Austin’s Las Manitas & Toma Mi Corazon XVI lead off cozy, sparkling Texas morning

Jake Lorfing came to my “Write Your Way Through Grief” workshop last year at Naropa and we formed a bond around writing and Buddhist practice. He’s a relaxed, easy man who embodies his practice without fuss…the walking model, for me, of equanimity, or eveness and steadiness. Jake is involved in a variety of engaged social action projects along with his wife Miriam and I’m hoping he might share some of these later with you on Riehlife.

We enjoyed the kind of deep and yet far-ranging talk of old-friends, even though we are new-friends-well-met. Jake took me out to breakfat at Las Manitas (Little Hands), founded in 1981 by Cynthia Perez and her sister Lidia “who longed for the food they grew up eating. The Congress Avenue cafe soon became an Austin institution, catering to weather-worn street veterans as well as Austin’s many mayors. (211 Congress Ave, Austin, Texas 78701, Downtown, Phone: (512)472-9357). To read more click here.

One of the current special attractions at Las Manitas is the Toma Mi Corazon XVI project. A selection of the hearts hangs on the walls of the cafe with the main exhibit down the street at La Pena. Toma Mi Corazon XVI features a preview party with tickets selling for only $15 that entitles the bearer to participate in the accompanying silent auction on FEBRUARY 9, 2008, Saturday, form 5-7 p.m. with music by Sister Sister y los Misters.

Toma Mi Corazon is La Pena’s signature event and annual fundraiser. Every year hundreds of wooden hearts are given to artists, children, dignitaries, celebrities, and anyone else who wants one. They’re free to decorate them however they want. Once they are returned, the hearts are sold in a silent auction. Proceeds from their sale go towards supporting La Pena’s arts and educational programming.

So, Austonians and Austonites, come, enjoy food at the preview party at Las Manitas Ave. Cafe and bid on the hearts. They are truly amazing. About 325 were on display the morning Jake and I visited. I bid $30 on a fabric-covered heart—like a quilted slip-covered heart of a monkey in a tree. Someone will probably outbid me, but I’ve started things off.

One of the marvelous things of the visit was that our host, Jesse, knew old friends of mine, Sally and Erasmo Andrade. Jesse had also just moved to Austin from San Francisco, where he’d been teaching creative writing, and so we could talk neighborhoods.

My Jake’s-Eye-View-Tour-Of-Austin included a stop at the Shambala Center, about as pretty a meditation and practice center as I’ve ever seen. The storage shed is wittily named “Alaya” (the storage place of consciousness in Buddhist teachings) and the main building opens out onto a deck and back yard with a 300 year old sheltering oak tree and wilderness area, taking my heart right back to Northern California.

Jake returned me to the Wyndham, not only safely, but deeply nourished, more whole, and with my heart more open and ready for what is to come.

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