Cold Hard Cash

There’s something I want to say. I haven’t dared because, well…it’s complicated in my head, and being able to share it with you means working through the complications. Also, maybe you won’t agree. Maybe you won’t care. Maybe something else. But it’s important, so here goes.

Let’s start with this. Asking people for money is hard. There’s an aspect of judgment and also an aspect of worth. Do  you like what I’m creating? Does what I’m creating move you or offer you enough that you want to invest the currency that your hard work and effort brought you?

Asking for money brings up a lot of emotional stuff about me. Why do I keep making things? What is the value of art? How do people perceive me as an artist, as a Buddhist, as a person? It’s a muddy river to wade through, and it’s awfully preoccupying. It’s also only about me.

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And I didn’t create this project just for me. Partly, yes, to force myself to grow and practice. But I also created it to bring people together, and to put into practice Shamar Rinpoche’s teachings. If I have a role in any of this, it’s as a conductor. I find it hard to describe, conceptualise, or concretize what Shamarpa brought to my life that was so important and what makes the loss of him, as a physical human being anyway, so upending. But I think the simplest term is confidence. Confidence in my own ability to be joyful, loving, and of use in this world. And equally as much, confidence in others’ ability to do so as well. He brought a sense of not-being-aloneness that completely surpassed all of the divisions I normally create between myself and others. The purpose of this project is to try to tap into that confidence, and to spread it, and grow it, and share it.

In the realm of the world, this activity is a small thing. I show up. I write a thing. I sometimes draw a thing or photograph a thing. But it takes a bit of gumption every day to do that. To say to myself, “Whatever I’m living, some one else out there is maybe living the same thing or something similar, and if I can just–bear witness, and share it, maybe that helps.” I do it in the hopes that the willingness to go just a tiny bit beyond my borders can connect others to their own ability to do so. This is the gift Shamarpa gave me: to be bolder and braver and less trapped by all of my ideas about me. To put myself forward despite my uncertainty in the hopes that I can benefit others.

Part of the benefit of this project lies in its financial aspect. I could have found quieter, more comfortable ways to pay for this journey. I could have stuck to the writing and images as ways challenge myself to be a little brave and share. But it didn’t seem right. Donating money is making a commitment. It’s giving up part of our own hard work and effort for some thing other than ourself. Doing so, when we truly want and are moved to do so, helps us develop a mindset of prosperity, trust, and care for others. Shamarpa had an infinite care for all of us, and it only seemed right to conceptualize this project in a way that lets us connect directly to that.

**This post is part of a larger project culminating in a week of creative journalism in Kathmandu Valley, Nepal chronicling the cremation of the Tibetan spiritual master Shamar Rinpoche. To find out more or make a donation to this project, go here.

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