Thursday, March 31, 2005

Forecast for rain...

Not much work done today, as the anticipation of rain kept everyone cautious. The stripper sits overnight, a required dwell time to allow it to do it's thing. As it is a water based stripper, rain would neutralize the chemical reaction, so it wouldn't work.

As it turns out, it didn't rain. So we'll see how it goes tomorrow. If it doesn't rain, Norbu and Caen will be applying the stripper, so it will be stripping on Saturday.

Ani Rene has also planned to gather a team to begin scraping the Enlightenment Stupa on Saturday, for those of you who don't want to get too messy.

Since there aren't any photos to post today, I'll talk a little about the stripper we're using, for the benefit of those who might be interested.

We are using a product from Cathedral Stone:

It is water based, biodegradable, non-toxic, and very effective. The photos of our previous applications testify to that. It is taking two coats on all the Stupas so far, but that is almost 20 years of accumulated layers of paint we're removing. It is relatively easy to work with, spraying it on with an airless sprayer and then removing using scrapers and a power washer. We have also been using it under less than ideal conditions. On average the temperature has maxed out at around 50 degrees, and we've had lots of rain. A few days of stripper removal we worked in the rain. It has helped us tremendously in terms of saving man hours. We've nearly completely removed all the paint from the entire Stupa Park in only two weeks, which includes the learning curve and a few rain days where application couldn't take place.

The stripper is evidently a combination of water, alcohol and peroxide. It doesn't burn if it touches your skin (unless you let it dwell there, like when working with it all day) and rinses and cleans up with water. There is some sort of molecular engineering thing going on, so this isn't a mix you could render yourself. You can see the website for more information. Just wanted to give all interested in idea of materials we're using, in case you find yourselves in a similar situation. We can have the whole Park stripped, repaired and re-painted in the time it would have taken just to scrape one large Stupa.

Stay tuned for more updates!

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Rainbows appear as the power washer removes paint.. Posted by Hello

Pete continues with the power washer. At this point we realize we'll have to do a second application of stripper to remove remaining paint. Much concrete is visible however. Almost there.. Posted by Hello

After lunch it's back to work. Posted by Hello

Amber and Michelle having joined the crew. Posted by Hello

Hoa scraping the throne of the Long Life Stupa Posted by Hello

Caen doing his opening prayers. All those who work on the Stupas recite prayers before beginning the activity, praying that their activity will bring benefit to all beings. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Plan for tomorrow...

As you can see, we've gotten the stripper applied to the Long Life Stupa. Tomorrow we're going to start early, 9 am. We'll be filling water barrels at the temple, then heading up to the site to begin removing the stripper. We can use lots of help scraping the stripper material. Keep in mind, this is messy work and this stuff smells bad, so dress appropriately.

Also keep in mind, however, this is an extraordinary opportunity! How rare to even see a Stupa, much less have the chance to lovingly clean and repair one! The benefits are immeasurable, not only for yourself, but for all beings lost in samsara. So please do join us, even if you don't like messes.

Besides scraping, repair work will continue, as will sanding of the spires of the small Stupas.

In addition we could really use help getting water to the site. This requires a pick up truck with 4 wheel drive. If you can help, you can just show up any time during the morning. It is difficult to contact us during the day, as the site is remote enough cell phones don't work well.

Whether you want to work or just watch, please come visit!

At the end of the day the Long Life Stupa is coated with the stripper. Tomorrow we'll see how effective it is! Posted by Hello

Late in the afternoon spraying begins. Stripper is applied using an airless sprayer. We used a gas powered generator to run an electric sprayer on our remote site.  Posted by Hello

All of the morning and much of the afternoon was spent scraping loose paint from the Long Life Stupa. Here Ani Hesper and Ani Rene scrape the throne while Norbu mixes repair mortar. Posted by Hello

Small cracks were ground out and cleaned prior to applying repair material. Posted by Hello

While Norbu scraped the upper levels with his belay Ashby below keeping him safe, Caen begins repairing the small Stupas Posted by Hello

The Tigle at the top of the Stupa Posted by Hello

Webbing and caribiner.  Posted by Hello

Early start. We used climbing harnesses and webbing to secure access to upper levels of the Long Life Stupa Posted by Hello

Monday, March 28, 2005


For a rough estimate we will be usually starting at 10am and will fininsh when the days goals of necassity have been completed.
Being in a Dakini Mandala times can be unpredictable so please keep that consideration.

Sundays are generally a day of Teachings and Tsog.
Mondays thru fridays are 10am to finish
Saturdays are to be announced, so far guided by Ani Rene and have began at 9 or 10 am

but this entree will be edited as often as possible to remain accurate and welcoming for anyone who has an hour to spare

Tuesday 3.29.5 - 9 am start time

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Stupa Park when new Posted by Hello

March 27, 2005

Though Norbu and I weren't able to be present this weekend (each of us earning our living), work did continue at the Stupa Park. Ani Rene, who lead a team on Saturday, reports the spires of the small Stupas, which are wood, were sanded, and some scraping begun on the central Stupa.

Tomorrow, Monday, I'll be back on site with the camera to give you a direct view of the progress.

For now, I'll post a picture of the Stupa Park when it was first built, when it was new. It is our goal to restore the Stupas to that state. We are on our way at last!

Friday, March 25, 2005

the result: Stupas with no more paint! Posted by Hello

Sangha members Ani Rene, Ashby and Norbu removing paint, Ani Sonam (background) power washing Posted by Hello

Stupa with stripper applied, Norbu setting up generator and sump pump Posted by Hello

Removing Stripper 3/25/05

As Norbu indicated yesterday, we did remove the stripper today. We are using a non-toxic, biodegradable product from Cathedral Stone. The product worked really well, especially considering the years of accumulated paint. We were able to strip 8 stupas, 6ft tall each, in 4 days. It may have taken only 2 days, but we're learning how to do this.

Norbu introduced us yesterday, but I'll introduce myself here briefly and give a little background about the project. This is Ani Sonam, blessed with the inconceivable good fortune to be a practitioner of Buddhism, a student of Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo. We (Norbu and I are leading the project, but many of our sangha members have jumped in to contribute to this auspicious and meritorious effort) are working on restoring Stupas built by Jetsunma's students years ago, when the temple was being established. There are three primary Stupas, and many smaller ones located on the 65 acres of temple land. The current focus is what we call the Stupa Park, which has a Long Life Stupa for our teacher in the center, surrounded by the eight traditional Tibetan Stupa forms.

It has taken over a year just to research materials, as in the beginning I had no idea how complicated concrete can be. Over the coarse of this project I hope to include information in this blog that might benefit other centers with Stupas made of concrete, and who may be facing similar challenges with regard to maintenance. The short story can be summed up this way: I learned concrete must breath, that it is porous and therefore draws moisture up from the ground, and the resulting vapor needs to evaporate. Thus, when you place a non-permeable coating (like regular oil based or latex paints) on the concrete (thinking sealing it from water penetrating from the outside is good), you actually block this necessary process, causing the water vapors to get trapped beneath the paint, accelerating the deterioration of the substrate (concrete). We have found, finally, products that can remove the built up layers of oil based paint, repair the damage that has developed over the years, and a mineral based paint that will act like gortex, protecting the Stupas from water penetration from the outside, while allowing water vapor from within to evaporate. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to finally be getting to work! The Stupas are precious beyond our ordinary mind's ability to understand. Ask anyone, however, who has spent time around them, and they'll testify to the fact that although we may not be able to grasp the magnitude of their blessing, we can effortlessly bask in that blessing.

The logistics of the project were a challenge. The site is remote, accessible by a poorly maintained dirt road with ruts and drop offs to be careful of. It is also accessible by a beautiful walking path, which is how it was intended to be visited, but that didn't help us get equipment up there for this task. There is no water, and no electricity. Our solution was to use a generator for electric, which we used to power the sprayer for application of the stripping agent. Today, we used the generator to run a sump pump, which we used to pump water from 55 gallon barrels carted up by pick up truck, to our gas powered power washer.

I'm going to follow this text post with images, so you can see what we're doing.

Please keep in mind that all of us working on this project are devoting our bodies, our labor, our minds, hearts and practice to this in order to bring immeasurable blessing to all sentient beings without exception. The reason stupas are so precious to me as a practitioner, is that they exist only to bring benefit, to any being, human, non-human, any being whatsoever, whether you're Buddhist, or you hate Buddhists, these amazing manifestations of compassion offer only blessings, whether you know what they are or not, whether you love them or not, they generate benefit and blessings for you without ceasing. How amazing, to have an opportunity to be of service to these great structures!

We invite any of you who see this to come and visit our center, if the Buddhist thing doesn't work for you, no problem, come visit the stupas, enjoy our peace park. It is here for all beings seeking refuge, relief from suffering.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What's going on here and now

Our names are Ani Sonam and Norbu Tashi. We are Tibetan Buddhist Practioners within the Nyingma sect and Palyul Lineage and our Root Lama is Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamo. She is the 1st Western woman recognized as a Tulku or Reincarnate Lama. This is not to say we are segregating ourselfs from any other sect, lineage or religion. Just where we each have found our Teacher.

Ani Sonam is a Wonderfully wise and humble Nun (Ani in Tibetan) that is working in many ways to support our Teacher and the Dharma.

I, Norbu Tashi, am a grammatically challenged Lay practioner hoping to create enough merit to be able to stay on the path and be of true benefit to sentient Beings.

Here is just outside Poolesville, Maryland. Now is Today, haha. We did the 154th step out of about 1080, maybe even potentially more than that. The step was the second application of a non-toxic Paint Stripper on 8 supporting Stupas to Jetsunma Ahkon Norbu Lhamos' Long Life Stupa. Pictures are quite key to grasping what's really going on so visit, follow the "stupa park" link, to get a better idea if you don't see pictures here. All of this entree is going to be confusing without the background infomation of what all this is but clarity will come in time. Or at least it was for me when I first became involved with Buddhism.
Tomorrow we shall remove it and see beautiful bare concrete awaiting a new Gortex style paint that will help to lengthen the stupas' existance.

That being a start for this, Please tune in and return often to learn more about how to be a part and help (whether close or far) or about our successes and trials (AKA failures, haha). We want this to be a tool for sharing information and learning in order to benefit all sentient beings.

A Stupa Start

Sometimes being silly is good and sometimes it's not