(The following is an excerpt from an interview by Parabola Magazine. Read the full length Parabola interview here.)
Interviewed by Jeff Zaleski
Mirabai Starr is an adjunct professor of philosophy and world religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos. She is the author of God of Love: A Guide to the Heart of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and other works, and is the translator of Dark Night of the Soul, by John of the Cross, and The Interior Castle and The Book of My Life by Teresa of Avila. Recently Starr has emerged as one of the most impressive voices connecting multiple religious traditions. Her years spent at the interfaith Lama Foundation contributed to her understanding; and so, apparently, has her more recent work as a locksmith.
Parabola: You were raised in a secular Jewish family suspicious of organized religion, yet as a teen you moved away from your family and to the Lama Foundation, which you have described as an “intentional spiritual community” where you were exposed to a variety of spiritual traditions. Why did you seek out the Lama Foundation and how did your experiences there shape your inner life?
Mirabai Starr: Lama Foundation is a place that has actively embraced all the world’s religions and spiritual traditions since its inception in 1968. After my parents uprooted us from suburban Long Island in 1972 in search of an alternative lifestyle, we traveled for a year and finally settled in the mountains of Taos, New Mexico, largely because of the alternative school there, started by British artists, which was being run at that time by Lama. The multitude of teachers that came through Lama ended up visiting the school: Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Ram Dass, Sasaki Roshi, Pir Vilayat Khan, Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Father Thomas Keating, Mesoamerican shamans, Hopi elders, and medicine men and women from Taos Pueblo. Pema Chödrön (she was Deirdre then) was our Social Studies teacher, and Natalie Goldberg was our English teacher. They each brought stories, songs, and prayers from their lineage, and shared them with us.