Part 1. US Southwest

Entry 1: Driving through the Sonoran Desert

I immediately thought of a fear people have of driving on deserted roads. I looked at my phone, and instead of the usual bars, I saw I had no service. It was just as well; this is a journey of trust after all and cell phone connectivity was not on my priorities list.


As I was getting close to Williams just before sunset, ever so slowly, a breathtaking golden light enveloped my car. Thank you, beautiful shining star! During that golden hour, the landscape around me quickly changed. Instead of Joshua trees, there were now pine trees all around me.



Entry 2: On the Road Again

Respecting the speed limits on my way to the Grand Canyon.


Entry 3: Going Down is Voluntary (Grand Canyon)

Here is some trivia about the Grand Canyon. The canyon is 10 miles across –7 miles are part of the North Rim and 3 miles part of the South Rim. The South Rim slopes down away from the canyon and is 1,000 feet lower in elevation than the North Rim and so when it rains in the South Rim, most of the water drains away from the canyon and so the reason for the South Rim to be only 3 miles across. The opposite happens in the North Rim since the water drains into the canyon and so the reason for it being 7 miles across. Fascinating!

Bright Angel Trail



The Silver Bridge


But, where is Phantom Ranch? I started to believe that it is named Phantom Ranch because it is not in this dimension. The trail turned around and started following a creek, one of the many tributaries of the Colorado.


Entry 4: Going Up is Mandatory

IMG_1377Suddenly I noticed an angel in the form of a 20-something-year-old girl, who came up to me and asked if I wanted my picture taken by the river. I was a bit surprised since I had seen no one on the beach as I came down. She had a great smile and a tiny pack. She told me she was going to Phantom Ranch. I remember asking myself: In what dimension?


Devil’s Corkscrew

I met quite a few nice people on my way up to the South Rim. Among them was Mark who is a sculptor. If you are interested in finding out more about his art, please visit his website at

At Phantom Ranch, I heard that 4 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year and that only 1% makes it down there. Sure, that means the rest is up here at Mather Point. Having joined the 99% and looking at the breathtaking vistas and the river down below, Phantom Ranch felt like a dream.



Entry 5: Beautiful Susan (Flagstaff)


Susan is an earth angel and a genuine person, and we kept in touch over the years. Finally, here I was once more in Flagstaff, seeing her over lunch as a friend. We met at the Karma restaurant in downtown Flagstaff (a very appropriate name of a place for us to meet). Our meal went by fast because we could not stop laughing, talking, and expressing feelings of appreciation for finally seeing each other again.

If you feel inspired to talk to her and find out what the Angels have to tell you, you can contact Susan through her website:


Entry 6: House of Angels (Sedona)

Going south from Flagstaff to Sedona, I drove through the beautiful Oak Creek Canyon that links the two cities. Sedona is 1,000 feet lower than Flagstaff. Given that it was now fall, the trees in the canyon were changing color – stunning hues of yellow and red.

Angels everywhere

I had been to Sedona before, and so I was not completely gaga when driving through it the day I arrived. But the next day Carla took me for a spin in her convertible and drove up some of the hills around town for me to be able to breathe in the vistas from up above. We also went to one of the famous energy vortices that are easily reached by car, which I believe is called the Airport Vortex.

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Entry 7: Another World (Antelope Canyon)

I woke up in Sedona, had a cup of tea with the angels and got on the road toward Page, heading north once again.

I felt like arriving in the entrance of Pietra. Now, I haven’t been to Pietra yet, but I imagine that it will feel just like that. The water that gushes from time to time through the now upper Antelope Canyon created a masterpiece of gentle forms and amazing shapes.


Entry 8: The Horse Shoe Bend

I had seen the Horse Shoe Bend in pictures before, but I didn’t know it was in Page until the adorable newlywed Chinese couple told me they had been there. I decided to check it out and looked up the information on my phone – it was only about 10 minutes outside of town.



Entry 9: Butte World (Monument Valley)

I left Page around three in the afternoon. I didn’t want to drive at night and wanted to be able to see the Buttes before it got dark.

At some point, I passed through Kayenta, a town located at the base of a Redrock Mesa. Pretty amazing. The road then turns into a plateau of sorts with the red mesa on the left and an incredible piece of rock on the right that I guess sticks out 600 feet above the ground. It was an impressive sight to behold, and my jaw dropped. The light was just perfect. For a moment, my imagination saw a spaceship that had landed nose down.


I am at the Monument Valley! Gosh!


Entry 10: A View from the Top (Canyon de Chelly)

The trip to Chinle was faster than I expected. It took me less than two hours.

What did I do with my time between seeing Eleanor and Cathleen? Well, I drove around the rim of Canyon de Chelly.


The last lookout on the road overlooks the Spider Rock. Incredible monolith! It comes up straight from the Canyon floor almost all the way up. The monolith was named after the Spider Woman, who taught the Navajos how to weave.


Entry 11: A View from the Bottom

The canyon was beautiful from the bottom.

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Entry 12: Adobe, Laughter and Good Food

Time to head East towards Santa Fe. The trip was long. I believe it took me around 5 hours to drive from Canyon de Chelly to Santa Fe.


Entry 13: Beauty is in the Details

My trip for the day involved a visit to the “Petrified Forest National Park”, 4-1/2 hours away from Santa Fe.

The petrified logs are also very unique and reveal a universe of colors and shapes at close inspection. The place is surreal. At one of the stops I couldn’t help but to start laughing. Probably out of happiness for being able to witness so much beauty in such a small scale.


Entry 14: Arriving at Buddha’s Feet

Rinpoche made it hard to come to him. You have to be determined. The institute is literally in the middle of nowhere. For one, it is hard to find. I almost got lost and had to read the directions more than once. It is close to Prescott and Scottsdale in Arizona but off the grid. The road is unpaved, and cell phone reception is spotty at best. But again, this is a retreat place and coming here is a pilgrimage.




Entry 15: Garchen Buddhist Institute

Lunch break was two hours long. So, I ate and decided to go for a walk. The institute grounds are amazing and truly beautiful. Additionally, the view of the valley and mountains is something not to be taken for granted.

As I came back into the temple, I gave a look at the altar and realized I was sleeping at Buddha’s feet.



Entry 16: Taking Refuge

The refuge experience was surreal. I felt Rinpoche’s love and compassion. It was overflowing and radiated in all directions, and I bathed in it.


Entry 17: The Flourishing of the Three Jewels

The trip back was long. It took me four and a half hours to get to Palm Springs. I felt complete, though. As I drove through the desert roads with no humans in sight, I felt surrounded by love and light.


Entry 18: Home is Where the Heart is

I wanted to relive some of the great times I had during the last two weeks. Garchen Rinpoche was still very much on my mind. I decided to practice Tonglen hiking up the mountains that surround Palm Springs. That was a way to combine his teachings with the feelings I had hiking in the Grand Canyon. Needless to say, I didn’t accomplish either, but at least I tried.


Entry 20: Isabel

If “Home is where the heart is,” I feel home today. After a four-hour drive through Riverside, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties, I finally arrived in Santa Barbara, where my American family lives.

It felt fantastic to arrive at their house. The first thing I noticed was that Isabel was missing. Isabel was their female dog that was part of the family for over 13 years and was more than adorable. Whenever I came to visit, Isabel was the first family member at the door. She passed away a few months back. I know they extremely missed her, and I missed her too.


With Isabel – 2006


Entry 21: Walking in Santa Barbara

Just before the retreat started, I had the opportunity to go for a walk in Santa Barbara, in a neighborhood close to the old mission. My destination was a beautiful park that Tom and Mabel had taken me to once before. So, I parked my car at the mission and took off on foot.


Entry 22: Smelling the Roses

Across from the Santa Barbara Mission, there is a gorgeous rose garden. I am ambivalent about roses since they have thorns and are high maintenance, but oh my! The colors and the smell were just incredible.


Entry 23: Atriums and the Sense of Security

After the five-day retreat in the Santa Barbara Mission, I am now out in the world again, which is where the rubber meets the road. It is so easy to be spiritual in such a peaceful setting, but the real challenge is to be mindful outside of the atrium walls.

As I left the mission and got on my way to Los Angeles to catch my flight to Brazil, I felt a tremendous sense of appreciation and with that I felt happy.

I was free.