Birthday surprises

Thank you for all the birthday wishes! My birthday started off at 3 am with a phone call from my credit union asking me if I was traveling in India or Indiana. Sheesh! After that was sorted, and I got a couple more hours of sleep, we started our morning off as we have nearly every morning here, by walking the Kora. The photo above is the morning sunrise coming up the Kangra valley at about 7:30 am. The Kora is a clockwise walk around the Dalai Lama’s temple. We walk clockwise in order to follow the path of the Buddha.

Along the walk, there are countless stones carved and painted with the compassion mantra, Om mani padme hum. There are thousands of prayer flags all over the forested hillside. Each time a prayer flag flaps, it releases its prayer into the wind, essentially saying, may all sentient beings be full of compassion and be happy. The prayers are said to be carried as fast as the wind and as strong as a horse.

The are also many prayer wheels along the walk. Each wheel is filled with a scroll that repeats the compassion mantra. And each time the wheel is spun, the prayer is released into the world. Every morning, we have been walking this circular route as a meditation.

Midway on the walk, there is a large memorial with photographs of each Tibetan who has self-immolated over the past several years. This memorial is sobering and there are always praying monks and nuns in the area. I can’t imagine the commitment and deeply difficult process it is for a Tibetan to become a martyr, to hold all of the pains and oppression of an entire culture in one’s death.

The walk is also a beautiful way to begin each morning. Every person who spins the prayer wheels (which are spun thousands of times a day, I am sure) reminds us of compassion moving into the world. Sometimes back in Denver (or anywhere), I think about all of the people who are currently spinning a prayer wheel, and this makes me feel hopeful. Maybe something devastating or overwhelming or terribly sad or just plain mundane has just happened, but also simultaneously, monks are spinning prayer wheels of compassion for all sentient beings. They are spinning these wheels all of the time — while we are working away and while we are sleeping.

During our morning session, we met with Tsering Tsomo from the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy. I’ll talk about her and this organization in another post. Such powerful work!

In the afternoon, Selah & I took a walk down the road a bit to an old stone church. It’s kind of strange to see an Anglican church here. It’s set in the woods on a hill opposite of the Dalai Lama’s temple. The first preacher died unfortunately in a bear attack, as stated in this plaque for him: “In the midst of life, we are in death.” A bit solemn for a birthday message, sure, but there that is. Outside in the small cemetery, I found a very nice bright blue feather and a queen of hearts playing card. A more uplifting message, I think.

That evening, we were invited to a birthday party at John’s family’s house. We had delicious cake & more saffron tea. There was dancing on floor pillows and balloons flying around. There was the remnants of a full moon and tons of stars.

Now I’m 34 and I feel I get to welcome this year in the most auspicious ways!

That was yesterday. Today has already been another full day, walking the Kora this morning, meeting with Students for a Free Tibet, afternoon exploring, and the most incredible sunset. We’re heading to dinner at Halal’s home now, another wonderful friend here! This was mostly a post to say thank you and tashi delek, which means something like may all auspicious things come together in this environment.

Until tomorrow, Tashi Delek!

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