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."