at Dakini Valley, Fall 07
Recent weeks have seen me elsewhere; i went to Maryland, where my teacher Jetsunma resides, and our main Temple is located. I had the wonderful good fortune to stay in a room at the Temple itself. The Prayer room there, resplendent with multiple altars, sacred images and magnificent crystals that must have lain in the earth for eons, is rich with the precious energy of prayer. Our prayer vigil for world peace has been unceasing for over 2 decades: for every minute of every day - the full 24 hours - someone has been engaged in prayer dedicated to the end of suffering. When I think of what my life looked like over 20 years ago - very, very different than now! - and all the gazillion things I have done in that time, it is grounding and inspiring to realise that for each and every moment I wandered here and there, someone was steadfastly in prayer to bring benefit. A constant stream of quiet kindness and devotion to still the troubling seas of our ever-changing world.
It was a turbulent time in some ways; a lot is going on in the world and therefore in my own world, as each reflects the other. Yet it was a refreshing time - not the retreat I had anticipated! - but deeply enriching and fulfilling. I was joyfully blessed to be present when Jetsunma taught. It was lovely to see my dharma brothers and sisters, and share time in both prayer and laughter. The landscape was new for me - the nakedness of winter; I had only been to MD in summer before. The starkness of bare trees against blue sky was wondrous. I spent many, many hours walking in our 65 acres of the Stupa and Peace park, following the winding trails though forest, from stupa to stupa. For these interludes I have 10 rescue dogs to thank: some of our rescue babies followed me to MD, arriving a week after me. So my retreat was more active than I had planned, but every footfall in the forest silence, every curve of the path, every view from the rises and descent to the waterways was a pause in the chaos of life. Some moments - like standing at the top of the wooden stairs leading from the yellow garden to the white late one afternoon - took my breath away; standing still, the distance between this instant and the next vanished and I was as naked as the trees, my breath became prayer, there was nothing but the vastness of display.
Over a month, of course, every emotion and reaction - high and low - was evident in my mind. But something precious emerged. A much deeper, profound awareness of my relationship with Jetsunma and the purity and power of our Palyul lineage clarified within. This year will see the tenth anniversary of that moment when my heart recognised Jetsunma with such potency that my entire life shifted, and I asked her to accept me as her student. In that decade I have received countless blessings from her - some overt, some not. Each and every one - each and every breath - has shaped my life and my world, not always without struggle, but never with regret. These last weeks re-defined, refined, clarified the intimacy and potency of her presence in my life, this world. It is both empowering and humbling, and the gift of my life for which I am grateful beyond measure.
Returning to Dakini Valley was a coming home in many ways; I am trying to live each day remembering that flame in my heart. The landscape here embraces me with such timelessness and quiet magnificence that my heart splits wide open. Every day joy spills out, and echoes across the hills. I owe this Valley much, because it has nurtured me and taught me for seven years now; may I re-pay the kindness with love and care for its every aspect, and for all the creatures to whom it offers refuge. We only have this one life to offer, nothing more, nothing less. May mine be a reflection of the compassion and wisdom that Jetsunma never ceases to display.