It was hovering around 40 degrees outside, when I came in - soaked to the skin - from walking the rescue dogs. It was not a whole lot better inside; 48 in the kitchen, 52 in the main room. Drizzle has threaded the earth with the sky in a soft damp gauze since yesterday. The ground is soft, in places flowing with a rich brown stream. Surprisingly - or not, they are very resilient in nature - the dogs were sprightly. Only one, the thin shy Mimi, just arrived from Taiwan, stayed in her house, refusing a walk. I feel badly for them in the cold and wet. But mostly they played and barked and generally carried on much the same. Until after their meal, when silence descended, everyone curled in an igloo.
My hands were icy, feeding the dogs was a challenge, the spoon hard to grip in unresponsive fingers. Jeans, shoes and socks were degrees darker than when the day began, the colour re-defined by rain. Two waterproof jackets had kept the top half pretty dry, and i was not aware of the damp cold so much until I got home. Then I could not get changed, or carry in wood to light a fire, quickly enough.
But I was joyful. It had not rained heavily as we walked, Kamil and I and dogs together. Sliding a little in the mud, laughing.
I realised yesterday how fortunate I am. This remembrance eludes me most days. I want to stay in bed, or watch videos or fiddle on the computer. Its not like compassion for others runs through my veins; would I do this every single day if it was not laid out before me as a gift? I do not know. There is nowhere else in this word I want to be other than in this sacred Valley, but there is resistance to the tasks that living here involve.
Jetsunma has reminded us that compassionate activity is an expression of our spiritual path. There is no division between the aspiration and expression of our prayers, and the choice and commitment to lead a life of compassionate service to others. In fact, it would seem to me, that it is through the action of compassion that the intention of our prayers and practice will be realised. Wisdom and Compassion are the essence of awakened mind, we cannot know one in our hearts without recognising the other.
As I look out from the hill where we walk, the valley and mountains like a banquet before me, I realise that here is the source of accomplishment, the entire path. There is the magic and mystery, the potent sacredness of the land itself which has whispered to me, moment by moment, year by year since I first had the privilege to be here. I know this land is more than I can comprehend, it is a realm of pure potential. And now, through the kindness of the dogs we have saved from death, there is the opportunity to open my heart and embrace compassion, daily.
This is it, both sides of the coin, and only through the grace of my teacher, can I be here. Like it or not (and some days definitely not), it is a supreme blessing to have the path offered in this way.
But of course it is not just here, that is the delicious nature of the Vajrayana path. It is everywhere, where each and everyone of us finds ourselves. The entire path will always be available, in whatever setting or circumstance we live. It's about turning our hearts and minds to see it, know it, engage in it - prayer, devotion, compassion. There is never a moment, nor a place, when this possibility is not present.
I forget this mostly, my thoughts and emotions wear me down, distract me. I don't see clearly, even here, right in the midst of it. I'm not pretending to have any deep insights or recognition. Yet it is there, always, and sometimes if we glimpse inside our very own hearts we will know it.
As I write this, 6 dogs and one cat are curled on various beds and furniture in this humble cabin. Six dogs - one of whom is snoring. And that would be Lucky! Yes, for those of you who read this and who are her fans, Lucky moved in with us a week or so ago!! I had been worried for her hairless body as the days grew colder. She lived in our bunkhouse, but had become the only resident, so a fire would not be tended. I decided to bring her to the cabin where I stay.
It went brilliantly from day one, I could hardly believe how she slipped right in to the family with barely a murmur. I am proud of my 5 who accepted her so readily. The first night she stayed in the kitchen, but her reticence was over pretty quickly. Day 2 she claimed the small couch as her own, and now freely moves from dog bed to dog bed, and sometimes my own! She loves being in a pack. Mostly we walk together, but one day I left her behind. She howled loudly and mournfully the entire time we were away - it ricocheted through the whole valley; when we got back she was at the gate, wagging her tail wildly that we had returned.
Ostensibly it is a foster placement, but already i feel my reluctance at the thought of her leaving. A good friend of mine, on hearing this, said "Well, Lucky was always one of yours, don't you think?", and I think of the karma shared between her rescuer Ms Wu, who scraped this dying dog off the streets of Taiwan, Lucky herself, and me, that she should now lay curled up in a blanket on the couch by my side.
I promise photos. I don't have a camera, but will borrow one. I want you to share in the joy of Lucky's life. Proof that the chain of loving-kindness and compassion is free of geography, and ceaseless. We are the chain, both a link and its entirety. We just have to be willing to live it.