Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November 29th....Self Honesty...

Working again today, so here's a shot of Migyur Dorje from Sunday. The subject of todays post will be about paint failure. Sounds ominous perhaps, but here on the Stupa team we've come to understand that such episodes represent set backs, rather than major catastrophies. In that spirit, here goes the assessment... Posted by Picasa

This photo from earlier this month shows the reason for this exploration (beyond trying to figure out how to correct the problem). Behind Lisa you see the image of Migyur Dorje up there, primed and ready for paint. Our plan had been to build a platform and use heaters to heat the surface so we could work through the winter. We're now considering allowing the painting to wait until spring, when conditions are more reliably favorable. We have much to do that is not restricted by colder temperatures, so there's no shortage of activity for us to engage in. The key is we're trying to work "smart". Posted by Picasa

As a point of comparison this is the south wall. Conditions here were much more favorable (painted the same day as those images below, but on the sunny side). You can see the paint worked. So the lesson we're gathering is that temperature is really important, as is moisture. Posted by Picasa

Here's a streak close up. You can rub off that white business, which again, I think represents a failure of the paint to bond properly.  Posted by Picasa

Here's a close up of the problem. That milky white substance is powdery when you touch it. I think I've read about this when investigating problems with acrylic paints. This is an example of where it did not bond properly.  Posted by Picasa

The upper portion of the steps on the north wall had the biggest failure. Makes sense when you consider the rain factor. It did rain that evening, and in the low temps the paint likely did not cure properly first. So, there's an example of how adverse conditions affect the paint. Posted by Picasa

This is a broader view of the north wall, where our biggest problems arose. Some facts to consider include we painted it last. It is the shadiest side of the Stupa, and the day I painted I felt I was literally racing against a deadline of rain and falling temperatures. Thus, of all the areas of the Stupa, this one was painted under the worst conditions. We tried to be careful, but time was against us.

Thus, we're learning to take a good hard look at our work. Learning from our mistakes (we hope) we're discussing plans for the winter. We'll keep you posted!

Maybe we are slow on the uptake, but we're sincere in our desire to do the best we can. Ashby, a regular on our crew, has done some really great research into acrylics, mediums to help protect against what we've seen, and our preliminary discussion has resulted in the thinking of allowing it to wait.

Of course, this activity is not just about concrete, paint and weather. It is a practice, a meritorious activity engaged in by aspiring bodhisattvas seeking to purify their karma and contribute to the liberation of all suffering beings in existence. Thus, we'll paint in the pouring rain if there were some reason to do so (reasons for this activity, as I mentioned, are not centered around actual physical accomplishments alone). But for now, our plan is to sort out and clean up messes! : )

As I mentioned, I am "working" today. I had a few hours off as the hospital was overstaffed, but the word's in, I need to get in there and start taking care of patients so I'm off. For now I'll leave you with the images here, and all those in our extensive archives.

May you be inspired by the devotion of this faithful crew of ordinary folks spending all their time off working, working for the benefit of beings. The Stupas exist only to bring blessings and peace to all that encounter them. They offer this openly without restrictions. They don't care if you're Buddhist, or even if you're human. They'll bring blessings regardless, so please do come and visit here often! If you can, come on out to Poolesville and see them in person! We'll be working to keep them available to you both here online, and in Maryland, for as long as possible...Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 27, 2005

November 27th...Nourshing food and learning to eat...

The temperature got into the 50's today, so we darted out between the morning teaching and the afternoon practice to get the sun painted on Migyur Dorje. Lisa had gone out last week to buy the paint, so we'd be ready when the opportunity arose. Here she is, all the way up on the spire again! Posted by Picasa

I don't know if you can see her face (the lighting was terrible, really cloudy), but Lisa does not look comfortable. Those of you new to the blog may not know it, but Lisa started out on this project terrified of heights! She wouldn't even get on the upper steps without a rope and harness, much less consider getting on the spire...now look at her! Working on Stupas truly is a practice of devotion... Posted by Picasa

We only had an hour, but Lisa championed the cause! She got it done! Posted by Picasa

There you go. The sun is now painted. Based on our experience with the lower steps, it may not work out perfectly (in samsara what does?) but we'll get it all.

Tomorrow I'll post some shots of the areas where the paint didn't adhere well. We knew we were taking a risk, and decided to go for it anyway. We already are formulating plans for the spring. : ) We've got plenty to do even in the cold weather though!

For now, I'll end with my usual invitation to come see these amazing structures for yourselves! Today, during group practice one of the monks (Konchog) reminded us that when the Migyur Dorje Stupa was built and consecrated, they were asked to specifically focus on the healing quality of the Stupa. The relics of Migyur Dorje, some of which are actually in this Stupa, were known in Tibet to be especially potent for healing from illness. This Stupa was built with a dedication in mind that it would provide healing to those with life incurable diseases or illness. Of course, it has all the qualities of a fully empowered Stupa (see the links on this page to catch just a glimpse of some of them!), but that was a focus. It is offered to all beings, human and non, Buddhist or not. So please do take some time to see it for yourself! Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 25, 2005

November 25th...Waiting...

Short post tonight, as I'm back to work for a living for a few days. We're looking to wrap up the painting as soon as the weather breaks (we're looking for > 50 degrees, and it is almost December!). Sunday looks promising, so we may be back out to Migyur Dorje to paint the sun up on the top. It's primed now, we're just waiting for a few warm hours. Once that's done we can take down that upper ladder.

We'll be turning our attention to building a platform out there soon, and of course finishing the gaus of the other Stupas. For now though, I'm heading for some rest.

If you have some time off this season, please do consider coming out to visit these amazing structures. They exist only to bring benefit to you, whoever you are. No strings attached. Even just seeing their images on these pages brings blessings to your mindstream. Not because of my skills as a photographer, but because of their enlightened nature. So if you can't make it to Poolesville to see them in person, we'll keep posting photos online here for you! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 24, 2005

November 24th...Thanksgiving...

Initially we'd thought maybe we'd take the day off from Stupa work. It is Thanksgiving after all, and the temple is having a huge dinner. We had also wanted to make it to the afternoon tsog practice, leaving little time. However, we did have one thing we could do that would be quick... Posted by Picasa

Our goal today was simple, caulk and seal the gau for Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje Stupa. Malik (Lisa's son) was willing to do the dirty work... Posted by Picasa

Malik then used his finger to smooth out the caulk. We're really glad he was with us! Lisa and I were both robed for practice, making climbing around the Stupa difficult... Posted by Picasa

We all gave it one last looking over before heading back to the temple for practice. You may note that as temps have fallen, we've gotten back into our routine of integrating practice with the physical work. It feels good to be back in the prayer room more! Don't worry though, we're not abandoning the Stupas! We're just settling into a winter pace... Posted by Picasa

Well, we aren't seamstresses. We've learned this painfully. However, there is a net improvement in Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje Stupa. Amitayus now has a clean, sealed, brocade lined alcove to ride out the winter in. This small Stupa is at the top of our list for spring renovation, including a complete replacement of the brocades. What we have out there now is the best we could come up with on the fly. We'll put a new plexiglas shield on the list too.

Though we've been forced by weather to alter our approach, we haven't been deterred. We will see it all through, from stripping and repainting these small Stupas (there are two behind the temple as well) to mounting our bronze Buddha reliefs. We're just waiting for some decent temps! We know, of course, it may be a few months. We've got lots to do even in the cold weather though, so keep checking in!

Regardless of the weather, the Stupas are open and available year round. It is our sincere hope you will take the time to come see them for yourselves. They exist only to bring blessings to all who encounter them, from the birds in the sky overhead, to the ants that take up residence on them, to the fortunate humans that happen upon them. We are working hard so they may remain in the world to benefit beings like you for generations to come... Posted by Picasa

November 23rd...Gathering of Merit and Virtue...

We spent the morning in practice, but right after lunch we all assembled to assess the situation. Due to our limited time (only a few hours before dark) we decided to all focus on Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje as a team. You can see James here examining the condition of the Stupa itself. You can see Amitayus on his makeshift seat! Looks okay doesn't it? Our goal for the day is to get him back on his throne though... Posted by Picasa

Beth and I worked on cutting the material for the interior, while Lisa, Malik and James worked on removing the caulk from the throne (the result of our failed attempt at caulking it in last night). Once we got the brocade cut, we divided tasks. Beth was willing to take on the small throne cover (we were all bewildered by sewing machines) while the rest of us fine tuned the brocade for the interior... Posted by Picasa

Beth got right to work despite admitting she wasn't sure she knew what to do!Posted by Picasa

Though the velcro was sticky, we decided to add some glue for insurance. The brocade can be heavy... Posted by Picasa

Lisa and James worked on fitting the brocade in the gau once we had all the velcro pieces mounted and glue applied... Posted by Picasa

After we got the brocade in place we mounted our heater so the temp in the chamber could be brought up. Our theory is it will facilitate a quicker set up of the caulk...while we waited for the heater to do it's thing we headed inside to tackle the brocade situation.. Posted by Picasa

Beth, whose only experience with sewing was some brief instruction from her mother some months ago, willingly allowed Gabriel to take his best shot. Gabriel, it turns out, does know his way around a sewing machine (none of us felt competent to even try, we might wing our way through sandblasting, but put us behind one of these contraptions and we're lost...). Beth looked on to see what she could pick up... Posted by Picasa

Gabriel struggled for a while with the machine. He knows how to use one (you could tell by the way he handled this one, much more knowledgeable than any of the rest of us!), but this one was older than what he has at home. Thus, he wasn't sure how to thread the whole thing (what exactly is a "bobbin" any way!). Head up Gretchen, you'll have to work with your bobbin before using this machine again! : ) In the end, we used the piece Beth had sewn, but Gabriel took our template piece home with him promising to make another for us, on his own machine. Our time for work on the Stupas today was quite limited (most of the day was spent in practice), so once we agreed this was the best we were going to do today I headed out to the Stupa with our masterpiece... Posted by Picasa