--from my journal from Lhasa, Tibet, inside the Potala, the Dalai Lama's palace, circa 1979
'There are so many butter lamps on this shrine in front of the gold deity statue. There are many white blessing scarves and half a dozen big mercury-colored and red glass balls--in the dim light, they seem to float. There are coins and some dried flowers. Rice is scattered everywhere. It’s like a dream. I have no idea where I am. I am not afraid, but I am very aware of the absence of sound. It’s eerie. Even my own breathing seems unusually quiet. The heat from the butter lamps warms the air. I have no idea if this room is big or small. I feel like I am floating in the night sky.'
---------- --from my journal today, Great Vow Monastery, Clatskanie, OR, USA
You never know where life will take you next.
We are entering into the Fire in the Lotus Retreat--a retreat examining the experience of being on the path in the midst of the world-as-it-is. Pandemic. Failed economy. New divisions and new unity. Today I will exit the retreat for 4 hours to do the last secular job of my career, a presentation to the state colleges of California--via Zoom. Everything has changed. This is nothing new. This is normal. Take a longer view and it's a familiar loop. Just 100 years ago people much like you and I experienced a different pandemic. Some died, some survived. This is normal.
To the young woman in Lhasa in 1979: your time in Lhasa will alter the course of your life forever. You will finish your decade of mountain climbing and you will get married. You will have two beautiful children whose father is from Nepal. You will take up the practice of Buddhism and in 2014, you will enter a three-year, three fortnight cloistered retreat. You will teach Buddhism and in 2020, you will take up residence at a Zen monastery--the only person wearing something other than black and white.
You never know where life will take you.