Monday, December 24, 2007
Saturday, December 01, 2007
I sit in the office with our hairless rescue Lucky at my feet, curled on her blankets, encased in a sweater. Although we haven’t put the stove pipe into the woodstove yet, is is dry and not chilled like outside. She hears her friends and cries, not understanding that she would be miserable to the bones if she went down to the run. Warm chicken broth appeases her, she loves her food!
So much can happen without journeying anywhere. Weather, emotions, thoughts create and re-create our world. My trip to DC was wonderful; I met committed, caring people who, just like us, want to make this planet a better place, by awakening compassion for animals as far and wide as we can imagine. From all faiths, walks of life, locations – all of this was irrelevant, when it came to this common goal. This is the depth and breadth of what we share, even when we forget.
The last couple of weeks have been full. I have had the chance to glimpse into the past of this sacred valley, and to glimpse inside my very heart, and to begin to know there is no difference. I am surrounded with the history of a people who vanished centuries ago, and I am surrounded by people who know, love and care for each other at this moment. There is a continuum of compassion and kindness that is reflected in the hollow of the hills, and whispered by the wind: today howling, throwing rain at my window, to wake me up. In the valley or on the mountaintop, I know. Even when I don’t.
Jetsunma is here on retreat, a blessing for all. Today I was feeding my beloved finches, and there was a break in the clouds, a moment of sunshine. I searched for a rainbow, but there was none, or none that I saw. And I realized it is not about the searching, or even the seeing. It is about the certainty the rainbow is there, visible or not. Just as for distant friends, whom I cannot see or embrace, but whose love never ceases to penetrate my heart, and bind them with me in indefinable ways. Even their apparent absence is their presence in my life.
I am not a teacher, but I rely on one to look beyond what I see or think I know. Through her I receive blessings that may have names or forms, and which I may know with my heart, or not. The blessings are there, either way. For this, for the earth, for the sky, for the raging storm and the stillness, and for those who are a light in the darkness, I give thanks.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
I leave tomorrow for a trip to DC that seemed to blow in from nowhere, and is a vast door opening up. Best Friends, the exemplary and inspirational animal Sanctuary in Utah, this summer convened a group of faith leaders, representing 21 religions, to create a Religious Proclamation for Animal Compassion. I first read of it in their magazine, and regretted we hadn't known about the process. Well, about 2 weeks ago I received a generic email inviting me to be a guest at the historic signing of this document in Congress. I called to see if we could actually be a signatory, only to discover that the Buddhist representative was Lama Kunzang Dorjee, an extraordinary Lama from Bhutan who visited here in August, while I was on retreat, and blessed all our animals. What a connection. Even more amazing, as Lama Kunzang Dorjee is unable to be there, he has honoured me/Tara's Babies with the opportunity to sign this document as the representative of our faith. This is truly a blessing.
The ceremony is not the end, but the beginning of profound change. The Proclamation will go on-line, and the intention is to have 1 million signatures with in the next 18 months. During this time, the faith representatives will travel and talk about compassion for animals. encouraging people to embrace the relationship between faith, humanity and kindness to beings. The process will culminate in an international convention with world religious leaders. How amazing.
I am not a faith leader, but I have the good fortune to have connected with a Teacher who has shown me from the inside out that compassion, kindness, truth and pure qualities will change the world. So I am glad to be able to be part of this process, and know that if I rely on that inner Truth of my teacher, I can be a vehicle of benefit. I have no sense right now of what the future will bring, but I do know it is a coming of age for Tara's Babies, in the breadth of Jetsunma's vision.
I am looking forward to meeting the founders of Best Friends; I just read the book about the first 25 years, and I have nothing but respect for their commitment and dedication.
On the home level, I am the joyful mother of the little dog now called Madelaine, who was part of our rescue from a kill shelter in Arkansas. Some adjustment happening amongst the troops, but really everyone is being good. She is so much smaller than my other three, but bouncing with happiness; Except if I raise my voice or move my arm in a certain way, then she cowers. i am sure she was abused. I look into her beautiful brown eyes, so brimming with love and think how could it be she was hurt, abandoned and then slated to be killed. This is the why every heart, every mind needs to open to that deep well spring of raw compassion, to which there is no end.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Friday, October 05, 2007
Thursday, August 30, 2007
I keep waiting for that lull in time or mind to sit and write. It never is. Minutes, moments, hours days, roll and crest and time just is yet isn't. So now, I am no longer waiting, simply doing.
Morning practice starts with a Sang or smoke offering, which
Ani Tenzin did. Rigpai Dorje usually helped - but on this cold wet morning
I worked hard; retreat is not a holiday, though it is far more enriching and refreshing than a week at the beach. I was up early and went back to the tent usually late, and filled each day as best I could with prayer and meditation, circumambulations of the Temple. It was my lifeline, I knew it, to secure my feet and heart to the place from which they were never really lost, I was just looking from the wrong angle.
Each day was different, though mostly the same format. There are 5 scheduled sessions each day, roughly 7-8am, 8.45 -10, 10.15-12, 2-4, 7-9pm. Times are flexible to some degree - depending on the class you are in, what else may arise. Three delicious cooked meals a day, and the time in between for work rota, relaxing, your own practice. Washing clothes!! I shared a tent in the forest with my friend Ani Tenzin, who was in our small group in Alice Springs, and still lives in Australia. We got to know each other so much better here (sharing a tent in the rain, long days???!!!), and it was wonderful to see her after about 5 years.
The small hut where my class met for 3 practice sessions every day. One monk would point out any turkey or deer in the field when he arrived; excellent sound effects for the turkey!
After about 10 days I felt myself relax and open, rivulets of peace and joy etched across the rigid surface of my mind. One things Holiness has stressed every year is to have faith, to have no doubt. I immersed myself in that this year, knowing there was nothing else to do. And the result is palpable - if we had before and after shots of my demeanour they would be proof positive that practice works!
My work rota was Temple care, and included making the butter lamps that were available for offering in a small pagoda outside the main Temple. Mid-retreat, the mother of Bhutanese woman called Rinzin died, and Rinzin worked to ensure the lamps were filled and lit all the time. Many people helped her, and it was a delight to sit with her and make wicks, or fill the melted oil into the lamps, and experience her calm, gentle and irrevocable devotion to that which I am still learning to be. She grew up in it, with it - she said an American woman had asked her how she balanced a family, retreat, her practice. She told me she didn't have an answer - there was no question of balance; it is just how it is. I asked her about her father, she said he had left work and gone into solitary retreat in his fifties....such different parameters than those with which we are familiar.
All photos bar the first one are thanks to Thubten Rigpai Dorje; we had connected through our blogs, and finally met at retreat, where he took ordination as a monk.
Friday, July 06, 2007
I leave today for one month retreat in upstate New York; only the kindness of my Teacher and my friends has made this even possible. I have no idea what it will be like - this will be my fifth year of attendance, and each time is so very different. What I do know, without a doubt, is that it is an extraordinary blessing, no matter how it 'feels' to me. Right now, I know I need to be nourished deeply, and that this is the only place for me to be. It is my safe harbour, as the sea has been stormy and the boat rocking.
I probably won't do a post until I return mid -August, though who knows- if a computer comes my way, perhaps I will. The month stretches before me an open canvas, and I am not even trying to determine its colours or textures.
So wherever you are - on the road, in a tent, in your home, at the beach, with your family, with your cat or your dog, may each and every one of you also find safe harbour: not just today, or tomorrow or next year, but deeply and fully within your heart.
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
Sunday, June 17, 2007
One thing we all share, with absolute certainty, is that each breath, while being the source of life, also brings us closer to death. There is no turning back, no putting it on hold. Nothing. At some point we will breathe our last breath and be lost from the world that we cling to. All that we have held dear will no longer be ours, and even the tears of those that love us most deeply will not be salve to the final wound of death.
Friday, June 15, 2007
So - it seems that dear little Lucky had the karma to come here, after all. Following her first escape and rescue, literally, from a coyote attack as it occurred ( the story brings chills to my spine), she escaped again. I received a frantic call from her foster carer, concerned for her well being; she had chewed through several leashes. Options of transport were explored, as the solution needed to be immediate. In the end Sam headed off on a 16 hour round trip journey, to the CA border. Lucky didn't travel in a crate, but lay happily on the seat.
Friday, June 08, 2007
It was evening time as we courted the edge of civilisation. We stopped once for a real home-made pizza, but there was nowhere to stay, so we drove on, my eyes panning the exits for safe harbour. I spied a very low-key place, the American Inn, in a setting that would not rate reviews. Perched at the edge of the freeway, old and worn, perhaps seedy. But it was cheap, and the clerk was friendly, and, it tuned out, German. I lived in Germany for some years, and love the language and the country - still sometimes feel homesick for that culture. Better still, I had visited his hometown, so there was a shared journey, a connect of our past.
It's a miracle Lucky survived a coyote attack, given her age and frailty. Last night we did a Tsog practice - a ceremony where we offer food and prayers for the nourishment and end of suffering of all. I offered Ms Wu's pineapple cakes on behalf of her and her beloved dogs; it was after this Lucky was found. I am sure the Guru was there.
Sunday, May 20, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
It seems right when I named her Lucky. I think she would be afraid of cold weather in winter. I never put clothes on her coz it’s not too cold in winter here. She must had suffered a lot before she showed up in my school. She has to be taught to live inside a house. She’s always been friendly and enjoyed the sunshine in corner quietly. She never barks loudly, and only leans towards me at meals with excitement. In general, she’s a tender dog with good behavior who never causes any trouble.
I think I am in love, too!! It did cross my mind what my 3 would think, but LA is much better, not only due to the cold of winter, I would also worry about rattlers, and besides I have to let my heart love them all!!
Tia's comment also reminded me that I haven't thanked everyone for helping us secure the land on which we will build a beautiful, sustainable animal sanctuary. I know some of you were able to make cash donations, and others held us in your thought and prayers. To every one of you, i say thank you. I cannot articulate what this means, it is a gift of life, hope and awakening, for each and every one of us.
When I was young, my mother made me write thank you cards; a task I resisted and whined about, especially for gifts I didn't especially like - why thank them for That! She, however was adamant, and so i chewed my pen and wrote " Dear Aunty.....". I also had to write thank you's to school comrades for birthday party invitations, regardless of it was someone i liked. It seemed an odorous, endless task.
However, now that I have passed the age my mother was when she enforced this rule, i understand the power of thank you. It doesn't matter what the gift or event was, or if I enjoyed it, it is an expression of gratitude for the thoughtfulness of the giver, for the kindness of the heart.
This was brought vividly alive for me through the work of Masuru Emoto on the effects of prayer and positive thought and words on the crystal formation of water; you can see the difference that occurs....how extraordinary. Here is his response to the question of whether he had discovered a particular word or phrase that best helped the natural waters of the world:
"Yes. There is a special combination that seems to be perfect for this, which is love plus the combination of thanks and appreciation, reflected in the English word gratitude. Just one of these is not enough. Love needs to be based in gratitude, and gratitude needs to be based in love. These two words together create the most important vibration. "
The purity and beauty of the crystal, as seen above, mirror the effect on our hearts, and the world, when we respond with love and gratitude to the thoughtful words and acts of others. It becomes a gift reciprocated - fluid, boundless. It is a gift that takes little effort, and yet its value is immeasurable. We, too, consist so much of water - imagine these diamonds in our cells!
I am grateful to my mother for engraving this idea in my mind, although it has taken decades to recognise its value! But that is the magnificence of even the smallest gift of kindness - it ripples through our lives, shedding jewels at unexpected moments, sometimes in dark, neglected corners of ourselves. To be able to say thank you is a blessing and a promise, it reflects the space in which something of benefit was received, and becomes the space for such a gift to again be welcomed, perhaps by someone else. The lines between the giver and receiver are blurred, there is simply the pure and perfect vibration of gratitude, which describes the hearts of us all.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
I really long for the second miracle taking place sometime soon— somebody could take care of me while I am old and ailing like a candle guttering in the wind, and bring me the love I once had but will lose soon. Oh my dear lord, please tell me, is it really going to happen?
Ms Wu is worried for all her dogs, so the ten she has chosen to come to Dakini Valley are healthy and adoptable - she sees a good future for them, and says, " You even give a hand generously to me who is far away in foreign country; it’s been so lucky for those ten dogs who can be reborn in Tara ’s Babies. I won’t worry about them anymore in future, since I know that they would rest in a warm harbour. I can’t express how I feel with words right now" . What an unimaginable choice to have make - who will live, who may die - for beings you have nurtured and nourished from death already.
I asked her about Lucky: "He doesn’t like barking or exercising, neither does he cause too much troubles. I wish Lucky could have a happy life in the U.S. Lucky does not have much hair even though I’ve been feeding him nutrition food. The doctor says that the his hair follicles have died. He would still need continuous medication and observation once he gets there. I am not sure if it is OK with you or would it cause too much trouble?
I want to save Lucky, but worry that with his hairless old body, he would find our winters too cold; until we build our new shelter, we have nothing appropriate to offer. So this is my plea - some of you live in places that are warm, where the air is softened with moisture, and the sun shines. Or your relatives live in this climate. And you have friends and neighbours who live in your street, your town, 50 miles away. And some of them have a yard where an old dog could rest. And they are willing to tend to the needs of an old greying dog, who was once a bag of hairless bones, and now wants only love and safety.
Our planet is littered with lives of suffering, so why Lucky - why this dog? Why not? Compassion and suffering have neither boundaries, nor limits. They are present in our neighbourhood, our daily lives, and they are familiar to people and animals hidden from our view. The story of Lucky is not unique, but it is a story we can write the ending to. We can be the miracle. And if we make a difference, even only once, we have changed the face of this planet, and the texture of our hearts, forever. I want to find him a home, where he can bask in the sun until he dies a natural death, so that the chain of kindness which links my heart to yours, and your to Ms Wu's, and hers to Melanie's, and Melanie's to her neighbour.... is entwined around the earth, unbroken.
Please help me find a home for Lucky. His transport/paperwork to the US will be arranged, and we will find a way to get him to you, to his home of love, and his resting place in the sun. When Ms Wu heard even ten of her dogs could be saved, she said,"Suddenly I feel the world is full of wonderful and adorable things and there are so many angels helping me and my dogs out. I've cried my eyes out, with tears of joy and appreciation."
Be an angel, be the second miracle. Contact me about Lucky, or any help you can give for any of these dogs, at email@example.com.
The reward will be more than one life saved, it will be the seed of a different future for us all.
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Sunday, April 22, 2007
I met him once, when I travelled with my friend - actually, my partner, so I suppose he was my father-in-law, if the law ever recognised such relationships - to the land on another continent where he lived. He had divorced my friend's mother by then, had recently re-married, and we travelled across another border to the village of his forbears. The highlight was a visit to a church where his father, purportedly an artist, had painted a magnificent mural - the details of this untruth are a lost to me now - i only know, when we entered the church, the story dissipated into something far less than he had described. There was no mural, simply a statue his father had somehow worked on.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Saturday, April 07, 2007
The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster; no one thing, just a series of moments which somehow feel like my shadow now falls at a different angle than it did before. Not that this is bad, its just acknowledging that change is the feast of life, and who we are one day is never quite the same as the day before.
This evening that occured for this precious land, in an event that brings me great joy; for the first time, a Stupa is now blessing the Valley. A Stupa is a sacred Buddhist monument - the specifications for which were laid out by Buddha himself, and it is a tangible display of the Mind of Enlightenment. They are places of pilgrimage - not only for Buddhists - and there are many miraculous stories regarding the blessings they provide for those that make wishing prayers while circumambulating a Stupa. Their blessings are also spread across the earth by the breeze , and they are a powerful means of securing the land and diminishing suffering. Everything about them is holy, and the potency is increased by a consecration ceremony, invoking the blessings and power of the divine. There is a link to the right if you would like to know more.
This Stupa is of plaster, and three feet high; it used to be in the garden of Jetsunma's home in Sedona, so it is especially precious. It arrived at the Valley last night with one of our monks, Kamil, and Claire, both of whom came to work with the rescue dogs today, while we went to a workshop. When i returned, at about 5.30, the three of us set it up on a table in Jetsunma's yard, facing east, as is the custom. When Jetsunma comes, she will determine its proper home.
It was a simple, yet momentous, moment. I - and others - have wished for a Stupa at Dakini Valley for years, and that prayer has now come to fruition. It is hard to explain, but knowing its sacredness, and what it portends for the land on which it sits, it is as if an exquisite, fragrant bloom has blossomed in our minds. This is especially miraculous right now, as we are in the final stages of raising money to secure this land for perpetuity, which seems an enormous task, and yet one that must inevitably be fulfilled, so there is no hesitation. My prayer is that the Stupa's appearance will ensure the land is secure until time has ceased.
Claire, who works in nursery, had brought a beautiful pink hollyhock as a gift for Jetsunma's yard. I re-potted it and, with some petunias, it became the first offering. I look forward to cleaning the red Sedona dust from the Stupa and finding attractive rocks to garland the table. Although it is a temporary setting, it is a great privilege to be able to make these offerings on behalf of us all.
I sat tonight as dusk drew its cloak, eating my dinner on the stone bench next to the small fountain outside Jetsunma's back door. The Stupa, its whiteness rising out from the greying light, was directly in my line of vision. I feel such peace and joy that it is here, truly like finding a jewel in a tumble of rocks strewn by the rising confusion of life.
It is six years this week since I arrived in the USA and, more importantly, since I began living at Dakini Valley. The time frame is almost meaningless to me - I could say it has gone quickly, and yet days have seemed like time had no measure. So much has happened within and without - always, I pray, for the benefit of the world and all beings. I have known moments of such despair that only my breath connected me with the Truth of this spiritual Path; I have experienced great certainty and joy that all that is possible lies within my own heart. I have tasted terror through which I was not sure I would survive. I have lived alone and with others, anger and laughter. I have weathered the storms of the sky, and internal eruptions. I have tried to serve through happiness and its opposite, knowing that whatever I may feel, each and every step, taken with trust and resolve, is a gift to myself, and all creatures. My intention is not always true - I am fallible, for sure - but the possibility is never, ever lost; it is the guiding light, if I just turn my head, it is always there. The Stupa reminds me of this.
Although I may be physically present here, and you are not, the one things I know without any doubt, from that place which is not of cognition, but of recognition, is that this Valley is for you as much as me. I have been blessed with this opportunity, and am grateful beyond words, but I am just one thread in the fabric which clothes us all. This land is a place within time and space, just as I am, but it also reflects that which is indefinable. I know no-one who has walked this land that has not been moved. Yes, by its magnificence and beauty, the width of the sky, the sound of the stream, the compassionate activity we try our best to accomplish. But, in a way like the Stupa, these are just displays, the refraction of light through the crystal. What we truly respond to is the call of our heart, which is more audible here. This land is precious and potent, because it awakens us to something we may not yet recognise, yet which is more than the sum of anything we could imagine.
A few years ago, at Jetsunma's suggestion and during a solitary winter, I wrote a book about living here and practice. It became a powerful practice of contemplation in itself. I would like to offer a passage as a gift - to the Valley, to the Stupa, to all beings. And to you. In the end our breath - that which allows us to even be - is all we have offer. And if you feel inspired or touched in any way, please consider sharing this gift with me, by making a donation to help secure the land. The amount is not significant, it is the intention of honouring this place of peace, of compassion, of wisdom, dedicated on behalf of all beings, everywhere.
"In the first year I was here Jetsunma asked me to collect river stones to adorn her new deck. I would wheel the barrow down and search for the most interesting, exquisite ones I could find. Some I could pick up with one hand, others were so large and heavy it took all my strength to move them. It was a wonderful practice; each day Gypsy and I would go down to the creek and amble along, attentive to detail. It was summer and warm. I wanted always to find the best one, better than the days before. In a sense it was not difficult, because they all are jewels. I thought of the line in Ngondro reminding us of how precious this human life is; it says to meet with the path of Dharma, yet not practice, is “Like going to a continent full of precious jewels and returning empty handed.”
I have come to recognize Dakini Valley is such a continent, set amidst the sea of our confusion. There is a potency which is reflected in, but not limited to, its magnificence. It allows you to stand raw and exposed to every emotion and habit you carry within you. It will peel back your flesh in which you seek refuge, and open the wounds that have not yet healed. It soothes you and holds you in moments of torment. It bathes you with ointment of pure loving kindness. It offers you everything in your own heart, it is your own heart. It is every heart everywhere in all time, trembling and beating in one union of rhythm. It holds the potential of all you have longed for without ever knowing. It bids you welcome, awaken, its heart never closed."