This weekend I was reminded of the transitory nature of life. What? Doesn’t sound like a normal conversation you hear in America? I know.
I started my journey by ferry through exquisite island scenery and landed just 40 minutes away from home on Orcas Island. There, I went on pilgrimage to my 5th year at Indralaya. This leads me to one of the most important DIY tenets: To deepen the sense of your own life, go on pilgrimage. I arrived confused by people and worn down by bureaucracy. I knew nothing about the speaker. I only knew it was a beautiful camp that I dearly loved, with a small cabin that would be mine alone to roam, and that the theme was “Awakening Kindness”. Right? That much would be enough. And did I mention the wonderful vegetarian food?
The speaker was Nawang Khechog, a Tibetan musician who now lives in Colorado, and who studied as a monk for 11 years, 7 of which were as a hermit. So, my theme is out of the box aging and becoming a Forest Dweller and his is that kindness, compassion and love are the “jewels of the universe”. I know that the measure of my life is more than the work I have performed, and I hope it is more than what my increasingly forgetful brain can hold. I am on task to grow my soul. That is what my purpose is now.
Nawang speaks gently, reminding us that everything changes; each cause and condition create the next change. He asks us to deepen our hearts in this wisdom so that we are not surprised and confused when it happens. Aging will happen. Translate “I am getting old” to “if I am lucky enough, I’ll be a graceful old man/woman.”
“We have come to be in the mandala of kindness,” Nawang says in a voice so quiet I had to still my own breath to hear. “We are gathered to nurture our heart.” The heart needs to be warm, you see. The warm-hearted are benefitted with being inspired, uplifted and rejuvenated.
On that first night, my thoughts about Forest Dwellers settled into a deeper understanding. We have to be wise and strong…and humble… to adopt love and kindness and compassion as our creed. The strength of the heart will keep us from being easily discouraged. Loving all species that share this planet is not naive. It is wise. We do not lose beauty, we transform it by becoming more loving and kind and compassionate on the inside. Then, as Nawang says, “our wrinkles become like the painting of a great artist”.
If you are like me, you might think this seems like such a long way away, to aspire to live in such a space. I can’t help but want it now (read American). But “spiritual progress takes time” Nawang said, and having said it, he rocked back and laughed. It is funny. Does it make sense to try to do this crazy thing in a world of competition and one-upmanship? Answer that by looking at our world. Which one is crazy?
I will explore this further in the next few entries.