The Pace of Grace, by Gayle Colman

The Pace of Grace, by Gayle Colman

Sitting outside, prayer flags gently waving in the breeze, I am transported back to Tibet where prayer flags decorate the mountains like colorful hard candy and make “bridges” over the rushing rivers.  Shopping in Tibet Town, Chengdu, the flags are tightly wound and tied with ribbon just aching to breathe.

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I’ve been invited to write about our experience in Tibet. Unless it’s poetry or song, words rarely capture the essence of experience.  I invite you to see and feel as I do, in the heart.

The pace of grace and spirit of love describe my felt sense of being in Rahob Village. The flags dancing in our yard mirror the flags on the mountains of Tibet. Connected through the prayers blowing in the wind, we beings are all the same. Perhaps here is the place to start.

Each morning our hosts woke early to begin their regular daily chores which, along with caring for their toddler grandchildren (who live with them as their daughter-in-law is seriously ill), consumed most of their time. Now six westerners were in their care requiring breakfast and beds.  Geptsum and The Glorious One (our mother host name escapes me but it means The Glorious One, and she is Glorious) hosted our Sangha-mates on the previous visit three years ago; they were accustomed to our ways.  Geptsum and Glorious were gracious and kind.  Sweet joy filled their home.

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Our hosts embodied the village life: the simple pace of a culture free of technology (except cell phones from the Chinese – but that is another story).  Computers, iPads, television and electronics are almost non-existent.  There are no exits, drifts, or diversions for attention from now – dah – as they say.  Life at the pace of grace is right here.

All of the cows living at Rahob Village roam free… not owns  by anyone.  Rinpoche bought the cows years ago—now they belong to everyone and no one.  A sense of liberation permeates the village, ironic given the stark oppression from the Chinese.  But it is so as we experienced firsthand with every breath and every step on the land.

The remarkable devotion we witnessed might be supported by this way of life.  Life is primitive and very intentional; energy is rarely wasted.   When asked about our experience, I think of the pace and practice of simplicity that enhances life from survival to deep heart connection.  The village is a village where cooperation, sharing and meaning are embedded in their way of living—the essence of community and connection.

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Before school begins, young girls drive the yaks up the road to the mountain pastures for their daily roam, and the activity is repeated in the evening.  Yak dung is plentiful J – watch your step! – and stored on the stone walls drying for future use in the cast iron stoves resting squarely in the kitchen.  As in our lives, the kitchen is the epicenter of the home where we gathered every morning and evening. Our morning ritual included warm yak milk, eggs and homemade bread.  The rest of our meals, lunch and dinner, were provided by the monks up the hill at the Monastery.  In the evening, our day concluded with lively banter with our hosts, using limited words, smiles and gestures, and of course, warm yak milk, occasionally turned into chocolate milk by Dan and Forrest.

After five days of “sponge baths” and one fun evening of shared hair washing in the face washing bowl, Michelle, Susan and I ventured out to use the local shower. It seems odd that a shower and laundry consumed an entire morning, but this is the pace I write about.   Everything happens, Dah, now.  By the time we finished a few bits of laundry, breakfast, meditation, and obtained instructions for the community shower (two small rooms – one with a bench for dressing and one with the shower), it was almost time for lunch.

One day the gate to enter the home where we stayed in the village was locked on our return from a meal and we were stuck outside the house.   As we stood, confused but not worried, we were greeted by the neighbors who welcomed us into their home and offer us a fresh cup of yak milk and local sweets.

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Huge balls of yak butter were stored in our bedroom.  Initially I thought it was bread rising.  Actually our bedroom was the palatial living room, colorfully decorated with pictures of political and spiritual leaders.  We slept on futons on the floor next to the exercise equipment surrounded by the wall to wall “sofas,” or five foot wide platforms with cushions that run the perimeter of the room.  Versatility is essential here: sleeping, sitting, eating, resting, diaper changing, all life activities happen on these pieces of furniture.  In fact, their furniture is very mobile, and  is transported to the open fields for festivals, like the Gesar Festival which lasted for several days.

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If you about a most favorite experience, I can’t answer.  There was not one major highlight or even several peak experiences, but many moments along the journey.

The soft tender eyes of Tibetans draw you in like the depth of the ocean;

Gentle smiles warm your heart;

Tashi Delek echoes in the space of no time;

Tsampa spread evenly on a plastic tarp dries resting on the floor;

Yak stomach hangs on the porch drying for who knows what? J

A wooden toilet seat matches modern versions made for us, to bridge the human activity of releasing waste.

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Our time together wove a tapestry of Tibetan travels, and the various energies mixed together so well the tapestry lives in our hearts, the spirit of love infused in our being.

Marc, with the new moniker, Mercury, for his unwavering daily messaging up the mountain to the Ashram 14,000 feet, consumed every meal with exquisite delight. I believe he even liked the pigeon soup. Coen and Annelies – also Billy goats in human form – flourished with contentment and compassion, peace and kind smiles radiating from their state of being. Paul, snacking vigorously on yak meat as tough as leather, will forever be Cowboy Paul—without doubt, he is a Tibetan Cowboy.  Michelle, keenly focused on Forrest’s well-being and her mission with the schools, generously included us in the school project.  Because of her, we connect children throughout the world.  Forrest, an extraordinary youth, captured our hearts, as well as those of all he met.  He traveled better than most adults, even in the most trying circumstances, and taught us many lessons.  Susan, a gentle warrior generously and impeccably offered her wisdom and expertise when the situation called for it. Rich, fearless in his travel prep, became Dan’s Tibet Town wingman as the shopping became an intense game of wills.  Fredi joined us late and plugged right in the family scene.  Dan, an exemplar of fierce mother love and compassion, protected us with unbounded wholeness.  I am a better mother because of Dan.  I was there, as were you, the beneficiary of precious human life.  We were on this journey together—our hearts ignite and the pace of grace and spirit of love burn bright.

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