The Big Reveal

IMG_1460Well hello. This. This is that thing I’ve been talking about, dropping hints, promising explanations. This. Is an art installation. Numero tres. The biggest thing I have ever done, and I did not do it alone. This. Is. Abstractions of the Path of Understanding. Kind of looks like a circus tent crossed with your elementary school lunch sack from outside. But it’s kind of pretty anyway. And inside.

IMG_1461Inside are nearly a thousand paper boxes, with wings. In black: confused thoughts. They crash like waves over and through our minds.

IMG_1449But amidst the folly, there is clarity to be found. The seeds of wisdom: the Dharma and the Three Jewels. This shiny thing that is some version of a Bodhi tree seed and three spirals rising in the same way our spirit is elevated by observation and reflection.

graineFrom each seed grows understanding. A moment of realization, when those vague and sage things we have heard and read suddenly click into place with this moment right now. Ten seeds of wisdom and ten moments of understanding, as follows:

toomuchIt Is Always Too Much and Never Enough

Acrylic and Ink on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

allmydreamsIf All My Dreams Were Real, This Would Not Be Real Life

Ink, Watercolor, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

sohardI Am Trying So Hard to Understand This

Ink and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

togetheralone

I Guess We Are Together, Even When We Are Alone

Ink and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

soalivetodie

Sometimes I Feel So Alive, I Forget I Am Going to Die

Ink, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

loseeverything

I Am Going to Lose Everything; I Am Going to Let Everything Go

Ink, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

getfree

I Will Get Free

Ink, Watercolor, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

madnessispretending

Madness Is Pretending Everything Is Okay

Ink, Watercolor, Chalk Pastel, and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

everymomentthestart

Every Moment is the Start

Chalk Pastel and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

peaceafterall 

Maybe There Is Peace After All

Watercolor and Acrylic on Artisanal Watercolor Paper, 38 cm x 38 cm

IMG_1455And then, in the center of all this, understanding takes root. The column of wishes, the natural generosity that arises as we widen our understanding, surrounded by enlightened thoughts–white boxes now–taking flight in our minds. The column was formed and the wishes written by several hundred visitors over the course of the event, from pictures drawn by small children to jokes to aspirations for all sentient beings.

insideinstallationThe artist, installed in the installation.

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A mommy and a baby enlightened thought. We used the form from the installation for donation boxes to create a link between knowledge and research (the Institute) the development of understanding (the Dharma, and the path as represented by the art piece) and offering (the generosity that arises with understanding). One aspect that was really important for me was the link between black and white thoughts. Not negative and positive, but confused and clarified. A box is defined not by its form but by its contents. LIkewise, each of us has the ability to transform ourselves, our lives, and our understanding.

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Me, grinning like an idiot because This. Is. Real. I–we–made a thing. We shared that thing. And people felt something. And that’s what it’s all about.

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A Place for All, Built by All

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This is the Institute. I’ve mentioned it before. “New Tibetan-Occidental Library and Research Center.” This is the phrase I’ve coined. But what does it mean? What is the significance of this place?

The Institute is the physical manifestation of 16th Karmapa’s wish to create a place of learning, practice and exchange in the West. Now that it’s here, the 17th Karmapa, his successor and the current head of Karma Kagyu lineage, describes the Institute’s purpose like this:

“The Institute aims to give access to knowledge–sciences of the mind, of the body, of the world.”

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I suppose that seems as vague and inspirational as any tagline, but it’s also quite accurate. The Institute currently comprises a teaching hall, a temple, a library, a translation center, a publishing house, and the administrative base of Dhagpo’s functioning.

IMG_1393I’m currently in the office dedicated to the Lama House, IT, the Temple, and Infrastructure, and at this moment, there are two hundred people above my head studying the practice of Chenrezig, the deity of compassion. The Institute is all about getting serious and getting interdisciplinary. During the inauguration, lectures and roundtables covered topics from Tibetology to mindfulness education to “Comparative Research in Modern Sciences and Tibetan Buddhism,” and included people from reincarnate masters to medical doctors.

IMG_1401The Buddha statue in the temple of the Institute holds his hands in the mudra, or gesture, of teaching. The direction that teaching will take is unfolding now that the Institute is established and beginning to develop. There is a genuine interest in discourse between contemporary scientific thought and the teachings of the Buddha, which have been preserved into the modern day. The form of this discourse is a continuing question; current possibilites include short-term forums and conferences, joint research conducted by experts in Western and Tibetan academia, and the establishment of an intensive curriculum combining inquiry into Western and Tibetan philosophy and thought.

Be forewarned; you are hearing a mix of rumors, dinner table chat, and my own personal musings. But in a way, this is appropriate. From all I can gather, the Institute was designed to respond to the needs of its students. We must ask ourselves what knowledge we are seeking, and in this way, we can develop a place to guide us and connect us in our queries. As cheesy as the slogan is, it’s true: The Institute is a place for all, built by all.

IMG_1408If you would like to make a donation toward the funding of the Institute, please visit Dhagpo’s contribution page.

To Run and Then To Breathe

IMG_1377Normally you breathe while you run. Unfortunately, I haven’t quite got that one figured out. My life lately feels more like  I ran for days and days and then all at once remembered to take a deep inhale, whereupon I promptly fell over from exhaustion. I’m in recovery now. From my repose, here’s what all happened.

IMG_1370For four days, two thousand people streamed into Dhagpo: ate on the lawns, meditated in the temples, danced on the parquet, and did Tai Chi in front of the stupa. For four days, I cooked from eight in the morning until ten at night with an hour break to talk to people about art. In addition to the usual stupa, there was also a stupa of vegetables, to inspire people over their lunch buffet.

IMG_1360Sleep-deprived wittiness aside, inspiration was the focus of this event. Even though I’ve been here less than three months, and I’m leaving in a week (only to get my papers in order for a longer visa!), this place is my home. It’s home to many people, from the fifteen people who live here all the time to the twenty more who work here five days a week, to the couple hundred who live nearby and visit regularly to volunteer their time and take part in study and practice. The power of this place is that it lets us feel at home, not just here, but in ourselves. The goal of the Inauguration was to bring people together to share that sense of power and possibility.

IMG_1376On a practical level, the goal was to raise money to continue financing the Institute. Over four days, we succeeded in gathering over 200,000 euros toward the 1.6 million that remain to pay off the construction of the building. In case you were wondering, I designed the lovely donor-meter that you see above…again with the boxes with wings, again with the explanation still to come. In addition to economic exchange, a major part of the event focused on creating connections with people to the center and the history and spiritual life that happen here.

IMG_1372Throughout the four days of Inauguration, there were regularly scheduled teachings, and the event culminated in a two day initiation and blessing of the wisdom deity Gyalwa Gamtso. For practicing Buddhists, this is a link to a long tradition and a step toward deepening one’s practice down the road. For visiting guests, it is an opportunity to experience a traditional ceremony and take part in a vibrant community.

IMG_1355For me, it was a chance to share a profound experience with a ginormous room full of strangers and friends alike, and to pause amidst the rush and realize how truly fortunate I am to have the support that I do in this life: spiritual, emotional, financial, et al.

In between the kitchen and the ceremony, that installation I’ve been talking about got finished and seen and (piece by piece) sold. Overall, it garnered around a thousand euros toward the financing of the Institute. Because so very many things have gone down recently, and because I am so very exhausted, I’m splitting this story into multiple parts. Still to come: the installation and the Institute…what do they look like; what are they for?

Much love for now.

Long-Term Magic and Apple Clafouti

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I am going to tell you a silly story, and then I am going to inundate you with pictures. Sound good? I hope so, because that’s what I’ve got to offer at the mo’.

Once upon a time, there was a cake maker who discovered a village in the woods. Though she quite liked making cakes, she had always wanted to be a magician. Turns out it was a village of magicians, and they offered to teach her magic, so she stayed. She got quite caught up in all the magic–about understanding and building community and creating projects to inspire. The thing about magic, though, is that it’s a long-term project, and, our little cake maker, in the midst of toiling away on things that will be done in a few months or a few years or a few lifetimes, found herself a little lost in the endlessness.

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But you know what she did? She made a cake. Or maybe it was a custard. It was a clafouti. But either way, the important thing is that a clafouti is in the bowl and in the oven and in your tummy and long gone in just a few short hours. And it can be shared and it makes you smile and it reminds you that creating something from start to finish is possible, even if start to finish feels long sometimes. And then she also remembered that the finish line of her current project is just a short week away though it has been quite a while in the making, so she went back to paper mâché, pouring plaster, painting, and putting up an installation.

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Recipe after the jump… Continue reading

This Is Life Lately

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This is a boîte à donation, a.k.a., a donation box, ready to accept funding for notre chère Institute, our dear Institute. It’s also a boîte à ailes, a winged box. More on that in a sec.

IMG_1283This is a family of boîtes à dons, inspired by me, I suppose, conceptualized by Rohen — who conceptualized an enormity of cool things and talked me through all my own conceptualizing too, — built by Vincent, and painted by Christine. Teamwork, yo.

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This is a family of boîte à ailes en papier, origami winged boxes, made by loads of people. Special shout outs to Guillaume, Collette, and the traveling Germans for folding multiple hundreds each. These will all be inflated into proper box shape and  hung by fishing wire in the installation. A few will find other homes. This is me leaving a trail of crumbs for future posts. Be intrigued.

IMG_1294This is a bunch of paper and wire spirals, which will turn into the growth of the seeds of wisdom, in part a representation of the Three Jewels. It’s a long story. I’ll explain later. Promise. There will be more pictures, and they will be awesome. In no small part because of Barbara, who paper-mâched like a fiend today, and Mylène, who keeps sending people to help me.

IMG_1290This is a fuzzy picture of my painting studio. For that, the infinite gratitude that every artist knows who has her own space to work. In this case, to Julien, and not just for this, but for finding me paint, finding me help, reminding me not to get overwhelmed, and also, ya know, building the structure of the whole installation. Ain’t no thang.

And more gratitude on top of that for too many people to name who are making all of this possible. The ladies at the Lama House for picking up the slack and making me smile. The homies on the range (erm, residents) for keeping it real and keeping it cool as the pressure rises. The in-and-out people from around the hood who pop by and get inspired. All the administrative peeps and money peeps and infrastructure folk who let this happen and made this happen.

This is happening. And it’s gonna be rad. And I can hardly believe it, but I will show you everything when it is ready.

And thanks to you, for being here, for keeping me connected to the wide world and letting me know you care. This is awesome; you are great.