Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nellie from Kathmandu-- March 28, 2009

Hello Dear Friends. I am sitting in a small cafe and looking out the front door to the Great Stupa in Kathmandu. Actually, this village is Boudnath. I arrived yesterday afternoon after harrowing and long travel in India. First the train from Delhi which left at 11:30 p.m. and the sleeper birth which was a small cot in an "alcove" with three strangers. It took me a few moments to sort out my attitude and then, going with the flow I rested but didn't sleep much! The conductor got me a chai when we stopped at Hardiwar, so that didn't help, but who can refuse such an offer? Then, hours of waiting, and off we went.

On the plane, sitting on the left side, emergency exit, as we approached Kathmandu, the very heavy cloud cover opened up to reveal the great treasure of the Himalayas. There was Everest and there the range was in all her majesty until we descended through the mountainous valleys that is Nepal.I am staying in a monastery that was founded by the great Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche who was a teacher and student of the Dalai Lama. He founded Shechen monastery, which includes this sweet and very peaceful guesthouse which abounds with Westerners; the most I have seen since I departed the U.S.

I went to sleep early after a meal that was delicious in this also lovely little vegetarian restaurant of the guest house and woke up for a 3 a.m. prayer practice and empowerment with Khyentse Yangse, who is the reimcarnation of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, the founder. I sat in the back of the temple with the little lamas and other Nepalese! I just love making faces in between my meditations at them and watch their smiles! The Kam Geko, who is the disciplinarian and who walks through making sure everyone is being good, didn't catch me! .

What is it about this place? I can hardly say. It is not different from my Catholic upbringing, in that there is much prayer and ritual attached to Buddhism. There is great devotion and watching the many people now passing in front of me with their malas, reciting Om Mani Padme Hung, the mantra of compassion, as the beads slide between their fingers quickly and constantly is not different for me than a trip I made in the 80's to Mejugorje in Croatia and the many Rosaries pilgrims pray there for the same intention; to alleviate suffering and to find peace.

I will stay at Shechen for another night, and then to the Lotus Guest House tomorrow for 3 nights before I depart for my home away from home, Dehradun and the nuns of Samten Ling Nunnery. I don't know by what Grace all of this has unfolded, but I only know that what I experience day by day, is deep Joy, gratitude and contentment. The journey has been worthwhile, and I don't just mean India. I am speaking of the journey of my life. The most difficult and powerful healing for me was absolutely the past year prior to my departure and the process of filing Chapter 7 and letting go of everything I own except for the suitcase I brought here.

I faced my life and my self and I think I learned how little we know of the richness of who we are when we judge our experiences as good and bad, seeking to get what we want and avoid what we are afraid of. The truth of our lives is that every experience is a door unlocking something hidden in the mind. I had already decided to give everything away before I put the house on the market! But the key for me which I think I have already shared was the process of forgiving myself everything and everyone else for everything in my life! Through that year, I felt very much as the prodigal daughter, who returned to the Father with nothing of the world, but was given a feast instead. I learned to simply accept myself in a deep and profound way, and to love myself as I am. What a gift. And of course, it led here, to India, where I was always headed anyway! Some of you knew I was coming here before I did!

You cannot do anything to change the truth of who you are. Nothing. No-thing can change that. So losing those "things" is nothing! So, here with nothing I have everything, and peace.

"Don't be afraid of non-being," said Rumi. "If you want to be afraid, be afraid of the life you have now." Rumi was a lover of God., a devotee of Love Itself. When the economy seems to threaten your reality, remember that the Truth, what is Real, cannot be threatened. Ever. The "real" world is beyond the conception of the mind and beyond the conception of thought, but we are swimming in it all the time! We are dreaming our lives. Let's awaken.

I look out to the light that shines on this stupa and people from all over the world, circumabulating the stupa and stepping in and out of these little shops meet my eyes and sometimes our hands, folded in front of our hearts, communicates Namaskar- God be with you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Trip to Nepal-- March 26, 2009

Tonight, at 11:30, I leave for the airport in Delhi. I am taking the train from Dehradun and a friend from the U.S is on the same train, which makes it a little simpler! I fly out of Delhi at noon tomorrow and will be in Kathmandu at around 2 pm! I am staying for at least 2 nights at Shechen Monastery in a town just outside of Kathmandu called Boudnath (spelling?) You can google it! It's quite nice - this monastery was started by the great Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche who has been a teacher of the Dalai Lama and is known as a great Dzogchen Master - in Buddhism, these are the highests teachings and understandings - known as the Great Seal, they are the experience of the Unity of all Truths - these teachings transcend all concepts, dogmas, forms, rituals, and other demarcations that we make with our little minds! Whenever you think of Kathmandu you will be shown a picture of the Great Stupa with the prayer flags waving in the breeze - that is where I'll be!

BTW, just before Thomas Merton's death, he himself met a "who's who" of Dzogchen masters and knew that these teachers had found, as Christ, that "peace that passes all understanding" and wanted to study with one in particular. He said, the truth is beyond the concept of God and dharmakaya! - that is, it cannot be understood, but Known and is always true! It doesn't fluctuate with markets and relationships and moods! nor with sickness and health! This Love, this Compassion always IS and is the "suchness" - the substance of reality.

I have only a small backpack with a few changes of clothes! The lightest I ever packed and it seems that I keep letting go, letting go! Even of my hair! Got a haircut yesterday by a Muslim barber, outside the Tibetan colony, with a few Hindu men watching! It cost rps 15 - pennies! Quite short and cute and EASY!!!

I have learned to make sure the details are attended to here in India - God IS in the details! I have a taxi to meet my train in Delhi and transport me to the airport; the monastery has a taxi to meet my plane on the Nepal side and the return is also accounted for! It eases the mind, but this doesn't mean, by any means, that there won't be surprises! Ah, India - what is hidden in the West abounds here -

So, I'll keep you posted. I have my camera and look forward to this retreat. Maybe Dilgo Rinpoche (founder I spoke about) will reveal some of his secrets! Who knows??? You are my family and friends and you have been with me and I take you now on this next trek!

With great LOVE, Nellie

Monday, March 16, 2009

Notes from India- March 16, 2009

I'm writing this from the Tibetan colony at Dikyiling, down the road from us. I walk here after our afternoon tea, since we already are in the spring time, which means much warmer days - hot to walk in mid-day for me! The young man who runs this shop is playing some very western music on his computer - a little hip hop. And from behind me is coming many mani prayers from the auditorium. which means many people are saying OM MANI PADME HUNG the mantra of Chenrezig and Compassion! I love it; east meets west; secular and profound!

Yesterday I went to the Bazaar with one of our nuns who was my bargainer and translator, helping me to purchase a mattress! We walked behind the monastery through the fields, past the little mandir (little temple - tomb of a saint) and down the steep path to the river and up again to the village of Rajpur. From there we caught a four-wheeled open "cab" I think called a bikram and headed to Dehradun! After stopping for a latte we then made our way into the Palden Bazaar which I personally think is a hell-realm that I avoid intensely! However, it was Sunday and quieter and by the time we got to the little shop, it still wasn't crowded and jammed by half and Ani started to do her thing. She called the proprieter "uncle" as the Indians do and they went at it, loudly going back and forth prices in rupees until an agreed price! I laughed and talked to another man who turned out to the be the owner across the way! He clearly wanted me to pay more! For about 8 American dollars, I got a cotton stuffed, soft mattress and kicked the terribly hard as a rock, musty smelling one out of the porch. I carried the mattress (like a futon) on my head as is the Indian way and had a blast walking through the market as people looked in awe at the big, white, westerner with the mattress on her head and when they'd catch my eye, smiling, I'd yell, "Jai India!" Muslim men, Hindi women, Christians, Buddhist monks and nuns, all haggling in the market place! What a cacophony of sounds and languages and playing at living our lives in diversity and yet, together.....We had a great lunch and after returning I laid down, deeply contented with this purchase. Simplicity.

To clean my 'house' and everything I own, might take a whole hour and a half! I wash clothes in a big bucket and hang them on the nun's hostel to dry, usually at night so that they only need a little sun exposure in the day to dry and I can bring them in by noon! My whole room was cleaned and the sheets spread on my bed and I felt as snug as a bug in a rug, as they say!

Our 2 day puja (prayers) on the anniversary commemorating the great Tibetan Yogi Milarepa and his teacher, Marpa, was earlier this week, March 10 and 11th. I was so grateful to be the only lay person in our hall with our nuns and the other Geylas, the Tibetan lamas who teach our nuns Tibetan, Buddhist philosophy and debate. Tuesday and Wednesday, we began at 8 am and ended around 6 pm with breaks for tea and lunch. It was very helpful to me to sit in meditation for such long periods and strengthens my daily practice; In regards to the holiday, to honor this, lights are strung from the temples and an atmosphere pervaded the monastery of reverence and a quiet Joy. The full moon competed with red lights dangling from the big hall and temple and the white lights that circumambulated the Kalachakra Temple and which guided us that night as we walked around and around, chanting quietly the mantra of Milarepa! Je Mila Sherpa dorje la solwa deb swaha! The lights represent offerings - electrical butter lamps to the Yogi and his Guru and was soft and sweet. Adding to this is the powerfully sweet scent from the citrus trees that was like incense or perfume - lovely.

I thought of my friends and family; of all of you. You walked with me then and do so now until I see you this summer back in Maryland or in Jacksonville, or South Carolina, Miami and Oklahoma! I will be leading 2 other retreats, besides the one in Maryland; in Jacksonville in late July and in Oklahoma, in August. I will send dates if you need in the next email. In all these gatherings, we will celebrate together, and this great privilege of being alive and in these times that seem to be degenerative, we will generate Hope, Compassion and Joy.

Lord, lead me from the unreal to the Real. From death to Immortality. From the false to the Truth. From chaos to beauty.

These words from the Upanishads were prayers the Gandhi-ji particularly loved and in his interdenominational prayer meetings would recite this! May it be so....Let's be led.....


Monday, March 9, 2009

Save the Date--Talk in Annapolis, MD

and save yourself from the INSANITY of fear!!

How to remember ABUNDANT JOY in a crashing market

FRIDAY June 12, 2009 7 - 9 pm
SATURDAY June 13, 2009 9 - 4 pm

Annapolis, MD
Friends Meeting House
351 Dubois Rd., Annapolis, MD 21401, USA
(From Rt. 50, exit at Rowe Blvd./Bestgate Rd and turn left at the light on Bestgate. After one long block, turn right at the light before the Catholic Church. Then take the first left at Dubois and go to the end of the street . Despite what Mapquest or Google Maps display, the meeting house is at the end of the street.)

My Dear Friends, please come and join me as we contemplate what the message is in times like this in which fear and catastrophic thoughts are bombarding us every day. The Dalai Lama was very clear that despite the massive suffering Chairman Mao rained down upon the Tibetans, that he was his friend. His Holiness said many times that the Chinese are my friends, for they give me an object for my practice of Compassion.

So it is with us; this economic "downturn" is simply an opportunity for each of us to walk the walk and to live as if we know that the Truth about ourselves is never threatened. Jesus said simply, in the Course, "NOTHING REAL CAN BE THREATENED. NOTHING UNREAL EXISTS. HEREIN LIES THE PEACE OF GOD." Period.

We will gather and I will have the great Joy of sharing my experiences of India with you and to share this time gathering all of our resources that we stabilize our little ego minds as a mother takes a child by the hand and leads her away from a dangerous edge of fear. It is that simple. The Truth doesn't fluctuate as the market does!! The value of COMPASSION doesn't rise and fall as the dollar does!

And your own self-worth cannot change; ever. This is what we have waited for - to be put to the test. This time, we will chose to love and to forgive and to be at peace!

"Why do you worry about what to wear or how to feed yourselves? Consider the lilies of the field." Please consider joining us. Please consider your own state of mind and the approach you want to make and the attitude you want to cultivate at this time and allow this decision to become a great Light for those around you and in this world that cries out for comfort. Let us consider the Path of Joy, now and always

with Love, Nellie