When were you first exposed to dharma?

Being brought up culturally Jewish (but totally lacking ‘religious beliefs’ in said upbringing), I had no feeling for being Jewish. It was just a thing that I (apparently) was, and everyone (97%) around me was: a noun, not a verb or an adjective, and certainly not an ‘active’ thing.

The first time I recall being exposed to an Eastern religion (in any capacity) was my junior year in high school, on an orchestra/band trip to Canada. I stayed in the house of an Indian family with another Jewish teen who was absolutely terrified, saying that Indian people hate Jews and that she was afraid of the pictures (deities) on the wall. I had zero point of reference but I wasn’t afraid of the family or their home, just a curious wonder at the fascinating blue elephant people. I stayed with them and she went to stay with another host family.

I was lucky not to do ‘spiritual shopping’ as I drifted through my 20’s and 30’s with no real philosophical anchor, except that which began seeping in through my yoga asana practice and the beautiful practice of kirtan. Devotional singers like Krishna Das, Wah! and Jai Uttal helped my heart heal at times when I was sure I would most certainly die and leave my body.

It wasn’t until I met the monks (at KTD/Karma Kagyu in Woodstock) that my lifelong yearning to find my teachers/mentors/found family began to come into focus.

Khenpo Ten grabbed me with both hands and pulled me in, “Will you get up for puja in the morning?”

It was American New Year’s and the first light ceremony was pre-dawn the next morning.

“All sentient beings are counting on you.”

And with this I got my first dose of Tibetan guilt (coupled with Tibetan grandmother finger) and I became a daily practitioner. This was in 2014 and I was already (just) north of 40, so I will probably always consider myself very much a ‘baby Buddha’ in this lifetime.

Tibetan Buddhism resonates so strongly with me firstly, because of karma. It is well known to me from past lives and now I am remembering. So it is very dear to me and has stirred deep emotion from my first exposure. I think it is probably this way with most practitioners, once it grabs a hold of you, it’s like welcoming a dear old friend back into your life after a long absence.

I took a friend up to KTD monastery in Woodstock because I thought she might find her teacher there. She was having very extraordinary ‘dreams’ and eventually, my intuition led us there. Of course, at this time, everything opened to me. I took refuge on my 41st birthday (the same friend, who took me as a gift) not realizing what ‘taking refuge’ meant. I definitely stepped in shit and became Buddhist.

It was a great comfort to me to realize I am Buddhist because it explained so many things about why I felt isolated and disaffected from American/Western culture, even though I have lived my entire life in America. I dreamed past death’s doorway long before I knew I was Buddhist, had no feelings for ambition or material wealth. I was drowning in a society that rewards cruelty, domination and fear yet I was craving connection, understanding and true power. I had no language to express this and no sangha to express this to.


Amber's primary practice
is the Tara Mandala Dance.

I was a sad, lonely little rich girl, living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and crying behind giant sunglasses walking to work every day. It was really pathetic. I was desperately in love with a man who treated me like dirt, a ‘great love’ that I just couldn’t seem to shake.

My apartment was in shambles and I would sob on the floor amidst the mess. This is exactly how dying when unprepared feels: terrifying, alone, chaotic. Somehow I had to reel myself back in.

I moved into a tiny room in an apartment in Brooklyn with said dharma sister (whom I helped find her teacher), started practicing regularly and going to KTD on the weekends for retreats.

Within four months of being a daily practitioner, I was standing in front of Karmapa (the head of my Karma Kagyu lineage) and watching him expand into a rainbow light being. Baby was definitely swimming in the deep end.

Because I discovered my connection to Buddhism/dharma north of 40, I always approach my practice with a beginner’s mind: this continues to guide me well.

By the time I decided to move to Woodstock in 2016, it seemed easy/obvious. I took a one-room cottage 10 minutes from the monastery and started going up for puja(s) daily. Chanting Chenrizig, Mahakala and then Green Tara became my main sadhana practices and these practices are very dear to me.

My teacher, Prema Dasara, came into my life in 2016 (June 18). A fellow practitioner/dharma-Tara sister grabbed my arm and said, “Do you have your camera? Can you photograph something?”

Of course I did and of course I did and it opened this beautiful new world to me of devotion/praise/supplication to the divine feminine.

Prema led a giant group of Tara dancers and other KTD practitioners (with many Lamas observing) in the White Tara dance. She invited anyone in need of healing into the center of the circle. I went in to get a different angle and I was hit by the wave of love, healing and light. I realized a profound practice was happening and I was the recipient of enormous amounts/waves of love and light. I put down my camera and just started feeling.

When Prema and the Tara Dhatu sangha returned the next summer to once again dance Tara in Woodstock, I was extremely happy to be invited.

In 2018, I traveled to Brasilia to photograph/video the first Tara Dhatu Monlam, the fruition of a years-long dream of Prema to bring together international dancers for a week-long monlam of continuous prayer/Tara’s mantra.

It was a dream that opened a new world of possibilities to me–to be able to travel and devote my life in praise of the divine feminine. Prema teaches us that Tara allows herself to be beautiful so others will be drawn to her and receive her teachings. This was like fireworks going off in my mind: a reason for beauty beyond the male gaze–something this (born) feminist could work with.

I started growing out my side-shaved (Tibetan nomad-style) hair to ‘improve my geomancy,’ totally revamped my diet (shedding weight and old ideas) and began embracing the idea of feminine beauty with a purpose!

All of these experiences are to say that I felt led from the start. The crumbs were laid and I followed them and I am so grateful.

What resonates primarily for me with Tibetan Buddhism is the underlying idea that everyone has Buddha (awakened mind) nature, we simply need to uncover it. This is the same philosophy I used when I revamped my body/diet (The Whole Elimination Diet): taking away what is unnecessary and obscuring the truth to reveal that which is underneath.

This distinguishes Buddhism from religion for me because anyone, through devotion and practice, can potentially attain Buddhahood. In religion, God is God, and practitioners are practitioners. And no amount of devotion or practice can ever move you to the God realm.

Buddhism is a living practice, different and unique for each practitioner. My personal belief is that I am here to manifest enlightened mind by utilizing my precious human body as a vehicle for enlightenment, which is why I chose Tara dancing as my main (current) practice. I use this to inform all my movements throughout the day, which is why I work (at my desk) standing up and eat most meals standing up.

Green Tara has one leg outstretched, always ready to spring into swift action and I live my life the same way.

What are some of your practices/rituals that you do to support your spiritual development (meditation/prayers and etc)

Every day, I dance Tara, online with the Tara Dhatu sangha. I coordinate the East Coast sangha. I lead/facilitate 5 mornings a week (about to be 4!) (and often dance the other two days). I am happy to say that we have danced in community every single day (at least once) since March 18, 2020. The East Coast sangha inspired other daily, online Tara Dhatu (TD) practice circles, and we have practitioners not only from the international TD sangha but from others sanghas, traditions and practices. We are all inclusive! Although we dance in praise of the divine feminine, all genders are welcome!

I join Prema and Myri (as many afternoons as I can) to dance with the Brasilia sangha (really, international), especially our new Tara #20 dance. Tara #20 represents Radiant Health, dispelling infectious diseases and epi/pandemics, both wrathful and peaceful. Some evenings I make it to dance with the Phoenix/West Coast sangha. It’s such a beautiful thing that all these wheels are constantly turning.

I employ all the 21 Taras (22, technically) throughout my day, filtering all my experiences not only through the dharma lens, but through the ‘Tara lens,’ taking into account the divine feminine as I approach all my obstacles through my body, speech and mind.

Which sangha do you normally attend?

Tara Dhatu. Prema does regular monthly teachings now.


"You can read a book,
but a book cannot read you."

How has the path manifest in your daily experience?

The path has manifested in all ways in my daily experience. I live my life through the dharma lens: that is to say, utilizing the philosophy which underlies Buddhism as a guiding principle in all interactions.

Tibetan Buddhism is the ceremony which overlays the dharmic philosophy. When Buddhism went to Tibet, it met/mixed with the local deities and traditions. Finding Tibetan Buddhism allowed me to find a framework and sangha, but starting to work with dharma freed me to apply the teachings to my entire life, outside the monastery and off the cushion.

Dancing Tara as my main practice makes it much easier to apply dharma to my entire life. Dancing is a main metaphor for life and the cosmos and is so applicable to so many situations as I move through life. Dance combines body (movement), speech (chanting/singing) and mind (deity yoga/visualization) to teach so many life lessons: the power of the three jewels (Buddha, dharma, sangha); precious human birth (we can dance because of our beautiful, gravity-affected, dense bodies!); balance (middle road), grace (non-grasping ego); flexibility (adapting); interdependence/humility/equanimity (circle dancing in community/personal relationships), non-attachment (releasing ego/becoming Tara); service (leading/facilitating); making offerings (purifications); beginner’s mind (being a good student/learning new practices/requesting teachings); devotion/practice (we can improve and turn the dance into meditation); meditation (turn off the thinking mind and enter the realm of pure movement and feeling)…

Dharma helped me process preparing for this interview and photo shoot. Of course when you (Jack) contacted me, just over a week ago, I might/could have/previously may have gone into panic mode: I have to practice and read and study as much dharma as much as I humanly can before you come to prove what a great practitioner I am/how much I know/how much I sacrifice for my practice.

I had to throw all those ideas out the window (much as Milarepa threw dirt all over his cave when he learned his teacher was coming to visit–after he had just cleaned up in preparation for the visit) and be authentic and true to myself and continue living the balanced life I lived before your chat popped-up: finding the balance between preparation and panic, confidence and ego, thinking what do I know about Buddhism/who do I think I am?

I just needed to relax and proceed with joy…

Instead of spending every “spare” moment cramming my brain with facts about Buddhism, I chose to spend the last week doing the following (in addition to daily Tara dance practice/leading 5-day/week): continue listening to my Brene Brown audiobook; develop ideas around inclusion and compassion at my work for a Washington DC-based Alzheimer’s organization ; Zoom/talk with friends/teachers; spend nature time with friends/Taras; plan full moon Tara dance/potluck gathering in Woodstock; organize my new abode; learn Tara #20 dance with international TD sangha…

Photography is another beautiful example of dharma in practice, a beautiful contradiction/conundrum: it both separates me from people/situations and brings me closer; allows me to see inside new levels/depth of ugliness and beauty; puts me behind the lens yet in front of people; utilizes technology to instill a primal view of life…

If you explore other lineages within buddhism, how did you come to decide on which lineage was right for you?

When the Karma Kagyu monks grabbed me, I was hooked. However, since there is such close synergy between the Tibetan Buddhist lineages, I am heavily influenced by the Nyingma and Dzogchen traditions. There are many Nyingma monastics and yogis who also consider themselves Kagyupa (Karma Kagyu).

I was lucky to visit Dzamgling Gar in Tenerife and experience a week-long Mandarava practice with Namkhai Norbu just months before his death in 2018.

That was a great awakening for me to see a dharma center run totally by lay-people with no robes in sight and engaged in a female-oriented practice/monlam. Practitioners dance and practice yantra yoga (asana mixed with pranayama). My heart strongly resonates with these yogi traditions/teachings and expressions of devotion, but underpinned by the strict groundwork and discipline from the monastic traditions I first encountered.

Prema Dasara is my primary teacher. The Tara Dhatu lineage dances are influenced/blessed by all five Tibetan Buddhist lineage masters, although Taisitupa (Karma Kagyu) is the recognized ‘God-Father’ of the TD Tara dance lineage, telling Prema to establish a Tara lineage to protect these sacred practices.

What is your primary profession?

I work in Alzheimer’s advocacy, remotely, through a organization based in Washington, DC. My entire professional time is spent helping/serving others, listening and working to make society better. That is a direct result of my stated purpose for living: which is to manifest wisdom-mind and ultimately achieve enlightenment, by practicing service and compassion.

I spend my non-working time running the East Coast “Daily Dharma Dance” dance circle, offering in-person Tara dance circles on both the new and full moons.

I also help guide people to their own radiant health (directly inspired by Tara #20) by employing principles found in the The Whole Life Elimination Diet coupled with dharma (wisdom of Buddha, dharma, sangha), helping them to heal (sometimes lifelong) troubled relationships with food.

Tara allows herself to be
beautiful to draw others to her,
so that she may teach them.
- Prema Dasara

What teachings/practices have had the greatest impact on your life?

Momo meditation & cleaning minds with Khenpo 10 at KTD: meditating everywhere while making momo (Tibetan dumplings) in community at the monastery, silently reciting Chenrizig’s (Buddha of love and compassion) mantra; cleaning the kitchen becme cleaning our own minds with the mantra ‘om mane padme hung.

Allowed me to instead of rejecting some semblance of man-made-consumer-idealized-woman, I could, for the first time in more than 40 years on the planet, embrace femininity. I grew out my shaved-on-the-sides Tibetan nomad hair to ‘improve my geomancy’ (told by a Lama).

All of this freed me to make the vow to come back in the female form until all achieve enlightenment.

Tara allows herself to be beautiful to draw others to her, so that she may teach them” (Prema Dasara): Tipping the scales toward the sacred feminine is my main mission in life, in this body, to counterbalance the toxic masculinity that has taken over our beautiful world. We need the buy-in/support of men everywhere!

I now believe that tipping the scales toward the sacred feminine is my mission in life, in this body, to counterbalance the toxic masculinity that has taken over our beautiful world. We need the buy-in/support of men everywhere!

“Renunciation is not giving something up, it is seeing things as they truly are” (-Lama Tenam Shastri): I stopped seeing not doing things that hurt me (ie eating that soy burger) as ‘giving something up’, but rather as renouncing suffering, which I very much wish to do! This understanding of renunciation allowed me to totally revamp my diet and health. And eventually, to begin helping others. I make food for people that meet ‘my standards’ (vegan and free of: grain, soy, nightshades) – specialized for the highly sensitized!


  • Some practices make time, they don’t take time (Tara dancing, chanting, sadhana, yoga asana)–meditate everywhere! Sharing this is my mission.

  • “We are here to practice/master ‘joyness.’ You are a very good messenger for Tara.” -Prajwal J. Vajracharya

  • Truly believing that whatever I have to offer is enough. Transmitting joy for practice is enough. Showing up every day to lead is enough. Sharing the mantra is enough. Invoking, praying to, dancing for Tara every day is enough!


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