Monday, November 22, 2010


A few years ago an online community forum I participated in had occasional posts called "randoms" in which people asked and responded to a set of random questions.
This post will be a series of random updates because I have no one particular topic I want to expound upon, yet I feel there is much to be shared.

*Regarding daily schedule: First, let me say, all things considered, life is good. I have not been sick this trip beyond a few minor inconveniences. Despite some discouraging events early on, nothing bad has happened. 
Life has taken on somewhat of a routine. I get up between 6-8am most days, enjoy a nice hot shower, dress and have tea and sometimes breakfast on the patio or (more recently, since a room change) on my private balcony, overlooking the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas. Usually I leave the room by 9:30 and go either up into town to buy fruit or down and around the kora with a stream of local Tibetan exiles. By 10 at the latest I am usually seated in One Two Cafe having sweet milk tea and checking emails and facebook. By noon I have usually moved to another local restaurant which tends to have faster more reliable internet where I can actually upload pics and work on my online shops. I often have lunch there as well. Before 4pm I have usually finished and tend to drift around town depending on which friends have called or dropped by. Sometimes I go out for dinner, others I snack or cook back at my room. 3-5 days of the week, I tutor a Tibetan friend in conversational English from 6-7:30 or so, and we usually have a really good time. Most nights I am in bed by 9:30pm at the very latest.

*Regarding "Practice": I have gone through a series of views on daily Buddhist practice. I set up a shrine in my room and make offerings and do prostrations, albeit somewhat erratically. I may go to kora 3 times a week, depending on weather and energy level. I try to go to the temple at least 3 days a week, as well. I have started reading 2 more books on Tibetan Buddhism, but as is often the case with me, I read when the mood strikes, not daily. I've decided not to beat myself up over this because it just doesn't work for me. I try to do at least one mala of Om Mani Padme Hum daily and sometimes also Green Tara and Medicine Buddha, and on occasion other mantras such as Vajrapani, or Vajrasattva, creep in there. A few of my Tibetan friends have told me it's not what I do as ritual but what actions I do that make the difference.

*Regarding weather: So far it has been mostly pleasant weather. Daytime highs are still in the low 60s Fahrenheit with overnight lows dipping to the low 50s. I haven't bought my heater yet and am still only, usually, wearing a single layer of pajamas and socks! (last year in the depth of winter I was in double and even triple layers!). We had 2 days of showers with heavy rain during the pre-dawn hours, and on the 2nd day the snow level dipped below Triund, but other than that it has been mostly sunny.

*Regarding "curriculum": I am friends with a fellow American who speaks &/or understands 5 Tibetan dialects and who has been teaching me the alphabet and some very useful phrases. I would say my Tibetan language usage has increased two-fold since beginning to hang out w/her. Still, I frequently flounder trying to make simple conversation, and it can be very discouraging.

*Regarding Everyday Exile Project, my initiative to increase awareness of Tibetan exile issues and main reason for being here: Things have been erratic. At times I gather many new pieces of information and hold impromptu interviews, at others I feel very discouraged at the lack of local interest on the part of people I have spoken to, and the difficulty of making progress. Things here are done differently. Emails and phone calls often produce little if any interest or result. You literally have to plant yourself in front of someone to get something done. I have, admittedly, not made a huge effort to get down to the government offices, mainly because I am not sure exactly what I want to say. My questions are diverse and rather unfocused. I need a lot of information on a wide range of topics and have no idea where to begin. Even finding out which person I need to contact has been complicated.

Those are the main things I wanted to cover for the moment. I feel things evolving, but am not sure I can clearly describe how. The best I can say is "stay tuned" for updates! I will try not to be so inconsistent in the weeks ahead!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Was Asked to Describe India...

For those who asked, a bit of descriptive prose about my India experience, round two.

For anyone who has never been here, the best way I can describe India is “in your face”. It is radically different from western life in so many ways. Sights, sounds, and smells come at you full force, non-stop. By the time your mind has processed whatever oddity you have just seen, something else is zooming nearer.
A rikshaw carrying 16 people.
A Hindu temple lit with neon lights.
Chai wallas and roadside vendors of every imaginable variety.
A drunk falling down crossing six lanes of traffic, being helped to safety, and immediately getting up to do it again.
Donkey carts and horses jostling with motorbikes, taxis and vividly decorated long haul trucks.
A dead rat belly up in the middle of the sidewalk.
Cows sleeping on the edges of a busy highway.
Rubbish of all types strewn on the ground.
Electrical wiring hanging in knotted bundles on the outside of buildings.
Women in dirty ragged saris carrying babies beating on your car window at every stop.

India is a place you will either hate because of its unkempt nature, or a place you will learn to love because life thrives despite that nature. Some of my Indian friends have called it “organized chaos”. I don't know about “organized”, but there is a sort of system, once you come to recognize it.

There is a beauty here that defies explanation.

India is ALIVE with music, prayer, joking, arguing, singing and dancing.
It took me more than 3 and a half months on my first visit to come to terms with the experience. By the time I left, a month after that, I had come to think of it as home.

Yes, I still find it difficult and exhausting more often than not. Many things still make me sad and angry, but nothing shocks me, anymore. I have come to expect the unexpected and to not judge what is.

So here I am on my second extended stay. I successfully navigated Mumbai and Delhi's Tibetan colony and am now back in my heart's home on a ridge of the Himalayan foothills, where the first snow of the season fell just two days ago above town and gleamed like a white beacon in the moonlight as the bus wound its way up the tight switchbacks in the wee hours of morning.

Daylight arrives, first bathing Moonpeak in golden light, then pouring into the valleys. Birds are screaming, dogs are barking, the sounds of people cooking and starting their day are all around.

Soon I will make a walk around town to see what has changed, what's the same, whether I encounter any familiar faces.

It is so good to be home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Feels Like it's Been Years

I arrived back in India not quite 36 hours ago. I'd only been gone seven and a half months, but it felt like it's been years. In many ways, it felt like coming home, like my life has been on hold for this.

Oh yes, there are still things that boggle my mind about the place. I can barely make my most basic needs known in Hindi. I haven't a clue about the rituals and meanings of Hindu festivals. I still shake my head at the vast differences between life here and in the States (and probably always will).

Jet lag does not seem to be as severe this time. The worst of it so far has been sleeping several hours in the afternoon, a headache in mid-evening, and waking this morning at 2:30am without being able to go back to sleep. Compared to my constant aches and nausea of my first week in country last year, I'm feeling fabulous.

Although I am not terrified of the strangers and strangeness of much of Mumbai this time, I still have no real desire to wander around the city. My budget is extremely limited. There are internet contacts I've made here who I'd love to visit, but even getting to their side of town from where I stay would cost more than my weekly budget allows.
My greatest plan is to return to Leopold Cafe, possibly tomorrow, and hopefully meet a friend from McleodGanj there who is now studying in Mumbai.
My time in Mumbai allows me to regain a feel for things and let my body adjust to being on the other side of the world.

I head for Delhi 5 days from now, staying in Majnu ka Tila Tibetan colony for a few days. It will be an entirely new experience.
After that, I'll catch the overnight bus to my Himalayan home of McleodGanj. Things will be very different, this time. I have a new project, a new mission, a totally new agenda. I come armed with a lot more knowledge.
I look forward to learning so much more about the culture, languages, history and way of life of the region.
It will be interesting to see how things unfold this time, and where the journey takes me.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Moving Ahead with India Plans

My visa was approved and I am moving ahead with plans for my return to India.
I plan to arrive in Mumbai on 14 October to visit my friend, recover from jet lag, and remind myself that, well, I'm truly back in India.
There are so many differences, both subtle and direct, and it will require shifting mental and emotional gears.
It doesn't happen over night.

I plan to spend about a week there before flying to Delhi. Last visit I did not spend any time in the city. This go round I'm thinking I'll spend a few days in Majnu ka Tila, the Delhi Tibetan colony. Something different. A more in depth view of exile life in India. Hoping it will lead to new contacts, new knowledge, eventually new material.

I aim to catch the bus from MT up to McleodGanj  at the start of the following week.

In all honesty, I can no longer remember what it was like, there. The feeling has left me. I am both eager and excited, but I am also nervous. I cannot really pick up where I left off. I will have different priorities, this trip. When I arrived last autumn, I was not looking for the specific things I am this trip.
This time, my goal is to find a Tibetan language tutor, and also someone who can guide me on the Buddhist path. Yes, I will still teach English conversation, but not at the same place...maybe only as a private tutor.

Mainly, I am looking for more details on the situation of Tibet in exile. I want to get a better feel for the views of the community regarding the future.

And, of course, I am hoping to further explore the interpersonal relationships which developed and meant so much to me.

One way or another, this trip will determine the course of the rest of my life.

After India, next spring I intend to spend 2-3 months in Nepal. Beyond that, nothing "concrete"...I would love to spend some time in Ladakh, maybe more time in MT, maybe back to Mclo...maybe something as yet unforeseen.

Over the coming week I'll be putting more effort into organizing what still remains to be done on the Everyday Exile project, which is still very much in planning stage.

To be honest, with less than 5 weeks til planned departure, I realize slowly slowly how much remains to be done. I've been in a holding pattern regarding planning, organizing, pre-trip shopping, and of course packing.
I really need to sit and breathe and figure out exactly what still needs to be done.
And then start doing.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Planning for India

Plans are progressing, although at the moment I feel more like I am just in a holding pattern.
I completed and mailed my India visa application yesterday. Barring complications, which I do not expect (but as a worrier...I am also worried they may arise), I should have the visa back by the end of next week.
When it arrives, we will buy my tickets.
I am planning to depart on 13 October and arrive in Mumbai the evening of the 14th.
I know all too well from last year that it will take as long as five days to recover from jet lag, so I plan to stay in Mumbai til at least the 21st, maybe as long as the 24th.
I've made some new contacts from Mumbai on twitter, so am hoping to meet them when I get in town.
I've begun preliminary planning for the trip to Delhi and on to HP.
I've also started with pre-travel shopping as there were so many miscellaneous things I could not find on my first trip that I really wished I'd had access to, such as Ziplocs, garbage bags, and anti-histamines.
I recall thinking it strange how easy it was to find some things and not others which seemed more everyday practical to me.
But then, nothing about India can be anticipated, except that something unexpected will surely happen!

I found my main notebook from the last leg of my first visit and was browsing through it last night. It also contains all my notes from when I first began studying Buddhism. A timely find. I've been so in need of resuming practice, and could not get my head around it. Now I can see how I did it the first time and get back on the path.

If all goes according to "plan", in less than seven weeks I''ll be on India round two! Cannot wait to see what happens this time, to visit all my friends, to explore new places and aspects...

Follow me.......

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Everyday Exile Book Project

Just a quick update:
After a successful fundraiser on Kickstarter, I am moving forward with the Everyday Exile Book Project.
Please follow the link above to learn more.

My projected return to India will be mid-October 2010 and I intend to stay through early April 2011.

Watch for updates at the info page (link above).
My online access is limited for the next several weeks due to other commitments as well as need to go to public free wifi locations when I do have free time.

Thanks for sticking with me.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Resuming my Practice...

Today is an Auspicious Day. It is the 75th birthday of HH Dalai Lama. Long Life, Your Holiness!

After my last post, I had a pretty much total breakdown. I fell away from my practice mantras, no prostrations, only occasional water bowl offerings, no daily reminders to myself of the Four Noble Truths or Precepts or Eightfold Path.
I was also unable to get online to listen to my "daily Buddhist playlist" which had previously had a very calming effect on me.

In part this "breakdown"was due to living with a non-Buddhist roommate...but more so because she worked a different schedule than me and I allowed my insecurities about practising publically to stop me.
It also was related to a lot of stress from the workplace...When I was only dealing with a few negative people, I could talk myself into coping. But as more and more people came into my daily life and more of them became increasingly directly negative towards me, I lost it.
Being directly attacked triggers a terrible fight or fllight mechanism in me.
I cry when people fling harsh untrue words about me in my face.
I freak out when co-workers who break rules & lie & do very little at work get away with their antics and a good employee like myself is ostracized.
Not to mention all the daily negative energy of conservative hypo-Christians talking about the glory of killing innocent (insert any non-Christian religion here) in the name of "god"... Of being surrounded by people who glorify hunting for sport...and many other issues.
One on one, in small doses, I could actually look them in the eye and mentally say Om Mani Padme Hum...
But as their numbers increased and they banded together and I was dealing with several of them day in and day out, something in me broke.

I left South Dakota on 30 June, suddenly, without much planning. It had all ust become unbearable.
I have been spending most of my time since then online, alone (in the company of several very good cats).
I wasn't even able to think clearly about what I was "supposed" to be doing in my daily practice.

My shrine is all still packed away. I have not unpacked, because I will only be here another 8 days.
It was late last night, or maybe this morning, between bouts of sleep, when I began feeling like I could think about resuming any kind of daily practice.

For now, I am going to be very easy on myself.
I will listen to and chant a few mantras.
I will re-read the precepts.
I will do my best to develope a kind mindset. I always try to be kind and helpful and generous.
That is why I never understand when I am attacked for doing exactly that, for being a good person.
It is HARD to persevere when doing all the right things gets you into more trouble than being "bad".

My return to India is back in my sights...hopefully then, I will feel the joy that inspired me to take all this on in the first place.

Om tare tuttare ture soha.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

It IS Called Practice, After All

Due to lack of internet connectivity in my current living situation, it has been almost a full month since my last update. I have thought often about what I would write when this time came around, but am still unclear where I want this post to go.

Lately I have been reminding myself often, maybe even several times a day, that I have only been practicing Buddhism since mid-March. That prior to returning from India, I had no idea what the Four Noble Tryuths or Eightfold Path even were, let alone trying to internalize them and live them daily.

Since moving and starting this new job, I have had a variety successes and failures "using" the Buddhist path. I feel like I fail at least as often as I succeed.
Well, after all it IS called "practice".
How can I possibly expect myself to be perfect, especially after such a short time?

My main issues the past few weeks have been threefold:
1) living in a dorm w/150 people aged 18-85 from about 7 different (and diverse) countries
2) working day in day out w/those people in an atmosphere of "catty" gossip
3) my terrible chemical (probably hormonal) imbalances which sometimes ruin up to 14 days of each month

These three points have caused me to lose my mind in anger and frustration numerous times, recently. I have participated in gossiping, have had way too many malicious thoughts (never the intent of causing physical harm, but wishing bad things at others who hurt me), have shouted in anger, etc.
But I think I have hurt myself more than anyone else. And I genuinely feel bad about all of it.
It is just such an ingrained pattern, such a knee-jerk reaction. Especially the PMS-induced parts!
I have been doing a lot of practices aimed at purifying negative karma.

Just the past day or so, I have been able to calm my mind enough to think clearly about it for the first time in a few weeks.
I have gone back to simply saying the mantra which got me through most of my experience in India:
"It is what it is. It just IS. Accept. Allow. Let go. Breathe."
In this case, it sometimes goes like "____(person) is a (insert suitable negative term)" or "gossip just is a reality at work"... I don't like it. I am not required to like it. But I also need to remember, IN THAT MOMENT, there is nothing else, that I cannot change it by wishing or being angry.

I have been able to feel like a human being again.
Of course, the PMS portion of the show is over again for about the next 14 we shall see how mcuh progress has actually been made once 17 June or so rolls around.

I am currently reading a variety of online articles by various Tibetan Buddhist teachers including HH the 14th Dalai Lama regarding how to deal with negative emotions and developing compassion.
At times I feel like I have achieved the mind of bodhicitta...even if it only lasts for a few minutes.

Of course, there's a whole new story! More often than not, when I say I truly wish happiness and peace for ALL beings, it means that I wish them all to learn and practice Buddhism so that there are no more conflicts for me to cope with!
Ego alert!
I am pretty sure this signifies a character flaw in myself, the wish for a better experience in my current life within samsara...
Karma is confusing to me. The idea that my current bad experiences are the result of negative karma created in the past, possibly even numerous lifetimes ago. It doesn't seem quite right.

And as I plow through all this confusion, I am determined to persevere. There have been moments when I at least felt like I absolutely "got it" and really aspired to become a bodhisattva, so I know that somewhere within me the potential remains, and that I must continue the journey...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Doing the Work

These days I am offered plenty of opportunities to PRACTICE and do the work of living as a Buddhist. I have relocated to a new part of the country, started a new job, and am living in dorm-style company housing with a lot of new people.
I learn something new everyday. Often I quickly forget whatever I have learned and find myself relearning it the next day, over and over.
Mostly, I am working with the precepts. The Three Pure Precepts...The Five Layperson's Precepts...The Ten Mahayana Precepts.  The book featured below is the one I am currently reading.
For me, on a minute by minute basis, the most difficult precept is Right Speech. Right speech means a lot of things. It means that the practitioner should try not to lie, try not to gossip, and try not to engage in idle conversation. This can also be phrased in a positive light...that we try to be honest and to say things which are helpful and useful.

Other aspects of this precept are that we should try not to speak of others' faults and mistakes. We should avoid blaming others. And we should avoid praising ourselves.
I never realized how difficult all these things were until I tried to get through a work day following the guidelines!
The guidelines are only that...guidelines. They are meant to help us create a world where beings can coexist peacefully. The precepts can be practiced by anyone of any religion.
The idea is to focus on our samenesses, not our differences.
Being kind, gentle, honest, helpful etc are all ways we can create an atmosphere of loving-kindness in our immediate environment.
Sometimes it is hard when the urge is to join a conversation and say things that make you "fit in" as part of the group, or to commiserate about a bad experience, or to lash out at someone whose negativity has disrupted the work place, and so forth.

Some things I am doing which may help others who are looking for ways to practice the precepts or simply to have a better daily experience (or which may prompt you to find your own methods):
*Whenever someone bugs me, I try to focus on his positive qualities. Granted, these are sometimes difficult to see, especially in the heat  of the moment. But perhaps it is enough to say to yourself...this person is doing the best they can, perhaps they have never been taught another way of being/doing.
*I remind myself that everyone wants the same basic things...peace, happiness, food, shelter, love. We really do have more in common than not, regardless of religious beliefs or political ideologies.
*I remind myself that the goal is to create harmony, not to be right or to "win".
*I remind myself that I do not wish to do harm or add harm to a difficult situation.

Every day, I do not meet my own expectations. Sometimes (ok, often) I fail at the above. That is okay. The point is that we earnestly TRY. Every new moment is a new opportunity to do better.

I truly want to do whatever I can to make this world a better place for all beings, and so I will continue to work with the precepts!
I pray that my words may reach and inspire others to focus on making this world a better place for everyone!
I wish YOU peace and happiness!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Letter to the White House

I am notoriously not well informed in the area of politics, and usually this doesn't bother me too much. Sometimes, though, it makes me feel like a simpleton.
But even the least of us has a right to express our opinion to our government, and so, with that in mind, I composed and sent this short letter to President Obama/The White House staff today:

"Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to you on behalf of myself, as well as my friends and former students, members of the Tibetan exile communities and their families who remain in Tibet.

In the wake of the recent earthquake in Kham, Tibet, we would like to request you, personally, and the United States government as a whole, to do whatever is in your power to address the situation regarding HH the Dalai Lama's wish to return to his homeland with the Chinese government.

This is a humanitarian issue. It pains me to know it is also a political one.

I appreciate your attention on this matter.
Thank you.

Ms. Tammy Winand"

To all my readers
Feel free to share this link everywhere and anywhere and to add your own voices, no matter how small you feel they are!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Important Links Following TIBET Earthquake

I feel very small and helpless these days in the wake of the Kham TIBET earthquake. I feel like I should be doing more to help, but in my own situation, all I can do is offer prayers and keep as many people as possible informed of what's happening by passing along relevant links.

Once again, my friend at Zen Dirt Zen Dust has compiled information on places offering assistance to earthquake victims. You can see his list here:
How to Aid Victims of the Tibetan Earthquake

I am trying to post links to all stories of merit on my twitter and facebook accounts.
The most important ones today are:
Dalai Lama seeks China's Permission to Visit Earthquake Victims
Message from HH Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje to Quake Victims in both Tibetan and English
Newsweek Article on Quake's Coverage in China
To Die With Dignity in Your Own Land an amazing piece on Huffington Post regarding the quake and its aftermath.

Updated to add:
Images of Quake Aftermath Some of the most moving, detailed images I've come across regarding this incident.

Meanwhile, life must go on. I am in the midst of packing, wrapping up my time "off", and will be moving cross-country yet again this coming Tuesday for the seasonal job which will hopefully cover most of my expenses for my next trip (currently slated for early September) to volunteer with the Tibetan exile community in McleodGanj, where my heart lies.

I plan to post a new entry regarding my travels along the Buddhist path once I am settled in my new "home".

As always, my thoughts and prayers are with the Tibetans and all those working on their behalf.
May all beings be happy and at peace.

The following video is from Al Jazeera English language. The monks' names have been Sinocized, but it offers a view of what is going on in Kham.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Major Earthquake in Kham, Tibet

Please hold the people of Tibet and their families, no matter where they are, in your hearts and prayers at this time.
A 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Jiegu, Kyigudo (Yushu Co. or Prefecture in Chinese) in Kham Province Wednesday morning local time in Tibet.
At this time, official sources are saying there are 400 dead and 10,000 injured but unofficial local sources are saying numbers are much higher.
It is notoriously difficult to get accurate information out of Tibetan areas from Chinese state controlled media.

I wanted to offer a list of links for info for those who are interested or who need it. Here are the latest articles on major news sources and relevant agencies for Tibetans. (the color may not change but these ARE links)
CNN coverage
BBC coverage
Times of India newspaper coverage
Office of HH Dalai Lama
Zen Dirt Zen Dust blog compilation of articles
Tibet Net Official Website of Tibet's Govt in Exile

For those who have asked, all my friends live in exile in north India and were not directly affected, thankfully. However, I do have many acquaintances from Kham, and am not in touch with them to know whether their families were affected, so of course we hold ALL of Tibet and all Tibetans throughout the world in our thoughts, hearts, and prayers.


Friday, April 9, 2010

53 Days and Counting

Just a brief reminder that my fundraiser to return to teach English to Tibetan exiles in north India ends in 53 days and I still have $3762 to raise to reach my goal.

I have added new backer reward incentives.

If I do not top the $4000 goal NONE of the pledge money will be awarded!
Thank you so much for your help.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bodhicitta and Beyond

This is going to be one of my most difficult posts write, at any rate.
[note: this post is intended mostly for my non-Buddhist readers who wonder what exactly is going on with me right now, and who are not familiar with what Buddhism teaches. I am not intending to "convert" anyone, just shed some light.]

Most of you know I haven't been a Buddhist that long, technically speaking. In fact, I am a newcomer to it since my recent exposure to Tibetan culture, and as per my previous post am only just beginning an actual study and practice of Buddhism.
However, even before taking refuge I already had Buddhist tendencies/leanings, I guess you could say.

The things which bother me (and have since my teens) most about Christianity (my own upbringing) are:
1) Lack of accountability for your own actions (it never ceased to amaze me that many who claim to be Christians really believe you can sin and simply say a prayer,likely half-hearted, and that makes whatever you did ok- at least in your own mind). Buddhists seem to me to tend to examine karma more least serious ones who are truly interested in a higher rebirth. I am actually more likely to behave properly, morally, as a Buddhist than I ever did when I was a Christian.

2) Seeing so many Christians NOT follow the teachings of Christ (which I guess ties in with the above). I hated listening to talk of converting heathens. I hated seeing politicians use Christian doctrine. I hated knowing that over the past 2000 odd years that more people have been slaughtered in the name of Christ than I care to think about. I saw that the church was not Christ and was shocked that no one else in my otherwise fairly intelligent immediate circle seemed to catch on to that, too. I lost friends when I tried to explain to them that Islam also teaches non-violence and that there are as many Christian radicals as Muslim terrorists.

Then I read today's post at Sweep the Dust, Push the Dirt, a blog by a Zen Buddhist online acquaintance, which actually prompted me to write this post.

So, as it IS related (ie the above complaints would be less of an issue provided everyone knew about the items below), I wanted to talk about bodhicitta...metta...and beyond. I honestly believe everyone can, and should, follow these guidelines, because the teachings are not at all limited to Buddhism (well, except bodhicitta).

Bodhicitta: the wish to attain enlightenment so as to reincarnate repeatedly to help all other sentient beings attain enlightenment.  (hey look! a wiki on How to Cultivate Bodhicitta!)
Of course I cannot claim to have total bodhicitta motivation. I'm not sure anyone can. We are not perfect. Every now and again ( we think of our own needs, our own comforts, in this life.
But I DO strongly wish for peace, and for permanent world peace to happen, all sentient beings must become enlightened.
So I endeavor to remind myself repeatedly and to practice...

Metta: loving-kindness...a pure selfless compassion for all other beings as based on the notion that, via eons of reincarnations, all other beings have at one time been our mothers (some say think "mothers, friends, lovers"). Meaning, we act kindly towards anything living (even insects) because we know we are intimately connected. Everything has its place and purpose. Harming any other beings is harmful to ourselves, to humankind as a whole, and to the planet.

Metta also involves Right Speech and Right Action, which fall under the Buddhist Precepts (or moral code of conduct, if you will).
Right Speech means that we are honest. We do not lie. But it goes far beyond that. It also means that we do not speak out of anger or with the intent of hurting any other living being. We do not gossip or talk about anyone behind his back. And we avoid "idle talk" about useless topics (and yes, these are really hard to follow, because if taken literally it would mean we pretty much shouldn't say anything at all...which is a recommended part of it, according to Buddha Sakyamuni).
Right Action means we do not intentionally kill (another person, animal, or insect). We do not intentionally cause injury or suffering to any other sentient being. We do not steal...interpreted as meaning never to take anything not freely given to you. We avoid sexual misconduct (and this is open to a wide range of interpretations which I won't go into in detail) mostly meaning not to cause any harm by our sexual deeds (ie no rape, no extramarital affairs, no sex with minors, no suggestive behavior w/monks or get the idea)

There are many places on the web to read much more about these concepts. I started with About Buddhism and followed links until I was satisfied!

I am really far from perfect. I eat meat. I have to try really REALLY hard not to kill ant colonies in my matter how hard I try, I can't envision them as my mother and do not feel loving-kindness for them! I get upset when I am attacked...but fortunately I am increasingly less likely to respond out of anger these days!
I hope I don't come across as preachy.
I have to remind myself through my own words on the subject that I need to think about these topics and try harder every day!

Wanna learn more about Bodhicitta?! (see left)

I also highly recommend reading any and all works by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Stuck at the Beginning

I have been feeling "stuck", the past few days.
After my recent life-changing travels through India, most of which I spent volunteering in the Tibetan exile community of McleodGanj, I came back to the USA feeling grateful for a chance to rest and recoup.
Almost immediately, I began reading everything I could get my hands on regarding beginning practice in Tibetan Buddhism.

Let me back track a wee bit:
Living in McleodGanj (aka Dharamsala, exile home of the Dalai Lama) was a daily immersion in Tibetan Buddhism, and yet I never "studied" or read anything while there. I floated around in various stages of "enlightenment", carried by the incredible vibes swirling around the Himalayan foothills...Chanting emanated from monasteries as I walked Kora and spun prayer wheels and learned how to use my mala and do my own mantras.
I sat, on different occasions, within a few yards of HH the 14th Dalai Lama, swept away by unseen unheard waves of energy.
I had amazing insights and grew, spiritually, in leaps and bounds.
Leaving the Tibetan community was heart-breaking, and I have vowed to get back ASAP to do whatever I can for them, as well as continue my own journey.

When I arrived back in America, after nearly 5 days recovering from jet-lag, I began ordering Tibetan Buddhism books, book-marking every Buddhist website I could find. 
At first it was more like intellectual learning, trying to get my head around what I had just experienced.
I wanted to know what all those red-robed monks knew that made them radiate pure light from their glowing faces.
I learned the Four Noble Truths, read and re-read the Eightfold Path, memorized The Three Pure Precepts and the Five Precepts... I read articles and essays on "metta", and pondered whether true "bodhicitta" is possible.

I froze, however, at the idea of "meditation". I am notoriously scatter-brained, have been called ADHD.
Mindfulness? On rare occasion.
Oh I SIT plenty.
I sit on my rear-end and my mind goes all over the universe.
Letting go of attachments? Ummmm...not so much. In fact, I happen to quite like my sentimental nature. I've been known to wallow in memories and longings. It has driven most of my creative work for the past 30 years.

Last night, as I was reading, I simply hit a wall. I could not grasp a single concept. Mind, no mind...self, no self...
I just kept thinking, "WTF?" Seriously.
And maybe that's the point. Maybe an intellectual study of all of this is not important. Maybe, at least for now, it's okay to simply follow the precepts as best as I can.

My own phrasing of what I learned in McleodGanj, written at the top of several journal pages:
It is what it is. It just is. Accept. Allow. Let go. Repeat.

I giggle to myself as I realize my own impatience for progress.
How can I measure "progress"? I have been practicing for less than 3 weeks, "officially". The fact that I am looking for progress may indicate a lack thereof!

The only progress I am sure of is that I am more likely to consider the karmic weight of thoughts before they turn into actions, whereas before I tended to act out of passion and think after doing so.
And that is pretty amazing in itself, really.

Yes, I am hungry to continue on the path.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Path Evolves

It has been eleven days and a lifetime since I returned to the USA. Life is good. I finally readjusted to a normal sleep cycle and am eating fairly healthy again after battling extreme fatigue and some kind of mild illness the first several days I was back.
And so now life goes on. Is going on.

What is the next step? That's something I ask myself fairly regularly, sometimes several times a day.

I have begun a study, and practice, of Buddhism. It started as a way to understand more of what I saw in McleodGanj. What did certain things represent? What did it MEAN? Why did they do THAT?
I learned the major differences between Tibetan Buddhism (meaning Vajrayana) and other paths/schools.

And then I began again from the beginning. What IS Buddhism? What are the basic beliefs, and how should a Buddhist act? Buddhism is mind-boggling, at once the most simple of paths, and yet the most complex, especially for a westerner whose only previous concepts of spirituality and behavior were based on Christianity.
I am at once passionate about and deeply perplexed by Buddhism. And yet it feels right to me, if only because it was the framework amidst which I had this life-changing experience. If only because it teaches exactly the lessons I most need to learn, about loving and letting go, about kindness and compassion...

So I endeavor to read about it everyday from a research perspective, learning terms, as well as reading from the teachings of Buddha. Yesterday I slowly slowly started The Dhammapada. I laughing tweeted that I wish there was a plain English Dhammapada for Dummies, as I have never been good at finding the "right" meaning in ancient or translated texts. Usually what I think they mean and what the scholars tell me they mean are radically different. Sigh.
But then, isn't that part of this whole experience?
Buddhism is not cast in stone. As I understand it, each student/practitioner applies the teachings to his own experience, although the ultimate goal of becoming a boddhisatva (at least in the Mahayana schools) remains constant.

Simply put, to me, Buddhism means: being in the moment (which I have ALWAYS struggled with and no doubt will continue to resist) and being kind to all other living beings. It means recognizing that I am a potential Buddha and you are a potential Buddha and (to be a little silly) even that Republicans and criminals are potential Buddhas!
I have so many questions and hope they never stop! I want to devote the rest of my life to this. And so the intellectual study also becomes practice.

While I confess, I have issues with the term "meditation", and have never "sat" as Zen Buddhists do, I am learning that to some extent even chanting Om Mani Padme Hum or using my hand held prayer wheel
 is a form of meditation.
I have, if only to myself, taken refuge.

Every day I learn something more about Buddhism, about myself, about life.
And so the path evolves.

As the book recommended here says, we are a long way from Tibet, a long way from the Tibetan community in India. But that is okay. I had to leave them to learn certain lessons and accomplish certain things. I do feel we will be together again soon, if it is meant to be, if it is our karma.

On that note, I would like to insert a quick project update for my fundraiser, "Teaching English, Learning Life with Tibetan Refugees"
To date I have received $187 in pledges towards returning to McleodGanj in mid-September to continue my volunteer work and studies. That leaves 74 days to reach the ultimate goal of $4000 USD, which will cover all my expenses including airfare to/from north India.
Please understand, while in the USA, I am technically homeless. I have worked seasonal jobs for the past several years. These jobs provide housing as well as meals, which are both deducted from pay. This does not leave a lot left over. I have been unable to find stable full-time employment outside these seasonal jobs.
Now that my volunteer work with the Tibetans has become so important to me, I need YOUR help to make it happen! 
Even if you can only pledge $1, that dollar helps. Your money will be working for good in this world!
Thank you.

One last note: I've been somewhat sad that there are no Tibetan Buddhist centers where I'm currently staying, and only two centers at all, that I can find. I miss being in the sangha I found in McleodGanj and really wanted that sense of community, of fellow Buddhists/seekers here in the US.
Well, we had lunch at a Thai restaurant yesterday. I felt an immediate connection with the hostess/waitress. We talked a little before she brought our food. As I was getting ready to leave, I knew I had to show my gratitude and respect with the lotus-bud gesture/mini-bow (I have not learned the term for this) which acknowledges the Buddha-within. When I did it, her face lit up with joy and astonishment. She burst out with a few sentences in Thai which unfortunately I did not understand, and she seemed to be telling her Thai friend/co-worker what I had done.
I felt like crying, not from sorrow but from joy. Clearly, I am not alone. The sangha is not limited to McleodGanj, nor to Tibetans. Nor even to Asians, or to face-to-face. As the days progress, I look forward to meeting other travelers on this path, whether face-to-face or online, regardless of age or race or language.

Life is good, and everything IS as it should be.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Am SO Blessed

I am shouting a big THANK YOU to the universe because I know that I am so truly deeply blessed. 
First, because I got to HAVE the experience I just had in India working with Tibetan refugees. 
Second, because it has inspired me and motivated me to work on creative pursuits like nothing I can remember in my life.
And, third, last but not least, because the experience, and talking about it, and knowing I need to get back to do it again, has connected me with the most amazing, kind, generous people all around the world who are concerned about the issue of Tibet and Tibetans and are helping me in so many ways as I endeavor to raise funds to return to McleodGanj no later than October of this year (hopefully sooner).
So, thank you universe, and thank you beautiful souls!

With the help of angel Deb Lauman (aka ramkitten), whom I have known on twitter, Squidoo, and in person (not all at the same time!), I discovered a website called Kickstarter which helps people fund projects of all kinds. (Deb is currently funding a project which takes her to Nepal to work with Search & Rescue Dogs in the Himalayas.)
I quickly joined the site and created my project, titled "Teaching English, Learning Life with Tibetan Refugees".
In less than 24 hrs I have received $135 in pledges towards my $4000 goal! YES!
However, the "catch" with Kickstarter is that you have to reach your total goal in order to receive ANY of the pledge money...which means I have 81 days remaining to raise the rest.
That means I need to raise, on average, $50/day until the project deadline (mid-June).

This morning I have been deeply honored to be featured by fellow artist, Zazzler, and online friend Cherie, which has featured my project on her blog, Cheries Arts & Crafts. She is a wonderfully talented artist herself, and has been more than kind and supportive of me in this (as well as other) endeavors.

Life is good, and I am glad to be in it. And THAT is amazing in itself.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Just the Beginning

Thirteen hours from now the 777 will depart from Mumbai and I will look down and watch India vanish as thought it had never been real.
Of course I am filled with strange mixed emotions. Mostly right now I am relieved. The past week in Mumbai has not been difficult. I am looking forward to trivial but comforting familiar things from my US home...a long bath, a nice steak, a stable fast internet connection so I can really do some work...the love of a few great calls to my mom and long hours ensconced in bookstore cafes!

Sometimes it feels like none of the past 5 months ever happened.
But I know they did...and not because I have photos or journals or souvenirs.

I know they happened because my soul was touched, my life was changed. I know it was real because I am not the same woman who arrived here at the end of October 2009.
I know because I am connected by invisible threads to so many other beautiful souls whose lights illuminate my darkness and shine out into the world. We will be forever connected, no matter where on the planet we may be.
Some may stay in touch through facebook or emails while others seem quietly hidden...but they will still be there, whether they write or call or not...and I will hold them inside my heart until we meet again, if that is indeed our karma.

My work is just beginning as I look for new and more ways to publicize and support the situation of Tibet and the Tibetan exiles whose lives touched mine. I am creating products for my online shops, the earnings from all of which are now ear-marked for my return trip. I will research fund-raising and holding talks and events to educate others...I am hoping to work with at least one teacher to help educate her 6th grade class.
I am also reaching out to local print & tv media in the areas where I'll be living in the hopes that I can get them interested in covering some aspect of the situation, even if not by directly interviewing me re: my experience as a volunteer.
There are many options and opportunities and I now know the universe is going to connect me to the people and events which I need, when the time is right.

I am thankful for all of this. For the pain, the confusion, the failures and the triumphs. Every new thing, every new lesson...All the difficulties of life in north India (squat toilets, "no lights" power outages, no heat, etc).
I would not trade the past 5 months for anything.

And I know in my bones that I will be back. This IS my life, McleodGanj IS my home, this is my passion and my calling.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me by reading this blog, by messaging me on my social networks, to all who comforted me in times of confusion and doubt.
Thank you to everyone who has purchased (or will purchase) products from my shops or will make a donation to support my return to continue my volunteer work.
You are precious.

And so while today marks the end of this trip to India, it is only the beginning.
The sacred sojourn which named this blog is by no means complete.
I will continue to post when related soul journey insights occur, and of course whenever there is news concerning my return to my heart's home.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Withdrawal...and a note on Validity (or something like that)

Five days have passed since I left Mcleod...but it feels like a lifetime.

And now I am starting to have "weird" physical symptoms. Weird to me, anyway, because I'm not sure what's going on.
It could be as simple as coming from the Himalayan foothills down to the coast in Mumbai (altitude change).
Or because all the food and water is different.
Or because the psychic energies which swirl around Mcleod are absent, here...
The symptoms? General achiness and malaise, and lately bad stomach pains.
 I don't feel like doing anything. I just want to sit or lie around. I am tired in my body and my soul.
I want to be on familiar ground with familiar routines and comforts. When I say familiar, I mean one of two things...the familiarity of my place in the US, or the familiarity of my place in Mcleod.
I am missing my friends, I am missing the comforts of seeing the same sights and hearing the same sounds and being welcome.

I also feel a bit over-whelmed at all the work I want to do over the coming months. I have websites to build regarding the issues which are most important to me. I have so much reading/research to do regarding Tibetan  Buddhism...more in depth study of the situation of the Tibetans, in general.

Just a note, for anyone who has been reading the heated comments left by "spirit" on my previous posts:
There is clearly a lot of controversy over the issue of the Tibetan exiles. I am not an expert on the legal or political situation. In fact, I freely admit that I did not get involved in those aspects at all.
My personal experience was learning life lessons from the most beautiful people I have ever met.
Yes, clearly there are those who are taking advantage of the system, abusing their privileges. But that happens everywhere. In the US, many families live "high off the hog" on welfare and do not really need it, while others who are desperately in need can barely get the necessary aide.
I know what is true for me, I know what is true for the people I worked with.
I am NOT responsible for those who are abusing the system, nor do I condone their behavior.
I DO know that there are many who need help, and not just of the financial sort. They deserve to receive an education, to be given the chance to find employment (there are so few opportunities for this is Mcleod).
They need to know that they are not forgotten, that their beautiful culture is valued and worth saving.
Not everyone can help every cause.
I know only what is important to ME.

I breathe in, I breathe out. I let it go. I will not try to convince those who cannot be convinced, nor will I argue  with those who are angry. They have their own causes, equally important, and I pray they will make a difference.

I will be back in the US on Wednesday.
The next phase of this journey is already forming, though I do not know where the road will take me or exactly when.
But this most sacred sojourn has only just begun.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mumbai...Integrating the Experince

I arrived back in Mumbai on the night of 2 March. Arriving at the airport, a phone call from my friend notified me he was not coming to the airport to meet me as expected.
I was disappointed, but not bent out of shape or terrified as I would have been had this happened 4 months ago.
So I collected my bags and decided to check out a pre-paid taxi.
300 rupees later, I clutched my receipt and navigated the queue out front without a lot of difficulty. It took what felt like forever to get out of the airport car park but at last we were whipping through the Mumbai night.

What struck me most as we rolled at a decent speed through the city was did not seem as strange or crazy or frightening as it all had when I landed at the airport the first time, arriving from the USA in late October 2009.
In fact, it seemed pretty average. I can't believe I just wrote that!
I kept track of location by reading bank branch signs... Had my friend called to ask, I wanted to say, in my twisted humor, "I'm at the corner of Amitab Baichan and Shah Rukh Khan" (two Bollywood megastars whose faces are EVERYWHERE on billboards as well as tv and film). HAHAHA
Shops and temples sailed by...
Then I saw the Breach Candy bank branch and knew we were getting close. As we veered off to the right, I suddenly actually recognized the neighborhood.
I was able to give the taxi driver exact directions from there...although it was more gesturing as my Hindi and his English were pretty much equal at...virtually none.

India India India.

Hard to explain the mindset I've been in ever since getting back. The apartment here is posh, in India terms. I took the longest hot shower I'd had since I could remember. I slept with a sheet under a ceiling fan instead of two blankets and a space heater. I ate Domino's pizza and drank white wine and laughed over how much I've changed.
I do not feel threatened by the curious stares, anymore. In fact, there don't even seem to BE any curious stares. Maybe I have just learned to look past them?
Today we went to the grocery...the same grocery which seemed dangerous and complicated during my first week here. It was...routine. Absolutely normal.
I have said it before and I will say it again.
My life will never be the same.

I have cried, but not a lot. Mainly when I get an email or a facebook chat or a phone call from someone in Mcleod. I miss them more than anything but I am somehow applying the lessons of acceptance and letting go that I learned there.
Life is good. Everything is as it should be.

I am focusing on life NOW. On working on projects both online and off which will help get me back to my heart's home in the Himalayas quickly.
My goal is to be back and teaching English conversation to the Tibetan refugees again before October...hopefully by late August.

Please check out the links below to see what I am working on:
Tibet in Exile
Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Wheels
Support for Tibet

As all my work in McleodGanj is self-funded and completely voluntary, I appreciate anyone who would like to make a donation to contact me for my PayPal information!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

State of Shock

Quite frankly, I have gone numb.
I am sitting in the Delhi Airport waiting for a flight back to Mumbai which is still nearly 6 hours from boarding.
I am exhausted.
The bus ride down from McleodGanj was not horrible, but I cannot say it was "comfortable", and I may have had 4 hours of intermittent light sleep (dozing is more accurate) while sitting partially erect, head occasionally flopping off to the left.

I do have to say, the full moon over the Himalayan foothills and the soft pink glow of the peaks made my heart swell. 
And the line of lights that is McleodGanj, strung out along the hillside as we descended towards Lower Dharamsala...even remembering it now brings on a feeling I cannot describe (and you know how I love to describe).

So the full moon sailed over India and the bus chanted mantras all the way to Chandigarh...gears exactly the same timbre as the low monks' chanting emanating from temples and monasteries... 

Two Bollywood films played at the beginning of the journey, and then we stopped for dinner. I ordered one stinkin NAAN (a simple tortilla like bread)...and of about 40 people present, I was served dead last, and almost missed my bus! 
I think this was the universe reminding me of the lessons I learned (started to learn, apparently) in McleodGanj.
Either that, or it was "farewell Dhasa (Little Tibet)" and welcome back to India.
Back on the road, "Law Abiding Citizen" was popped in the DVD and played til after midnight.

There were then a few hours of quiet. On the plains, moonlight pierced a thin veil of smog, silhouetting tall leafless trees rising against a flat blue backdrop.

We stopped at a seedy Indian bus stand where the toilet watchman wasn't letting me get away with not paying the 2 rupee fee (I don't even think there is a US equivilent for 2 rupees, it's so low) I had to run back to the bus across the dirt through a crowd of leering Indian Well, perhaps an American woman wearing a salwar, a khata, and Tibetan Buddhist prayer beads running with toilet roll in her hand was simply too much for them to comprehend!

At 4am, like clockwork, the bus drivers decided it was morning and Hindi music pervaded the coach, along with groaning from numerous seats.
My seat-mate, 70 year old Australian adventurer Pammy, disembarked along with most of the Tibetan passengers at Manju ka Tilla (the Tibetan colony in Delhi). I stayed on with maybe 5 other passengers bound for ISBT.

ISBT...the thought of it made me shudder. My only other experience with it was arriving from Jaipur after dark way back in late November. I remembered a huge, bustling, crowded, incomprehensible terminal with no signs in English and no English speaking help.
This stop? We were unceremoniously put out on the side of the road amidst a swirl of auto-rickshaws, drivers virtually grabbing luggage from travelers, shouting "Rikshaw? Auto rikshaw? Hotel? Airport?" My attempts at speaking full English sentences with them failed...again. "Airport? Domestic? Ek sau pachas?!  (150)" 
Oh hahahaha madam.
Ok fine I'll pay you the freaking 300 rupees just get me out of here! Two young local girls piled in with me and my bags and we careened off into the Delhi sunrise.

I could not see much out the "window", especially covered as it was by a whipping tarp which reeked of urine. I remember seeing the Air Force base and, as we neared the airport, a huge expanse of what looked like really nice apartments...until I realized that the entire expanse was abandoned. Pink and golden light filtered over the scene, softly high-lighting empty windows and what were once streets now filling in with weeds and dust. A bit surreal. 

So now I sit in the waiting area of terminal 1D, having stuffed myself on KFC (yes, that's right, KFC) and black currant ice cream, having bought an Elle Decor India magazine which I'm saving for the flight...people watching, uploading pics, killing time...

And mostly fighting off feeling. I cannot allow myself to really think about the past 48 hours, yet. About all the beautiful, kind, loving souls who came with me to the bus station to send me off, even ones who were going through emotional trauma much greater than my own...
I am incredibly blessed.

I am loved. I belong. I have a home in the Himalayas, and people eagerly awaiting my return.

THAT is what I came to find, halfway around the world from where I started. I never dreamed I would find it in INDIA, in a Himalayan hillside community where many of the people can only speak to one another with their EYES for lack of words in one another's languages...and where EYES speak far louder and more clearly than words...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Observations, a February compilation

(the following is another compilation, this time culled from journal entires made between 12-24 February 2010)

The Tibetan cook at Moonpeak Thali is catching large black flies from inside the restaurant and releasing them out from the balcony. Kindness to all beings… Lovely. True spirit of McleodGanj.
I am shocked when the Indian guy who minds the host/cashier/desk, with whom I have been chatting amiably my past few visits, speaks to Tashi in Tibetan…and I chime in with a Tibetan comment of my own.
What a masala! We are American, Hindi, Tibetan…all of us speaking in a strange mix of the three languages…
I am trying, perhaps a little too hard, to get down my thoughts on what it is like to be here. Why? I feel like there is some danger of losing it when I leave.
Maybe I really feel afraid I will lose myself (again) when I leave, afraid I will lose the beauty of what has awoken inside me.
I am not the same woman who came here in the end of November (not even three full months ago?)

Strange how easily and casually strangers from western countries become companions, here. Something to do with comfort zones, common language,  or safety in numbers, no doubt. 
Just when you think you are going to be alone, abandoned, someone unexpected “rescues” you! YAY and thankfulness for that.

This life is so strange. I have called so many places HOME and yet I have never been at home…not since I was about 12 years old. 
I have lost everything…but mostly I have lost myself. I have no idea who I am. I keep looking for me in weird places. I have looked in England, Scotland, Ireland, France…I have looked in India and in this Tibetan refugee community. I have found pieces of myself everywhere, but the whole is still missing…Who am I?
I am still lost and confused. 

It’s a very funny thing. I always talk about how much I am going to miss people, even places. But the truth is, what I really miss is myself.
I lost myself when I was so young.
I moved so often, surrounded by so many new people and experiences, that I never really developed an identity.
I think I am a poet, a writer, a gardener, a cat lover who loves to color. I think I am a home maker who enjoys cooking and decorating and doing the laundry.
But I live so far away from myself…running here, running there, like the world might end, like there is never enough time. I always “have to” see another set of ruins or learn another language before it is too late.
I will run around in circles until I come back to my center and can breathe, again.

I am simply lost and lonely and searching for grace. I long for a second chance at innocence. I want forgiveness and salvation and I want to be chosen and I want to GET IN.
I am always afraid of god, always afraid of going to hell. Christian hell, Buddhist hell. All hell‘s terrify me. Deep inside, I feel like an eternal sinner. I have done things which I must account for. I have been accounting for them for years. Perhaps I will be accounting for them forever.
“I believe in you“, all my friends have told me this week, as I express a multitude of fears. Why do they have such faith in me when I cannot?

Things are changing. And change is good. But change is also frightening because I do not know what lies on the other side. I know McleodGanj. I know my way around, I know all the places I want to go, I know so many people here, I know what to say in Tibetan and Hindi in enough situations that I do not feel like a foreigner. 
But I do not know what will happen next. I do not know who (myself included) will say or do what between now and Monday evening. So I cling to routines…to familiar places. I walk slowly through the shortcut listening to the morning sounds from the monastery, watching young monks play karom~pa. I ignore Indian beggars and slap donkeys and cows on the rear to get them out of my path. 

The world is full of joy and secrets this first week of spring. Perhaps the fact that it is spring is making it all the harder to leave. Mostly what I’m working on is getting through the day. Hour by hour, I get through each day, and each day slides away, bringing me closer and closer to Friday Pizza Night, to my Saturday farewell party, to my wait at the bus station on Monday evening…

Something incredible is building up inside me. I am afraid I may have to climb to Triund and HOWL down the mountainside all night to release it.
Maybe it is the old parts of me dying that are making these sounds.

His Holiness returns from America today and there are special ceremonies continuing at the Main Temple, across the street from the cafe where I post these entries.
I wish the young staff at One Two would turn OFF the obnoxious modern dance music they are playing this morning and let the sound of the monks' chanting resonate through the morning air...