The Moon in Rippling Water

Evening in Delhi. Indian winter, still, which is no season I have ever known or thought of, nor particularly memorable. Foggy in the morning, chilly in the evening, sunny in the middle. The rain, though, the rain will hold you in place. And then let you go.

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Today was a perfect day. The sky hung low and dark with clouds and latent thunder. It felt as though the whole world slept and tossed in its sleep. Windows shed little light into rooms, leaving them silent and dormant even in the middle of morning. At midday, I sat alone on the marble stairs and watched water making pools and ripples in the courtyard.

In class, we are reading Chandrakirti’s Introduction to the Middle Way. He says,

“Beings are like the moon in rippling water, fitful, fleeting, empty in their nature.”

This morning's tree, reflected, seen through the pattern of the gate.

This morning’s tree, reflected, seen through the pattern of the gate. (Is this picture sort of tiny? Why WordPress, why?)

We appear, quite luminously even, and still we are empty of essence. If I were to stand and walk into the rain, I could see my reflection – fitful, fleeting, rippling in the stone tiles.

Suffice to Say, I am in India

No photos yet, as I’m on a school computer and this is my foray into internet-dom. They will come soon.

At the moment, I am mostly amazed that I am here. It took about twenty-four hours of travel to get here, from Los Angeles to New York to Delhi. And that’s not counting the roundabout cab ride from the airport to the center, hehe. Things of note:

The center, formally known as The Karmapa International Buddhist Institute, looks like a Tibetan monastery, and in fact most of its inhabitants are monks. Students from around the world have been trickling in. So far no other Americans, but I’ve met several Germans, a Canadian, and a Dane. Everyone is friendly and everyone is dedicated to the Dharma. This is a good place to be.

There is  a temple in the middle of the compound where people meditate and do prostrations. The statue of the Buddha there is the most impressive and inspiring I’ve ever seen, entirely gold and probably twelve-feet high. It’s quite cold here, which is very encouraging of prostration practice as it heats one up considerably. I’ve been doing one hundred a day, but I might start doing extra before bed to keep warm.

Outside the center, directly close by is all institutions; there is a hospital, the Indian Statistical Institute, and various places with Hindi names that I don’t understand, but which have impressive buildings to go along with them. A short walk away, through a park and off the nearest main road is what I would guess is a more typical neighborhood, where tall buildings stand close together, street vendors sell everything from fresh curry to room heaters, and men speed by on motorcycles while honking their horns maniacally.

There are no squirrels here, but energetic chipmunks with striped backs and a single ring on their tails. There are crows, as there seem to be Corvidae everywhere in the world; the ones here are black with gray hoods that stretch over their breast and half down their backs. The blackbirds, if they are blackbirds, have orange beaks and orange around their eyes, and there’s waterbirds with fat bodies on stick-like legs near the river that runs by a park just a short walk from the center.

I imagine I will be at the center most of the time, working and practicing, but perhaps on weekends I’ll venture out to nearby destinations of interest or to sample the local fare. Everything now is new and unknown. You’ll know when I know what life has in store.

CA LYFE

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Today I went to my last yoga class at my favorite studio and took my last walk on the beach with my mom. Tomorrow I pack my bags and hug my friends goodbye. Thursday, I say peace to my family, the familiar, and this California LYFE, and then I fly.

See you on the other side.

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When It All Converges

Butter Bowl and Brush, Ink on Paper, 7" x 7"

Butter Bowl and Brush, Ink on Paper, 7″ x 7″

I am trying to make baklava for a holiday party tomorrow night. But the phyllo dough is rancid and Trader Joe’s is closed and Fresh and Easy is lame and somehow I find myself eating cold pork and parsnip hash out of a tupperware with my bare fingers at 9:40 pm in lieu of making a decision, utterly unsure of what the next move is. Drive to the grocery store that’s close, run the risk they don’t have what I need, drive to a further one, and then stay up past midnight making baklava? Devise some other amazing recipe that uses a crap-ton of chopped nuts but doesn’t come off suspiciously like a poor kock-off of baklava? Throw the nuts in a plastic bag and into the fridge and make something that takes half and hour like shortbread?

All of these are perfectly reasonable options. My trouble is that every moment lately seems like a last moment. In my head it’s like this: in two weeks I’ll be in India, and in three months I’ll be in France, and I don’t really know when I’m ever coming back, so whatever I do right now, it has to be exactly the right thing because this is probably my LAST CHANCE. I mean, for a while. But still, people, it seems dire.

Our Fragile Hearts (May the Clouds Pass), Ink, Watercolor and Colored Pencil on Paper, 7 1/2" x 5"

Our Fragile Hearts (May the Clouds Pass), Ink, Watercolor and Colored Pencil on Paper, 7 1/2″ x 5″

And life seems dire period these days. I’ve been trying to come up with something to say since last Friday. I had planned to put up a post about caramel sauce for the holidays, and then I turned on the radio and heard about the shooting in Newtown. Since then, no words have seemed to cover what needs to be said. So I’ve stayed silent. But it doesn’t seem right to let heart ache and the seeming senselessness of tragedy put you in a corner. Isn’t the grace of life found in the ability to move through the shifting sands of change? It seems like a rough and losing game trying to deny impermanence and find solid ground to stand on. So here I am. I’ve nothing particular to say other than this: I can feel the sands shifting. Here’s a wry smile for all of us standing on uneven ground. This is life. Have a hug.

Not Darkness But Cognizance (detail)

Not Darkness But Cognizance (detail)

After the Holidays

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Happy third night of Chanukah and Merry (T – 15 days to) Christmas.

My family is not particularly religious, but we do celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, as an ode to our roots, and as a way to bring us all together. My mom was raised loosely Catholic, and professes to believe in a higher power, but has never glommed on to organized religion much. My Dad is a reform Jew from a big Jewish family on the East Coast who took my sister and I to synagogue every year for the High Holy Days, and still does if we’re in town. When I was little, we read about the parting of the Red Sea and the miracle of oil that became Chanukah.

I love the singing of songs, the eating of fried food, and the sense of history that my Jewish heritage gives me, but I never much formed a bond with the God of the Israelites. My sister is a devout atheist; I guess she never did either. In our respective years of life, we have each stumbled upon various forms of value and guidance for this life. Taylor is discovering her own goodness and the power of human communication. I have developed meditation practice and am walking the Buddhist path of discovering the nature of mind. We share the practice of creativity and faith in the power of art to connect and elucidate the workings of the human engine.

This holiday will see all of us, on our various paths, come together to light candles, top trees, wrap presents, and share meals made with love. It’s the big family hurrah! And when the holidays are over, my own path will take me far afield. Come January, I am heading to India to study some of those texts that have been handed down through generations to tell those of us alive today what the Buddha taught over 2,000 years ago. The opportunity came up quickly, and, for now, I mostly feel a sense of giddiness combined with all the uncertainty of what lies ahead. I don’t know what will happen to this little blog in that time, but, as it unfolds, I’ll keep you posted. Happy Holidays!