After

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Welcome to after-Karmapa.

I hope you followed during on the 40th anniversary blog or on Facebook! I can’t supply you with much, at least not in the way of pictures. Though I can try to paint you some with words. It’s funny how quickly it all turns over; the tents go from humming and buzzing and being filled with two thousand people to just standing empty to being slowly taken apart one metal support at a time.

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Here are the images that rest the brightest in my mind and the reflections that flesh them out:

I see the Lama House team in all its forms and subdivisions. The kitchen crew at seven in the morning and five pm, the service team at 11:45, the girls showing up to clean the bathrooms surreptitiously mid-morning and afternoon, the lady for the laundry, my friend who filled the altar bowls on the terrace, all the willing, friendly people who came to do the dishes, the security guys who were always extra grateful for their lunch or dinner plate, not having to eat the cold salads of the dining hall all five days straight. More people than that with more roles than I can list…planning it all was a major event in and of itself. But the magic of it all is the way that working together carries us.

I was petrified of how tired and strung out I might be at the end, and yeah, I was tired and strung out, but I was also still fairly relaxed. And this is because I had a team I could count on who knew what they were doing, who did it with joy, and who communicated with me so I could do my best to make things work for all of us. It seems I did all right, as the response was positive and overall people said the atmosphere was fluid and pleasant, that the behind-the-scenes didn’t show too much. I learned that being responsible means being present and that it is not physically possible to be in more than one place at one time; I have not yet figured out a solution for this conundrum, but maybe sharing the overall responsibility with a second person could be an option next time.

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I see the garden filled with set tables and smiling faces, the parasols, the koi pond, the buffet with our shiny new chafing dishes (Thank you budget commitee! I promise it was worth it!). I got to see old friends, make new ones, and connect with people face-to-face whom I have thus far only corresponded with via internet.

I don’t know what it’s like to run the welcome center, cook in the dining hall, organize the teaching space, coordinate the translation, or do any of the other various things that make up an event at the center–and there are numerous: fundraising, communication, hospitality, security, first aid, sound and video, parking lots, trash pick-up, the snackbar, the rituals. It blows my mind how much energy, how much dedication, and how many details go into welcoming Karmapa and all those who come to receive the teachings. I get the sense we are all adapted to the activity that we do…we find our way to the tasks and domains that challenge us and move us forward, the places where we can give and be pulled along the path by our wish to help and offer. I still get overwhelmed from time to time by the good conditions in which I have found myself and gratitude for my place here.

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I see Karmapa’s broad back, faintly purplish in his robes under the moonlight, at midnight, in the garden. He came just to see what was new in the kitchen, late one evening after a meeting. He had told us earlier that day not to worry so much about the future, that most of the time it’s enough to come back to daily life and practice, and this resolves the vast majority of problems. Watching him take in the moon, the peach tree, the catalpa, the little A-frame herb garden made of pallets, I remembered meeting him for the first time in India two-and-a-half years ago. I told him hello from the teachers in Santa Barbara and he seemed surprised to meet me there, in that place and time, so far from home. The other night, I wanted to ask him, did you think we would find ourselves here, now? With the vision he has, I bet he could easily see it if ever he looked.

Me, I didn’t, I couldn’t…but somehow I made my way here, and that is what counts.

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In Offering (With Seared Cauliflower Slices)

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Hm, it seems it’s that time of year again where I only post slightly blurry, weirdly lit photos taken in a rush while hoping that it’s not really that dark out/overexposed, when in truth I know better.

The busy season at Dhagpo Kagyu Ling has officially arrived. The Lama House is full, there remain no empty classrooms or practice spaces in which to do prostrations, and if I’m not changing sheets or cooking lunch, I’m planning menus or cleaning toilets. I’m still scraping up time here and there to meditate, and it’s a goal for this year to find more calm moments in between the rush rather than just speeding through each day. Though it’s often easier to keep running on adrenaline than to pause and realize how tired/stressed/distracted I am, I’d like to change the habit.

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On the other hand, pausing to traipse all over the kitchen, terrace, and garden in search of reasonable lighting for my seared cauliflower doesn’t currently make it into the list of priorities. Which is a shame, really, because seared cauliflower-roasted with whole garlic cloves!- is really a wonderful thing, and a decent picture would probably be much more convincing than the preceding sea of beige. Use your imagination–it’s creamy, earthy, woodsy, even, with a tad bit of caramelization from the garlic.

I cooked this dish for lunch for a visiting teacher, a rare Tibetan vegetarian, and we talked about back pain, sunshowers, and loneliness. I confess I still have a lot of that, even surrounded by people I love. Actually, I think my loneliness increases in direct proportion with the amount of love I feel. I just get so attached to all good things and people. At times, I wish I could keep every moment forever. Which is an evident contradiction, for how could we have new great moments if we didn’t let the old ones go, and what on earth would we do when the moments weren’t great, weren’t even any good? But I’m an exigent creature; I want all things now. I guess it’s for me to live with that.

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Wiser beings than me feel love without any loss, even when what they care for passes out of their field of vision or contact. They give without any need to receive. This possibility blows my mind, and furthermore, the fact that I have the good luck to welcome such folks at the center. To make them tea, turn down their sheets, and benefit from their wisdom. I am utterly grateful, to the point where I don’t even mind vacuuming, which I heartily detest in other circumstances. But after all, the masters come to teach us how to be at peace. The least I can do is to remove the cobwebs from the corners of the bedposts and put a few niceties about to make them feel welcome.

IMG_1273Recipe follows…

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