Goodbye For Now

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We ship out on Saturday.

My flight is paid for. My visa’s been filed. The generous people filling in for me have the lowdown on what to do. The wedding cake I promised to make is ready to go.

What’s left to do? Laundry, for one thing. Sandwiches and granola bars for the road trip to Paris. Also packing and groceries and finishing organizing the house for the Rinpoche who will arrive, um, ostensibly before I do.

Also things that are a little less logistical and somehow a little more essential. I haven’t really been sleeping lately. I’m trying so hard to accomplish so many things that it’s easier not to sleep. I think I’ve also been trying to pretend that I’ve finished mourning and this trip is just about hommage and offering and connecting. It is about that–that’s at the heart of this journey. But it’s not whole story. Heartbreak and loss are still with me. Lately I’ve developed a resistance to them. I want to be done with emotions, with running into the same sadnesses that have yet to lose their futility, the same questions whose answers remain uncertain.

I’m not alone, but I feel alone. I am loved and surrounded by good and giving people. Yet inside, there is an aloneness that comes from knowing that only I can sort out the aching and confusion that are inherent in this life. Even a Buddha can’t make you enlightened. He shows the way, but it’s up to us to walk the path. As some great master in a text I can’t remember the name of wisely pointed out: The light of the Buddha’s wisdom is like the sun; it reflects off every body of water without exception. But um, there’s only so much the sun can do for a pond covered in leaves.

Which is a hard truth, and I’m living it lately. I think the best thing to do is be alone–physically, if I can find a moment or two–and use the quiet to flick off a couple leaves so I can feel the Buddha’s light.

I want to come back to you, from the road, on the road, with an open heart and a brimming ink well. I want to be the best witness I can be, a clear pond to reflect this moment back in all its grandeur and integrity. The purpose of this project, the intensity and consistency with which I’ve been writing leading up to this trip and the work I mean to do while I’m on the road, is about assembly and transmission. About allowing people to come together to take part in and benefit from this momentous occasion. For me it’s a form of offering, a way to receive all of your generous offerings of financial and moral support, and a way to connect us all to the vision and activity of a truly great being to benefit…well, everyone.

It seems worth it to take a couple days to reflect on the matter before diving in. Thanks for coming along; see you on the other side.

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

Let’s Celebrate

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Holy crap guys!

To Dare To Offer reached one hundred percent of its goal today–we did it!

I’m sufficiently blown away by the spontaneous kindness of beings. This is an infinite thanks. It’s an incredible gift to have some one to write to, to have people to draw for, to have folks to give to. It’s funny to realize that there can be no generosity without both givers and receivers. I’m thrilled to be on both sides, as it were, and thrilled you’re here with me.

There’s no limit on the boundaries of this project. If you want to get involved and help bring this story to life, you can continue to donate until the 25th of July.

**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.

One Week In

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It’s been a week since I set up the project to to go to Nepal for Shamar Rinpoche‘s cremation, to illustrate, photograph, and narrate the journey, and to ask for every one I know and pretty much any one else I can reach who might care to connect and support this endeavor, by giving money, by spreading the word, by following along.

Even though I know this sort of thing is pretty normal in the realm of human activity–it’s how books, films, businesses, organizations, technology, pretty-much-everything-ever gets created–it’s new to me. Producing work so regularly, sharing it immediately after, asking people to pay attention, care, and invest–it’s freaking intense. I guess this goes back to the whole root of the project, being willing to believe I can offer something useful to people, and being willing to get in their faces to offer it.

That’s the interesting thing about offering. You have to find a way to reach the people who can use what you’ve got. Connecting with people I know who already seem to care and shouting at the top of my internet lungs are pretty much what I’ve come up with. It seems to be working, actually.

In logistical terms, the project reached fifty percent of its funding within this first week, which is incredible and awesome. I’m grateful and stunned and simultaneously relieved about what’s already happened and anxious for whatever comes next. It’s all very emotional, this whole being-in-contact-with-other-people business.

I keep thinking about non-duality. We are not separate; we are not one; we are interdependent. I think I’m learning something about that. So thanks. Thanks for your support and your help and your excellent, interdependent presence in this world and in my life. Cheers y’all.

And if you’re into it, keep the music playing. Go ahead and give and share (link below).

**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.

A Place To Make Wishes

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This is Shar Minub.

A place of practice. One of only places left where monks uphold the traditional 253 vows. A new ground for discipline and training. A place Shamarpa created to allow for authentic development in meditation and ethics.

One of my fellow travelers said the other day, “This is a place where no commitments have been broken yet. A place to go to make wishes.”

And that is what we’ll do.

If you have wishes that need making, I’m in it for all beings, and that includes you. Let me know.

**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.

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.

To Do Something

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After all the sadness and whirlwind (though neither of those things is really, technically over), I decided it was high time to take all that emotive madness and use it to do something instead of just being bowled over all the time.

So, I’m going to Nepal. For Shamarpa’s cremation at the end of this month. And I’m going to write, draw, and share all about it, right here. For those who can’t be there. For those who didn’t even realize they might want to be there. But trust me, you want to be there. It’s going to be awesome. Sixty thousand people, a cartload of meditation masters, an epic monastery, and a modern city, all together in Kathmandu Valley of the Himalayas. Also momos and possibly yaks. A grand farewell to a king amongst men and one of the kindest humans I have ever met.

And, um, between now and then, mad fundraising to make it happen.

Please, please, please consider helping to make this project real and bring this dream– this exchange, this story–to life. Find out more; make a contribution: go here. The project is called To Dare To Offer and I’m crowdfunding through KissKissBankBank. I have 22 days to raise 1800 euros. It’s an all-or-nothing game: either I raise it all or I don’t get a centime. Take it away, friends!

title*Photo credit in the first image to Thule G. Jug, photographer and producer for The Karmapa Documentary Project.