Thursday, May 21, 2015

Some Helpful People and "Rain" in the Rain (Karmapa Pilgrimage 2015, Part 2)

The first time I ever visited Woodstock, I was prepared to like it. I had heard about it from a friend and knew it would be wonderful. I wasn’t prepared, though, to fall in love with it—but that’s what happened. What’s not to love about a place that’s stunningly beautiful, filled with interesting shops, politically progressive, a center for writing and the arts, and the home of one’s spiritual teachers?

The first place I stayed in Woodstock was the place I returned to on this most recent trip—the Woodstock Inn on the Millstream. I first chose the Inn based on a photo I saw on the Internet, and I was thrilled with my choice. I’ve always been somewhat sensitive to what I call “place energy,” and the Inn has some of the most positive, rejuvenating place energy I’ve ever experienced; I describe it to friends as a “vortex of happiness.”

So it was with relief after a long drive up the East Coast, including navigating traffic like I hadn’t seen in a long time outside Washington, D.C., on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway, and having a bit of a white-knuckle experience on the Francis Scott Key Bridge above Baltimore harbor, that I pulled into the parking lot at the Inn on Sunday, April 19, arriving in New York just in time to attend His Holiness Karmapa’s bestowal of the Karma Pakshi empowerment at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in nearby Kingston that evening.

I had originally thought I wouldn’t travel to see Karmapa this time. I had, after all, seen him on his two previous trips to the USA, and money for the trip was tight to nonexistent. But then I heard that he would be giving a talk in Woodstock on Earth Day, and I was hooked—because I’m certain that it’s due to his blessings, as well as blessings I’ve received from my refuge lama, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, and perhaps even from the energy of Machik Labdron herself—that I am able to earn money in retirement from working to restore, protect and preserve Florida’s fabulous freshwater springs. Karmapa’s dedication to the environment and his teachings about the importance of valuing and preserving it are continual inspirations to me.

Tibetan Buddhist teachers say that obstacles can arise when you are planning a visit to an important teacher and that you should be thankful for those obstacles, because they mean you are purifying past karma. The first big obstacle I encountered was that after hearing the first rumor of Karmapa’s Earth Day talk, I could find out nothing more about it!

I wrote to the KTD office; nothing. I wrote to an official in the Town of Woodstock whose address I found on the Internet; nothing. I asked the lama at Gainesville KTC; nothing. Finally—and in desperation—I wrote to the one remaining person I know who is still living at KTD, and that person kindly gave me the information I needed to solidify plans for the trip. I think of this person as a friend but I don’t know if the feeling is mutual; however, it seems s/he has always been right on the spot whenever I’ve needed help with something or answers to questions. It strikes me that must be the true definition of a dharma friend—someone who helps even a mere acquaintance who can be an intrusive questioner, pushy or even obnoxious in her demands for information.

The Karma Pakshi empowerment was a late-breaking development and I was fortunate to get a ticket in the nosebleed section of UPAC. Karmapa, as always, was magnificent. But the highlights of the trip for me were the two smaller events that happened on Earth Day.

Through a total coincidence—or was it?—I met a Town Council member who was doing construction at the Inn on one of the first mornings I was there. Over coffee in the breakfast room, he confirmed details of Karmapa’s Earth Day talk and we had a good chat about Buddhism, KTD, and the town’s wish to keep the Earth Day talk quiet because the roads into Woodstock can easily become overwhelmed with traffic. Ah! He explained my difficulty in finding out about the event—the Town Council had asked KTD not to publicize it!

Monday, my first full day in Woodstock, was grey and rainy and cold. I mostly hunkered down in my warm, comfy room, complete with electric fireplace, and made no attempt to go up the hill to KTD because I knew Karmapa was giving a talk to KTD’s members and I was certain that access to the grounds would be limited to those people. I did brave the elements to go out for lunch and to visit The Golden Notebook, one of the local bookstores, where I scored a copy of my friend Cynthia Barnett’s just-released book, Rain:  A Natural and Cultural History. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of Rain in the rain at the inn.

On Tuesday, I headed up the hill to visit Namse Bangdzo—the amazing bookstore at KTD that I describe to people as the best Buddhist bookstore in North America—but there were security guards at the gate who explained that the bookstore was closed that day too. Leaning out of the car window, I fell into a bit of friendly conversation with them and they mentioned the Earth Day talk on Wednesday. I told them I was planning to go and one of them added, “There’s a tree planting ceremony here tomorrow at 10 a.m. and everyone is invited; you could come back then.”

Wow—not one but two events with Karmapa on Earth Day! I felt like I had just won the Lotto.

Here's a clip of Karmapa talking about Karma Pakshi at UPAC.

1 comment: