Day 4 Encore: A Peek At Swayambhu And Rinpoche’s Arrival

* Photo formatting for this post utterly escapes me. I did nothing differently than usual. Images are three different sizes. I am confounded and I am tired and pehaps I will attempt to alter this again later. For now,IMG_1852

Let’s be honest. Today was strange. We started the morning at the Swayambhu Stupa, well almost. We walked around the base of the hill, turning the thousands of pocket-sized to room-sized prayer wheels lining the perimeter. Halfway through the journey, we got a message calling us up to the monastery for duty. Guests to be greeted and information to be diffused.


From mural filled walls and endless rounds of prayer beads, we found ourselves pouring tea, or just drinking tea, and waiting. It was a day of waiting. Waiting for guests, waiting for news, waiting for Rinpoche, waiting for the rain to stop. When I finally found a moment to meditate, all the practice spaces were under lockdown to be straightened before the arrival of the body. I sat in a plastic chair for ten minutes to do protector practice and then I sat in a plastic chair and slept and tried not to drool too much.


If I’m being a little rough around the edges, I’ll blame it on the strangeness of these times. I whined a little about the absence of time for sitting practice today, and I got the response, “Helping is practice too.” And it is. And I’m grateful. And sometimes I get so caught up in the movement that I forget that I’m practicing, and I just do.


And behind all the action there are memories that play on repeat, emotions that sing their familiar song, and questions that ratatat regularly but quietly behind all the activity. I haven’t given myself time to look at all that much lately. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t want to or because the times call for another approach, if when the wildness of these days has passed, I’ll stop to see what comes up and I’ll be totally bowled over or if it will just be…what comes up.


I know that I can feel the distance between the action of the day and the action that burgeons ceaselessly inside. When Shamar Rinpoche’s body finally wound its way up the hill, preceded by flags, and drums, and bone trumpets in the early dark under a light rain, all I could feel was that I didn’t know what to feel. I saw the silk-shrouded coffin through my camera lens and I mostly felt the importance of this angle or that stray shaft of light. I lifted my eyes to look, really look, and with all the roiling that started to rise inside, I flipped my eyes back to the digital version of the world to stay safe behind duty and a story to tell.


In the soft crush of the crowd snaking around the stairway angles to lay a prayer scarf at the foot of the coffin, I realized I hadn’t thought toward this moment at all. My guru is here, in mind and in body, not united but at least in the same place, for the last time for at least a little while and only now do I think of all I wish I could offer. I can mentally multiply this unusually short silk scarf that I fortunately found stuffed into my purse a thousand times, a thousand times a thousand times, and more, but it doesn’t make up for all the moments I have lost thinking about things other than devotion, other than what I wish to give, the qualities I aspire to develop, the being I aim to become, the image of wisdom I see in my teacher who is now before me.


I see the chill glow of bare fluorescent bulbs. I feel the wet, pulpy masses of trampled flower petals under my feet. I hear my thoughts pinging hollowly against one another in the absence of time to unroll each unruly notion and lay it out to dry and see what it has to say. This is my life passing, and I’d rather not lose it while I’m still in the act of living, just by forgetting to pay attention.


Of course, sitting in the empty restaurant of the hotel at precisely midnight, I can be a little honest. Looking is hard. Choosing to see is not so easy. I think I might be mostly finished grieving. Mourning the specific death of Shamar Rinpoche in this incarnation at this time. I know I’ll have moments of wistfulness all my life when I am faced with questions I know he could have answered perfectly that I will have to answer imperfectly myself. I also know that when I make the space to pause and listen, he is here: his wisdom, his teachings, the love without limit he taught me to feel and inspired me to develop. Still, understanding that in quiet moments has yet to change all the other moments that I spend fighting loss and letting go. My life is a battle against impermanence, and it is one I am going to lose. I would like to give up fighting.


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