Maybe I can take a pill, or lose ten pounds, or clean out the closets to fix this. Then I blamed my husband Adam, who did not care like I did whether or not the kids had broccoli with their rotisserie chicken dinner, or how clean the house was. But because I had studied Buddhism for many years, I eventually turned to the Buddha’s teachings: The wheel of Samsara is interminable, phenomena are illusory, and will arise and pass. There is something already perfect and whole within everyone. It is merely covered by distractions, like clouds hide the sun. I yearned to explore what this meant. Someday. When things quieted down and I had time.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, a remarkable thing happened to my childless sister, a foreign correspondent living in New Delhi. At the tender age forty-five she gave birth to a daughter – a miracle – and I went to visit and help with the baby for a couple weeks. When I returned, all I could think about was going back to India, for longer, with the family. “India is a fire in my blood!” I would tell people. India is rich in ancient religions – Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, the Jains. These traditions have unbroken lineages over centuries of practice and study. In a temple beside the sacred Ganges river, a place where people have prayed daily for five thousand years, something deep within me opened, and the clouds of distraction briefly parted. I came home with a crazy idea – to pull the kids out of school, rent out the house, and take the family on an eight month pilgrimage through India and Nepal.
My husband, Adam, had spent a year in India in his youth, and was open to my wild scheme. Our vision: In the places where the Buddha lived, the mountain village H.H. the Dalai Lama calls home, and the ashram of Amma the Divine Mother, we would gain valuable perspective on the purpose of this beautiful, precious life.
So in 2014 we did it – we shuttered the house and went. With backpacks on our shoulders, we criss-crossed India by train, bus, and rickshaw. We trekked in the Himalayas, walked along the Ganges in Varanasi, and sat by the tree where the Buddha sat and awakened to enlightenment. Our daughters Bella and Sophia, then ten and fourteen, were intrepid travel companions, and magnetized beautiful connections wherever we went, the way only children can.
Our experience was incredible – from the people we met, to the spiritual teachings we received, to the beautiful and chaotic adventure of traveling India by rail. We saw ourselves as ambassadors of peace from the United States and my children developed deep respect for cultures and peoples different from our own. This is vital in a time when walls are being built to separate us.
We were on a pilgrimage, traveling with the intention of getting closer to what really matters. The messages of the teachers we met, and the holy places we visited, is that love and compassion are at the heart of everything. Money, fancy cars, and possessions are not what lead us there – our own openness and presence does.
When we returned home everyone asked “How was India?” I couldn’t possibly explain. This was not a journey most Americans could easily relate to – A year in India, exactly, that is what I want for my family too.
Not so much.
I wrote the book to share what we learned, broaden my readers’ understanding of India, and inspire others to follow their hearts. But it became much more than a how-to-travel-in-India book. Our marriage problems resulted in a dramatic reckoning in the remote Himalayas near the end of our trip. I intended to leave all of that out, but as I wrote, I could not tease our relationship issues out of the story. This was the grist for my spiritual mill – and added another layer to our exploration of love.
I see this memoir as woven, like a rug, or a shawl. Threads of seeking enlightenment, threads of a midwife, a marriage, a mother. This makes my book hard to categorize. Foreword reviews called it “…a vibrant travelogue, a heartwarming family tale, a spiritual study, and a comedy sketch” and I think they got that right. It is a travelogue, a feminist rant, and a love letter to India. People ask if my book is just for Buddhists. My book is for anyone who dreams of travel, for parents who thirst for adventure, for women tired of their hamster-wheel routines, and for people who are open to seeking meaning in their lives beyond the acquisition of material things. Buddhist philosophy is woven in too, but the themes of love, compassion, and peace are universally relevant.
For more information, to connect with the author via social media, or to purchase a copy of THE BUDDHA SAT RIGHT HERE, please visit:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dena Moes is a Hollywood born, Yale educated midwife with a BA in literature and an MS in Nursing. She is the author of The Buddha Sat Right Here: A Family Odyssey Through India and Nepal, publication date April 2, 2019. Her book is a memoir of adventure, motherhood, and love, woven into a spiritual journey. Dena’s writing has been published in Midwifery Today, Minerva Rising, Mutha, Grown and Flown, and The Wisdom Daily. As a nurse-midwife Dena has provided compassionate healthcare to women, mothers, and babies for twenty years. Learn more about Dena , and order the book, at http://www.denamoes.com
You can connect with me, Leslie Lindsay, via these websites:
- Facebook: LeslieLindsayWriter
- Twitter: @LeslieLindsay1
- Instagram: @LeslieLindsay1
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#family #mothering #travel #India #Nepal #enlightenment #memoir
[Cover and author image courtesy of Dena Moes and used with permission. Family of four in India retrieved from the author’s website on 3.09.19]