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  • jaiaslin


When I was about 23, I saw a life-sized Saraswati statue on display at my yoga studio. I’m not a big statue/crystal/sage/incense person. I was raised by hippies, so those things always felt like my parents’ thing and maybe I judged them a little bit as spiritually materialistic BS.

But when I saw the statue, I was drawn to sit with her. I didn’t know at the time that Saraswati was the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, art, speech, wisdom, and learning.

I just knew that I was moved to tears looking at this beautiful carving.

I wanted her. I looked at the price. Too much. I couldn’t buy her.

So I started coming early to yoga so I could have some time in meditation to be with this beautiful, moving, familiar presence.

That same year, I auditioned for a Balinese performance troupe out of San Francisco as a singer and dancer, and I got a part. We toured Indonesia for a month or so and performed our jazz-Gamelan hybrid at the music and art festivals.

On our days off, I hired a driver to take me to various markets where I might find a large Saraswati statue like the one back home, but that I could hopefully afford.

After many days of looking at hundreds of Saraswati statues in the markets surrounding Ubud I still hadn’t found the statue that spoke to my heart.

I wondered if my standards were too high or if I was being fantastical about the whole thing and I felt close to just giving up and buying one of the smaller statues that was beautiful but didn’t move me.

Then the driver told us about a family of carvers who lived in a small village a few hours away. He said they had only carved Saraswati statues for generations. I felt slightly burnt out on the search, and a little skeptical, but I wanted to give it one more try.

He drove us there the next day, our second to last day in Ubud.

We arrived at the small, rustic family compound. The father and son greeted us and led us to an outdoor covered workshop full of hundreds of Saraswati statues which were in their raw form, not yet glazed with varnish.

I stepped into the space and let my eyes sweep over the large group of statues which were very beautifully carved, beyond the level of any I had seen so far.

Within seconds, my heart jumped and I spotted the one. She was absolutely the most beautiful, graceful, balanced, peaceful and profound presence of all.

I pointed at her and said, “that one.” The father and son looked surprised and our driver translated that they had said, “That is our best statue. She chose well.”

The next day we came back after she was glazed and my fiancé at the time, Paki, played a celebratory song on his flute while the family packed her in a large wooden box that looked like a coffin!

Somehow, miraculously, we got this life-sized beauty back to the US the next day without a ding.

She stood in my music and writing room for the years I worked on Strawberry Hat. I meditated in front of her every day when I was just starting to craft a meditation practice.

Then I joined a cult. That’s another story. And recently, I recorded a two part podcast episode of the story on Jennifer French’s The Project Hope Podcast – this is part 1 and part 2 is coming soon:

The first year in the cult was all about surrendering. Surrendering attachments to everything except God. It was both a painful and sweet time. Painful because of the tearing losses, and sweet because my meditation and prayer practice was bringing me an intense experience of a Love like I never knew.

I was guided to surrender my music career first, then my fiancé Paki, and within a year I was selling our home, re-homing our pets, and moving across the country to the women’s live-in novice program.

Shortly before I moved, I showed up at our Center on a Sunday with my beloved Saraswati statue in the trunk of my car. I had decided to let her go. It felt like I was surrendering all of my earthly loves for a more true Love.

I remember giving her to my teacher felt like breaking the alabaster vase of precious oil to anoint Jesus’ feet with. I was the prostitute, becoming whole again. This was my experience at the time.

My teacher would ship her off to our main retreat center the next day. He stood her near us while we ate brunch outside.

I watched the sunlight start to beat down on her feet and legs and I knew direct sun wasn’t good for her. I resisted the urge to ask my teacher to move her because I wanted to fully surrender.

Later that afternoon I saw that cracks had formed in her feet and then I moved her into the shade, feeling great sadness.

She sat in our retreat center for the next six years. I moved her out of the sun several times. I re-glazed her once. I continued to let go.

The order split, the teachers separated, the retreat center was sold. I was still obediently letting her go at the time of the sale, and when my new teacher asked what I wanted to do with her, I said they could sell her and keep the money for the center.

She didn’t sell.

She wound up in someone’s garage for the next two years.

Then I got out. I left the group. I married my beloved Timothy who left the group shortly after me. I started therapy. We started another spiritual path which offered the depth and real teachings without the BS culty-shit. I started to play music again.

Then one day when we were living in Colorado, I got a phone call from someone in the group who said she had a Saraswati statue in her garage that she thought was mine, did I want her to bring it to me on her next trip north? Yes, I said.

She arrived with some cracks and breaks, but nothing too serious. We packed her up to move to California shortly after that and she stayed in a box for a few years while we decided whether to stay or move somewhere else.

Babies were born. Life was full. I was tired. I took a lot of Iron tablets. Wild fires raged and a pandemic hit. Saraswati stayed packed in the garage.

Then, when things settled and I was better-rested and we were sure we were staying in this amazing home of my family, overlooking layers of mountains and trees in a spot so perfect for us we kept pinching ourselves, we started unpacking the deeper layers.

So much exploration and inner work went into the decision to begin writing and recording music again that I can only say, no stone was left unturned.

We built a small recording studio which has become our refuge sanctuary and the only clean space in our life full of our children’s exuberant chaos.

The day I unpacked Saraswati and placed her in the studio felt so cosmically full-circle.

I felt like the divine team of angels was laughing and crying with me and applauding for the journey of learning and growing over the last 15 years.

I felt that nothing we sacrifice is ever lost. That no heartbreak really breaks us. That what is meant for us will not leave us.

Today, almost to the day, marks the 16th anniversary of me giving her up. I cleaned my whole studio, put fresh flowers at her feet, lit a candle and said a prayer for all of us.

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