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The Karmapa Effect

The last 12 days have been a blur of joy and frenzy. This is what happens when His Holiness, the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, visits Vancouver.

Just this morning I was at Thrangu Monastery and there was a line of people waiting to receive a blessing from His Holiness. The look of blissful anticipation and some nervousness was overflowing in each of their faces.

None of us can really conceive his reach, his impact or his power. But as one person so perfectly said to me, “He is a king.” And I agree, there is no better way to describe His Holiness.

The media has done a good job on who the Karmapa is and his future role in the Tibetan Buddhist world. I especially like the CBC interview. (Link to interview) It covers so many aspects of who this man is and what he means to my religion.

In short, The 17th Karmapa will most likely be the person taking over when the 14th Dalai Lama leaves us.

Karmapa is the leader of the Karma Kagyu branch of Tibetan Buddhism. This is the lineage I follow and His Holiness has a special place in my heart.

During this visit I have seen him seven times.

I hope you can imagine the shock of waiting for his arrival at the Chan Centre on Thursday night and seeing my image appear on the large screen as they ran a video of the Official Welcoming Ceremony at Thrangu Monastery.

The pageantry was over the top and so appropriate for the arrival in Vancouver.

It was at the teaching at Palpung Phende Kunkyab temple that the opportunity arose to speak with His Holiness in private. It was only for a few moments but he answered a looming question and gave me hope for the future. I had been wrestling with a health issue for five months and never thought I would be able to seek such advice and compassion. It was beyond any sane expectation.

A dear sweet man made the moment happen. The next day I caught up with him and thanked him for the kindness in pushing the meeting forward. He was the reason I got my blessing.

Bob made it happen

I also got the chance to reconnect with Khempo Choephel. He was translating for His Holiness and went above and beyond to make my blessing with Karmapa complete.

Yes, seven times I saw His Holiness and still it’s not enough. Part of me wanted to see him just one more time.  I’m guessing that feeling will never go away.

I wish someone had taken a picture as I spoke with him even though the moment could never be captured as well as it has been imprinted on my heart. I only have to look inside myself to be reminded of Karmapa’s prediction and blessing.

I believe His Holiness would agree.

 

A Religious Week

This has been a very religious week.

Yesterday I attended an Anglican memorial service for my dear client and friend, Anne Brailey. I wrote about her in a blog a few weeks ago.  Link to blog

We called each other secret sisters because our sense of humour was both alike and very inappropriate. This led to many uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Anne and I often talked about my religion and she knew I would do Buddhist prayers for her after her passing to mark the day of her predicted rebirth. She enjoyed the concept. I also told her about one of my favourite teachers, Mingyur Rinpoche. She loved that he was always laughing and looked so happy.

Anne had a soft spot for joyful people.

How interesting that this week he was teaching in Vancouver after a seven year hiatus.

I was able to attend four of Mingyur Rinpoche talks and teachings.

My weekend was a blur of his smiling face!

He recently returned from a four year retreat when he left all his worldly goods behind and led the life of a wandering yogi. He walked the walk. I highly recommend you watch some of his internet content. His practical advice on meditation is in itself enlightening. I bet he makes you laugh.

Now he is back to teaching and luckily Vancouver was one of his stops.

We met on his first visit to Vancouver back in 2001. We both looked so young!

Me with Mingyur’s translator

Years later he encouraged me to take a vow that I had been contemplating for a couple of years. That blessing changed the direction of my life. The vow went hand-in-hand with the work I do for my clients at the end of their lives.

And that brings me back to Anne.

On June 28th I will light a candle for her at the monastery where Mingyur Rinpoche spoke on Monday night.

In my heart I will recite one of our favourite jokes…

And we will both laugh.

That pissed you off?

These last couple of weeks has tried my patience and stoked my resolve. A broken phone, work problems, and endless bureaucracy timesucks. Through it all I’ve attempted to keep my heart empathetic and my language as tame as it can be when I’m upset. I’ll let the people around me judge how I did…

Well except for that one guy. He’s the man with the brilliant idea to attack my religion. No, in truth he didn’t really attack the religion, he attacked me for my religious beliefs. It was probably my fault for announcing that January 24 was the 17th anniversary of taking my vows to become a Tibetan Buddhist. It’s a special time for me but I should have been quiet. These days you never know what will rile people up when it comes to religion and personal beliefs.

Though as a Tibetan Buddhist I have it pretty good. People don’t tend to say bad things about His Holiness the Dalia Lama. What are you going to say… he laughs too much?

But this man decided to get very vocal about my choice and “why if you were born a Christian would you EVER decide to change religions, are you stupid?”

The only stupid thing I did was stay at the table where he was and let him rant at me. He did go on and on. I just laughed. I also asked him why he cared. This made him a tad angrier. I laughed even more.

I do not advise laughing at strangers when they are mad at you.

Luckily he got tired of taunting me and left to probably judge someone else.

I was left with the knowledge that a Muslim would not have gotten off as easy as I did.

Hate is everywhere and can easily catch fire.

I was blessed to leave that all behind and go spend a few days at Long Beach to look out at the ocean.

Hate is everywhere and the water’s edge is my antidote.

Long Beach, Vancouver Island January 25, 2017

 

 

Faith

My goal this week is to write about nothing. The ridiculous concept we Tibetan Buddhists endlessly chase after.

The dilemma is, “nothing means nothing.”

What I learnt on Sunday is that faith in nothing is the answer.

And that’s the conundrum.

Luckily I had a very wise man attempt to explain this to me.

Luckily I have faith in him.

Luckily he explained it in a way that gave a glimmer of what the answer is.

Faith is a tough one. Trust follows a close second.

Six weeks ago my doctor said I had nothing to worry about. Four weeks ago he called back, said he was wrong and told me there’s a problem.

Two weeks ago I had a stable place to call home. Five days ago that concept evaporated.

Four days ago Lotsawa David Karma Choephel gave a teaching on impermanence and faith at the Thrangu Monastery.

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I grasped his every word.

One of the rare times when you believe a message was designed for that perfect moment.

It gave me faith in this fickle world.

Lotsawa David is a translator for some of the highest teachers in the Tibetan Buddhist world. He’s also a longtime and learned practitioner with endless credentials. It’s obvious he has absorbed a great deal of wisdom along the way. He is a patient man. That helps when attempting to explain the dharma to someone like me.

The Buddhist teachings on emptiness really makes no sense when you put a western twist on the concept. The hard part is to put aside your habitual way of thinking and trust there is something more. A great teacher can be the impetus to dig through your habitual crap. Luckily I live in a time and place where I’m surrounded by people to help with the journey.

Faith is something we believe in but can’t prove. The concept is impossible. How do you carry on when your faith has been shaken? You can’t always dodge the facts.

Life is easier if you have faith in impermanence. Trust that everything is going to change.

Everything.

I carry on with knowing I don’t know. This serves me well.

It leaves me with faith in nothing… and this means I have hope.

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HE Tai Situpa Rinpoche

People saw the picture and said I looked calm and serene.

ME condensed

Wrong.

What was really going on inside my head?

“Don’t drop it. Don’t trip. Don’t cry. Seriously… when you look into his eyes, don’t cry!”

I waited seventeen years to see Tai Situ Rinpoche again. I would never have guessed I would be one of the people offering a statue to him at the Thrangu Monastery last week.

Crazy.

I first met His Eminence Chamgon Kenting Tai Situpa in 1999.

Tai Situ Lunch

On that day he set the direction for my life’s work. I would never again question the path my personal training was taking me. One of those fortunate times when everything seemed clear and correct.

This day was my opportunity to thank him for changing my life.

Bowing to TS

I expect His Eminence has that effect on most of the people he meets.

You would expect no less from the man prophesied to be the next Buddha.

I won’t bother you with the lineage and history of Tibetan Buddhism. It’s all widely proclaimed and many books have been written about what will be. Once I met Tai Situ I had no doubt it was true. But who knew the next Buddha would be so funny and entertaining? He captivates the audience with his laugh and self-effacing jibes… then without a blink gives a profound, clear and simple teaching.

Tai Situ

His advice is filled with common sense. The bare essence of how we should act.

His words will echo within me forever. His laugh is the music I want to replay. His face is the portrait framed in my heart.

He made me laugh. And think. And be astounded by my own good karma.

So what happened moments after the picture was taken and I presented Tai Situ with the statue?

He blessed me, I looked into his eyes, whispered “thank you”, bowed my head and walked away.

Then I cried.

Buddhist Easter Eggs

Easter is very different than Christmas. It’s easy to be a Tibetan Buddhist at Christmas.

Easter… not so much.

Or maybe it’s just the Christians I spend my time with. For the last week they’ve been wailing at how we’ve forgotten what Easter is all about.

Maybe they haven’t been watching the TV coverage because I’ve seen lots of reports from the Vatican and too many people carrying around huge crosses.

So we’ve not forgotten the big resurrection thing… it’s just that many of us don’t care. And we’re too busy eating Cadbury Eggs.

Much in the way you don’t really care about parts of my religion.

And that’s OK.

I accept I’m part of a minority group. The latest polls put Tibetan Buddhists at less than one percent in Canada.

And that’s OK.

This is not a popularity contest. And even though majority usually rules the day, we’re lucky to be in a country where we get the right to pray however we want.

We also get to celebrate the holiday however we want.

I realize Christians started this entire Easter thing and as majority rules we’re going to celebrate the time with holidays, family meals and lots of people going to church.

And that’s OK.

I’ll even wish you well. It’s what we Tibetan Buddhists do.  We try to be kind.

So please don’t rant at me.

And don’t tell me not to do the “Easter Egg” thing.

These are the eggs I took to the dinner I attended on Sunday. Each was filled with a huge hunk of blue cheese. The hostess loved them! Yes, she’s a big fan of blue cheese.

egg for blog crop

Agreed, it had nothing to do with all that was going down at the Vatican. But it was a wonderful meal with dear friends. Lots of yummy food. Too much blue cheese. And a Cadbury Egg for dessert.

I felt blessed.

And that’s more than OK.

 

Meditation and Murder

Our minds are forever leaping around. Jumping from one thought to another. I was reminded of this when I reintroduced some serious meditation back into my daily routine.

The return was not planned but when I decluttered my apartment I realized I had room for a perfect meditation space. A little corner that reminded me of the “boxes” we used up at the Tibetan Buddhist retreat on Salt Spring Island. Practitioners spent hours in these comfy setups. I could easily devote a little time to my spiritual side if I set up something similar.

meditation blog 2

It seems to have worked and I’m back to my daily practice.

I love the flowing recitation of Tibetan words.

I love the view.

meditation blog 3

Right now the bulk of my time on the cushion is doing the taking and sending meditation. It’s simple. You think of a person and breathe in any negative surrounding them and then breathe out something positive directed their way. It can be happiness, joy, health… whatever they may need.

This is a very common meditation.

My mind wandered as I settled in with my list of people this morning. I randomly started to think of some of the friends I saw this past weekend… my writing friends.

Then I laughed. Many are crime fiction writers. They spend hours thinking of murder and mayhem and here I was attempting to send them happy thoughts.

That’s when it hit me. As I visualized each one of them I realized these writers are some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. They are good and decent and generous.

I’ve written about them in past blogs… Owen Laukkanen, Sam Wiebe and even those non-crime types like Terry Fallis and kc dyer.

Now I’m not saying all writers are nice people… God knows that’s not true. But I am saying the ones I surround myself with these days get a gold star.

Go follow Owen on Twitter. His tweet yesterday announced the debut of his latest book and gave thanks for his many blessings. With Owen, what you see is what you get, a good man and a very talented writer.

Have people just gotten nicer? Happier? Kinder?

I don’t think so.

But last year I just made the decision to surround myself with better people.

So far so good.

This means my morning meditation is not just about breathing in negative and sending positive.

It’s the realization of just how blessed I am these days.

Even if many of my friends are thinking about clever ways to kill people.

my writing frinds

 

 

Happy New Year

My favourite pastime at Long Beach was the continuation of my “People Watching” photography that I talked about in my Reactions blog. The opportunities were endless and the backgrounds are stunning.

PW blog 5

This week’s plan was to tell the story about how I was walking along Chesterman Beach and saw a woman at the shoreline screaming into a phone and pointing out to the crashing waves. Two men were running to some huge rocks at the end of the bay. I could hear them calling out a name. There was no sign of anyone out in the surf. This had all the signs of a disaster. I said a prayer and walked on.

Clearly it was too much of a heart wrenching event to witness let alone photograph.

In the end it was blog worthy. So yesterday I sat down to write the story.

Then my Twitter feed pissed me off.

Monday was the Lunar New Year and Tuesday was Losar, the Tibetan celebration of that New Year.

And last night, when I should have been writing the, “Oh my god, my kids went surfing and might be dead.” blog, I was again explaining to someone that it was inconsiderate to call February 8, 2016 the Chinese New Year.

I had pointed this out many times over the last 48 hours. Now it was beyond annoying and just plain rude. I admit my problem might stem from the Chinese/Tibet conflict. I am biased.

But still… there are other people in the world that celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Do we ever say Merry Catholic Christmas? Or Happy North American New Year? Never.

I applauded each person , company or organization that sent out “Lunar New Year” greetings and called it just that.

If you’re Chinese or are attending a Chinese event, then yes, by all means, get swept up in a Chinese New Year celebration!

But for me, I marked this day wishing people “Tashi Delek” at the Losar ceremony.

I also made the aspiration to take more “people watching” pictures throughout this Year of the Monkey.

Which brings me back to those kids out surfing.

Minutes later the rescue boat could be seen circling the water. I couldn’t help but watch. Then from around a huge boulder came the men climbing over the rocks back to shore with two other people. That’s when I started taking the pictures…

I was able to give the family a picture of the mother hugging her daughter.

I also gave them this shot of them all heading back along the beach…

PW blog 7 r

As the Dad gave me his email address his voice started to waver. I looked up and said, “This was a good ending.” His eyes teared up and he just nodded.

It’s all about capturing the little moments.

PW blog 4 rPW blog 2 rPW blog 1 r

 

Happy Lunar New Year…