Monday, May 30, 2005

Here's my Stupa photo for the day. We didn't do any work on the Stupa itself today, but plans are in the process of being implemented. We've decided to go with gold leaf for the face of the gau (the area around the statue) and for the spire! It'll be a challenge, but heck, what hasn't been! : ) Once we're back from New York we'll be cleaning, repairing and then painting the majority of the Stupa. During that time I'll get the cost of the leaf, and we'll work on fund raising for an order. The vision is really starting to come together! The crew is getting comfortable tackling the unknown, and we're getting some great guidance first hand from some experienced Stupa builders! How amazing! : ) Be back to work out here on Sunday, but I'll post from the road the rest of this week. It's going to be statues rather than Stupas, but it will be a glimpse into the way the interior of these sacred structures are constructed. Statues are filled in a very similar way to stupas, so I'll try to give you a peek at the process.  Posted by Hello

Ani Sherab was caught up finishing some work at her sister's house, so she was running late today. We did get out to Migyur Dorje to talk about artwork and how to care for it, but it was raining, and I didn't have my trusty PVC rainsuite with me, so I didn't venture out of the car...Before she arrived I decided to focus on the shed. We'd left it in pretty rough shape after the sandblasting ended (no one had the energy to keep things neat) and I wanted to get it together before we left if possible. So Sherab's hold up ended up my opportunity! Here's a glance at how we left it...We do share this shed with others who mow the lawn, build structures and repair things for the temple, so it was important to me to get our stuff out of their way... Posted by Hello

I started by making piles on the ground, sorting things into functional groups... Posted by Hello

Here is a look at how it was when I finished. Not perfect, but much better. A clear path at least...
Posted by Hello

Just in case you thought I might have just thrown everything onto the lawn... : ). By the time it was over I was happy, I'd organized our equipment, and cleared a path through the shed for the other temple folks. The Stupas are our focus, but there's always a lot of work going on out here, lawns to be cut, repairs to the buildings to be made, airconditioners to be placed...It felt good to get this done before leaving for New York! I'll be posting from the road tomorrow, so if the images are poor, just remember it might be coming from my camera phone. Call me a goof ball (you'd be right), but I just wanted to share this experience with you all as well. We're heading to New York to learn statue filling from Khenpo Norgye. It is an art very similar to filling Stupas, so we're all very excited. More than that, Dawa and Christine from Arizona will be joining us, so there'll be plenty of Stupa stories to pass the time as we travel. Just because we'll be gone don't think there's nothing to do on the Stupas though! Ani Rene and KT at the temple can help you get going if you want to work while we're gone! Or maybe it's a great chance to enjoy them while we won't be making a mess! : ) Tomorrow there will be some photos from the New York Retreat Center, so give us a visit! Posted by Hello

Technical work...

Below is a photo of the Yeshe Tsogyal mantra hanging on my wall. I posted it with my phone, as an experiment. I'm leaving it here for today (the first photo I posted disappeared) to be sure the technology is working itself out. But the great news is you'll get to see glimpses of the trip to New York in real (or almost) time! I'll post occasional photos of what we're up to (I won't interfere with Khenpo's teaching believe me) so you all can see what we're doing up there. : )

So do keep checking in! Forgive the poor resolution of the photos, but what do you want from a free phone? : )

I'll be back here tonight to post what Ani Sherab and I are able to get through today. : ) I'm really glad to be able to keep in touch with all of you while we're in New York! Maybe they'll have internet access and I won't have to use the phone, but in case I do, it's great to know I can. : )

May we never forget those with hopes of us!

Sunday, May 29, 2005

May 29th Stories...

Time seems always to be unrelenting. We make plans, we have hopes, and the clock keeps ticking. We're heading to New York on Tuesday to learn statue filling from Khenpo Norgye. We know that. Dawa and Christine are arriving from Arizona tomorrow evening for the trip. We know that too. Ani Sherab is at her sister's house, fulfilling promises she made to her when she arrived several weeks ago. The terma needs to be repaired. She's going to do it. We here in Maryland want desperately to learn how to work with the Fortran, which was used to create the artwork on the Migyur Dorje Stupa, so we can repair any damage we discover now or in the future. So, with time being tight, we decide to go to Alexandria to film Sherab doing the repair! : )

It was a great opportunity to learn, but also to connect. What you can't see in all these photos is the exchange of experiences that happens when you spend time working on something like this. The Stupas are powerful, they change your life, and anyone who spends time working on them will experience this! So when you get time to work with and talk with folks you get to share stories about their abundant blessings. Ani Sherab has been working on them and studying them for over 15 years, and listening to her describe their meaning, and realizing what a blessing it is to be able to work on them really is amazing. Whether you've been doing this for years, or if you've never so much as touched a tool in your life, there's a way to connect with the Stupas here! It is my hope that by sharing this blog with you, that you can get a glimpse of the reality of it. These are real people, not some kind of contrived characters from a story. This is a real place, and the power of the Stupas is inevitable! Even a picture of the Stupa contains profound blessings (ask Gretchen! she shared her story with us today...), so just by following this blog you're accumulating merit, purifying your karma, and planting the seeds of enlightenment in your mind! That's not because of my awkward attempts to convey the experience, but because of the true nature of the sacred structures! It is the power of the Stupas!

If you want to come out and work with us, even for 5 minutes, we'll make sure you get a chance to contribute to this project! You'll surely end up with your own Stupa story to tell! It is our goal as a crew to open this opportunity to anyone and everyone who has even the slightest interest in getting involved. We promise not to gripe if you come and decide just to watch, and just because you come once doesn't mean you're branded for life. : ) You can retire at any time. : ) We just want you all to know we'd love to share this experience with you, and we'll do our best to give you an opportunity to participate if you wish to! Just let us know you're interested!

If you're nowhere near here, we'll still try and find a way for you to participate. Whether it's through watching this blog and sharing it with your friends, or if you'd like to work with us on developing an archive of stories or a long range plan for maintenance, there's lots to do (don't worry though, we're prepared to do it all ourselves, just willing to share if you are interested).

We are headed out of town on Tuesday, and I'm not sure of the internet situation in New York (it is a RETREAT center after all, I'm not sure we can expect a connection up there). If I can post from there I will, if not, I'll post as soon as I return. Ani Sherab, who you've seen working on these pages, has said she might post a thing or two while we're gone! That would be worth reading! She's got an awesome amount of knowledge and devotion.

Tomorrow we've got a lot to do before heading to the airport to pick up Dawa and Christine, so I'll post whatever we're able to get to!

Here's a photo of the terma we'll be repairing today before we removed it from the Stupa. This terma was a revelation by Terton Migyur Dorje, whose relics are actually inside this Stupa! Terton Migyur Dorje revealed the Nam Cho cycle of teachings, which our Palyul Lineage practices. Part of that revelation was this script, which is dakini script. It is called "Liberation Upon Seeing" because just by seeing this, the seed of Liberation is planted in your mindstream! It is a sacred image, so the work we're doing is approached as a practice, with opening prayers and aspirations that it will bring benefit to beings... Posted by Hello

We're working on repairing the terma today. Ani Sherab is staying at her sisters's house in Alexandria. Because we have no experience with this at all, we decide if she can't come to us, we'll go to her, to learn how to work with the Fortran and repair the artwork for Migyur Dorje. So Lisa and I pack up and head to Virginia! Here Ani Sherab takes a wirebrush to the terma to clean off any loose material while assessing the damage... Posted by Hello

You can see where the caulk gave way along the top edge of the terma, leading to break down of the material along that edge... Posted by Hello

Here's a close up of the worst damage. You can see the screws had rusted, and that water had been running down behind the relief when it was mounted on the Stupa. This is the result of a break in the caulk seal, which is something we must be vigilant of in the future to prevent any further damage. Ani Sherab doesn't think this is really all that bad, but wants to teach us how to repair it while she's here. : ) We're all eager to learn... Posted by Hello

Before any repairs are made, the surface must first be prepped. Trisodium Phosphate is a great cleaning agent. We'll use it to clean off any soiled areas or loose material from the terma, the goal is not to get it free of stains, but free of debris which might inhibit proper bonding of the repair... Posted by Hello

A wire brush and the trisodium phosphate work well... Posted by Hello

We're going to place a 2x4 on the edge of the terma to act as a jig for the repairs. Sherab sprays the board with release agent to prevent repair material from bonding to it... Posted by Hello

Clamps are used to secure the board, our jig, to the terma. Thanks Dad for the clamps! : ) Sherab shows Lisa how to place them so the pressure is correct... Posted by Hello

Ani Sherab places a bead of clay along the seam between the terma and the jig (board) to prevent repair material from leaking through the joint... Posted by Hello

Now that everything is ready, we check to be sure the surface is level so the repair material (which will be a thick liquid) will spread properly... Posted by Hello

Ani Sherab explains that all the directions on how to use the material is detailed in the documentation that comes with it. The mix is fairly precise, so she said we should use a gram scale when preparing it. The chemicals react to form the resin, so the proper ratio is important... Posted by Hello

Sherab shows Lisa how to mix the materials... Posted by Hello

Ani Sherab borrowed a weight watchers scale from her sister's friend to ensure the mix would be correct... Posted by Hello

Here the Fortran is being poured into place. You can see the purpose of the jig, and why we placed clay underneath (to prevent the liquid material from dripping through to the ground... Posted by Hello

A putty knife works well to guide the repair material into place. Once the material is poured and worked into place, we all go inside to have a snack and do some brainstorming on the Stupa Park... Posted by Hello

We all wait to see what the repair looks like as Sherab removes the clamps... Posted by Hello

As Ani Sherab cleans up the edges, it is clear that the Fortran did not make it into all the cracks. The angle of the jig was such that it cut off flow of material from areas on the bottom of the terma, which you can see here are incompletely filled... Posted by Hello

Ani Sherab mixed another batch of the material and lets Lisa stir it to the proper consistency... Posted by Hello

The afternoon is drawing on, and Ani Sherab applies yet another coat of the Fortran to fill in areas that weren't completely filled by the first application... Posted by Hello

Faced with another period of waiting for the Fortran to dry, we break out the phone book to find the closest Starbucks. We all agree we'll do decaf, but decide to go anyway. It's getting late, and we are realizing we won't finish this today. We've got a lot on our plate for tomorrow! We'll be finishing the terma repair (need a belt sander to get the surface smooth and square), taking a tour of Migyur Dorje, and helping prepare a place for Ani Dawa and Christine to stay (they're arriving from Arizona tomrrow for our trip to New York). We'll see how much actually gets done! : ) Posted by Hello