Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Gift of Presence

        
It is just an ordinary grayish rock, weathered by time and the elements, grainy with texture, its rounded form irregular but comfortable in your hand. There are thousands of similar rocks visible in stream beds in that part of the Catskills. I longed for one, when I first saw them in those stream beds.

It had been gathered for a special purpose and was nestled with its fellows around a small pile of sticks and brush. They lay to one side of a lawn behind a small ordinary house, down a winding lane, far away from public traffic. Behind the lawn, down a steep hill, stood an open field in a clearing of trees.

A group had gathered. Anticipation was building. For the town council of this remote, sparsely settled area, upon learning that the Dalai Lama was expected at the tiny Tibetan monastery within their boundaries, had determined to hold an official welcome. Food and flowers stood ready on tables. Soon the helicopter would land. And the Dalai Lama would walk across the field, up the steep hill, and disappear into the monastery - as it turned out.

But first it was necessary to light the sacred fire. For the traditional smoke signal. And the stone played its role, along with its fellows, circling the fire. Never knowing the guest it honored in an ancient rite.

It was a strange sort of "official welcome" - with the guest of honor relaxing, unseen inside, while guests milled about - chatting and nibbling on exquisite tiny pastries, far from his view. I talked with someone whose path had crossed mine years and years before - though neither of us had known it at the tine. I vividly recall it as a brief but meaningful encounter. He asked about my "path" and I told him the truth: Right then - the only thing I was certain of was "the ground" I was standing on. He urged me to continue my practice.

The crowd outside seemed unsure whether or not to wait around. We'd been given to understand that there would be a chance to "meet" the Dalai Lama. But time dragged on. Nothing seemed to be happening. And many left. It was getting to be early evening on a pleasant summer day.

We were part of a small group still remaining, as we'd been guests of a town alderman - whose stepson went to the college where my husband taught. He chose to ask us. And the wonder of it still amazes me! We'd made the long drive a day or so before. And been welcomed lavishly - by people who lived very simply - in a mobile home - in the woods.

Suddenly, with hardly any warning, we were told to line up if we wanted to meet the Dalai Lama. White scarves were handed out - to present to him - the traditional Tibetan greeting of an honored person. I recall being amazed when my young son joined the line, looking solemn.

As I stood there, waiting, I recall mustering up all the awe and reverence I possessed - to honor this revered and holy man . I believe I prepared a short phrase and I must have said it as I placed the white scarf in his hands. But I honestly don't recall my role at all. It was not until much later, I think, that the experience crystalized for me - into a powerful awareness of what had really occurred in the briefest encounter with this man: The Dalai Lama's manner embodied far more reverence for me than I was capable of reverence for him.

Comprehension of that grew over time. Maybe it's growing still. I have pondered it often.

I believe the Dalai Lama taught me something very profound in that brief moment: The power of the presence of a holy person. The power of a holy person honoring a guest. The true meaning of Namaste. It sounds simple when I say it. But it's one of the most profound things anyone has ever taught me. By his mere presence alone. His manner toward me. I understand now what Jesus was trying to convey. What the Buddha must have conveyed. Why Hindus go to simply sit in the presence of a holy hermit.

Oh... the stone? Somehow before we left I had the presence of mind to walk over to the place where the fire had been. I selected one stone. A stone that fit my hand. I have told this story many, many times. Usually I give the person the stone to hold, as I tell the story.

It's just an ordinary stone. But it is invested with the meaning of that memory. I call it my Dalai Lama Rock. And I consider it holy.

I considered taking a photo of the stone. But where would I put it for such a photo? And how could you know its holiness without touching it... without feeling its weight, its grainy texture, its grayness with flecks of black. Without hearing the story and the gift of holding it at the same time.

The next day our kind hosts took us to a Zen monastery within the same township. It was a place of stunning beauty and serenity.

My stone has no such beauty. It is so ordinary.

Instead, I'm including this clip-art. Because I love it:
I think it testifies to the hidden mysteries all around us - just beneath the surface.  But present in the emptiness of an open heart.

9 comments:

matyra said...

"My stone has no beauty. It is so ordinary."

;) As a geologist, there is no such thing as an ordinary stone. Each one preserves a record of its past, where and what it came from (the stone itself), what happened to it later (weathering, being in a creek to make it round)--its 'history', so to speak.

Your stone has all of that, plus your meeting with the Dalia Lama, and your care for it afterwards, and the thoughts that it evokes.

Seems like a special stone to me!

TheraP said...

Thank you for that piece of wisdom, matyra. I guess I should have said, many people might not see its beauty.

Yes, ♪ ♫ ♪ everything is beautiful ♪ ♫ ♪, as the song goes.

You understood it all!

I never studied geology. But I love rocks. Rock formations. We have spent countless hours on beaches and elsewhere, picking out stones. Trying to decide what to take, what to leave behind. I love how rocks are formed, worn down, re-formed. I love seeing the evidence of sedimentation. I have one with amethyst crystals inside.

So many things to love in this world! So many unique people. Everything. Blades of grass. Photos. I'm amazed by all!

Thank you for your visit. Good to see you.

Peace be with you. And with your rocks....

Forestroot said...

What an experience.

I am really caught with this:

The Dalai Lama's manner embodied far more reverence for me than I was capable of reverence for him."

Thee is an old adage from my childhood:

Courtesy costs nothing.

But it has a triteness to it.

I like Q's, cannot we all take five minutes to with the other person well.

Here you come upon a spiritual leader and he 'honors' his guest.

Ha!!

TheraP said...

Dearest Forestroot, it was both so ordinary and so extraordinary - which, I suppose, is the mark of truly holy man.

He taught me. In such a subtle way it's sinking in to this very day.

Blessings upon you!

Rowan said...

The picture you included took me totally off guard. A number of years ago I wrote a poem for winter solstice. Minus the yin/yang portion, that picture is almost a clone of the drawing I did to accompany that poem. Amazing.

TheraP said...

Well, it took me off guard too, Rowan! I found it when I was searching to illustrate a post on the other blog (Bits & Pieces) - because a patient of mine drew something like that a long time ago.

I think it symbolizes the unconscious, the part of ourselves which is hidden underground so to speak. It speaks to me. It speaks to you. It spoke to her. And it does make one wonder if Jung was right - about the collective unconscious.

Thank you for telling me that. One day I will put up - when I figure how to do it - something I drew. Very different in some ways but still welling up from the unconscious like a revelation.

Peace be with you.

TheraP said...

For Rowan. I meant to add that my patient's drawing did not have the Yin-Yang aspect either. Nor does the one I hope to put up - that grew from the inside out - a kind of expanding understanding of an insight I woke up with nearly 30 years ago.

OGorganics said...

I love this clip art image. Can you tell me what program it is from please? Thank you.

TheraP said...

Wish I knew the answer to that! It started out as something that was available... and I wish I knew that myself!

Best wishes. Perhaps you can find this out for us.