To Go Onward

imageI’ve got my traveling shoes. I’ve got two bags Tetris-tucked full of all the objects for my life this next year, and perhaps, probably, more than that. I’ve got hugs goodbye, boarding passes, a passport con visa, a ride to the airport and a ride home (home! my home–in France!) from the train station. I’ve got a heart full of willingness, a mind full of questions, and a purse full of books to read on the plane. All this to carry me onward into what life comes. I am anxious. I am filled with anticipation. I am ready.

See you on the other side.

Like Every Fairytale Ever

IMG_0988I have arrived in France. For the next three months, I am a resident volunteer at Dhagpo Kagyu Ling, the European seat of HH Karmapa Trinley Thaye Dorje. What to say?

IMG_0976

For a few hours a day, I cook for and caretake Lama Pourtsela, our resident Tibetan monk who is getting on in years but as good-natured as ever. He likes to play pranks, such as taking me to the temple to recite mantras and then ditching me mid-syllable after having torn me away from washing the kitchen floors. Things like this. There are some other community chores, like cleaning the general kitchen after a meal or doing laundry, but it’s simple handwork, all underwritten by good intentions for supporting a community of learning and practice.

IMG_0964

In the morning, I wake in the woods in my leetle caravan, cozy, heated, permeated by early birdsong and the shadows of trees in dawn light. If a dozen good-looking Frenchmen could stand in for the seven dwarves, then I could be Snow White these days. This community, tucked amidst mossy hills, cached in countryside architecture, could be the setting for every fairy tale ever.

IMG_0986

IMG_0980

At eight, there is pain de campagne or muesli for breakfast, and some one or other charming is forever offering me a hot coffee. At eight-thirty, we have an hour of class each day. I arrived at the perfect moment, as a new round of courses has just begun. I’m studying the fundamentals of meditation, The Way of the Bodhisattva, and The Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind Away from Cyclic Existence. In other words, the essentials. When I’m not working or studying, I’m free to practice in the temple or the study room, which both have beautiful shrines and shiny wood floors that lend themselves to prostration.

IMG_0970

Beyond that, there are woods to be wandered, friends to be made, stories to be read, and stories to be told. Bienvenue à Dhagpo.