Saturday, January 28, 2006
I was too tired last night to post, so I'm doubling up today. This photo is from yesterday afternoon, when James helped me hang some prayer flags. I offered the merit of their blessings to my father, who is facing surgery on Monday. While we were up by Migyur Dorje (I also spent some time circumambulating and saying prayers, all these are traditional things to do when one's loved one needs support), we got the necessary measurements to begin estimating the cost of the retaining wall...
When James and I returned to the temple, KT was ready for a meeting to discuss the status of the Stupa Project. We had our newly obtained measurements with us, but we found that in a room full of educated Buddhists none of us had any math savvy. Puneet, who has taught excel professionally, did point out that the program had some formulas built in. We eventually figured out how to calculate the area of a trapezoid, but it took some effort!
Today we had a full day of teachings from Khenpo Norgye, but during lunch Philip brought me outside to show me what he'd worked out. He's been thinking about the altar we need in front of the Enlightenment Stupa so spent some time poking around the shed and found this...
I'll leave you with a look at Migyur Dorje. The week of teachings will be wrapping up tomorrow with Khenpo giving a Guru Rinpoche Empowerment. It is always hard to say good-bye to a visiting Lama, and Khenpo has been so kind during his stay his leaving will be especially hard. My father's surgery is Monday, so I won't have time to fret too much though. You can bet I'll be visiting this very Stupa often this week!
The Stupas offer their blessings freely to all beings, without judgment or restraint. It is our hope you will take advantage of these precious structures, and come see them for yourself!
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Found out yesterday that my Dad will be needing surgery next Monday. Details aren't important. Faced with such situations, a Stupa gal turns to the methods provided by the Enlightened Ones. So I spent the day gathering offerings and assisted by James this evening, we did a smoke offering ceremony. The purpose is to offer all beings whatever they desire, distributed by the smoke as offerings are placed on the flames. I also circumambulated Migyur Dorje, which our teachers tell us was built for the specific purpose of healing illness. Tomorrow I'll hang some prayer flags and make more offerings as well as continue with the prayers. All of these practices are devoted not only to the swift healing and recovery for my Father, but for all beings suffering the cycle of birth and death.
Khenpo is teaching this weekend (did tonight as well) so it'll be busy. But it is at times like this that all the efforts put into practice really bloom into a precious resource. These resources are available to all beings, human and non, Buddhist or not, anytime you need them. Just come on out to Poolesville and see for yourself!
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Perhaps this is news to you, or maybe it isn't, but Migyur Dorje Stupa isn't actually finished! And I'm not referring to the unpainted relief...I mean the construction itself is not yet complete! We were told waaay back when it was built that the earth needed to come up to the "earth hugging layer", or the first step. Since then many ideas have been drawn up, many plans discussed, but cost has consistently been a deterring factor. We're running up against the same barriers, but progress in technology has provided us with options not open to our earlier Stupa mates. One such option is the evolution of DIY concrete block...so I headed out to Hardscapes outside Germantown to check out the options...if you'll recall we enlisted Molly to draw up an estimate to have one built for us, but the numbers came in over budget. So we're looking at doing it ourselves (like everything else...)
Though I perhaps should have photograhed the storefront, I was drawn instead to this. Ditch digging is in our future...and bobcat fantasies are dancing in my head.
We'll need to move quite a bit of earth, both to excavate a foundation for the wall (we're looking at a minimum of about 12 inches, four inches for a base of aggregate and 8 inches to bury our first block) and to backfill the wall as we build it. For the purpose of sharing information learned with my associates, I'll recount some basic info. The ditch must be deep enough for a foundation of at least 4 inches of aggregate, some kind of 3/4 inch stones. This must be leveled in all directions. The ditch must also accomodate the first level of block, and they are 8 inches in height. Around this first level, which is the critical level (everything rests on this, so it MUST be level and straight in all directions), dirt must be compacted. Flush with the ground level a drain pipe must be installed behind the wall, run to the lowest point, and a drain cut either into the wall or run into the ground. This is 4 inch perforated pipe. Each level of block above ground must have at least 6 inches of aggregate packed behind it, and behind that dirt. The very top level does not need the aggregate behind it, and can be packed in with dirt, so a flower bed can be put up there. It's not rocket science, but it's labor intensive!
For an installation guide from the manufacturer here's a link:
Here's a look at what I came to see...a block retaining wall! The salesman removed the capstone so I could see how the blocks are constructed. They aren't solid, making them less heavy. More than that, this kind of construction also gives do-it-yourselfers like us a leggo kind of security as you'll see...
You can see here that each row of block will set back from the front of the lower level. This ensures the wall won't tip forward and fall. I learned today that these walls can be built safely up to a height of 4 feet, and was told that one can go even higher so long as the wall doesn't need to secure a large load behind it. Recall that most retaining walls are serving a functional purpose of holding back a span of dirt on a slope, which can create great pressure against the wall. In our application, the wall will have very little to hold up (about 18 inches of soil and aggregate) which will be secured on the other side by the Stupa itself. This means the wall doesn't need to have as much structural strength as one that would be used to hold a landscape against errosion. That's good news, in that we can feel free to build as high as we see fit...
Here's a look at a corner. The corner blocks are more expensive, as they are already formed for the specific purpose of making a corner. You can see the corner block is a plain rectangular shape. It lacks the little knob that ensures the 3/4 inche recessed placement, but can be eyeballed using the block next to it as a guide. They are secured with the adhesive to ensure they remain in place.
Okay, call me weird. But I found this scene intriguing. The use of the shipping container as a workspace/shed captured my imagination...us Stupa folks have fantasies about storage/workshop space. The wires and grinder on the ground only served to foster the attraction. Onward...the next step will involve getting actual measurements around Migyur Dorje, and sketching out a plan, so we can calculate approximate material costs. So keep checking in! Your prayers that obstacles to the completion of this project will be removed are welcome, as we press on towards working out a viable plan.
For now, it is our sincere hope that you will come out and visit the Stupas in person. All the efforts you see on these pages are devoted to keeping this opportunity in the world for you, and for all beings, for as long as possible!
Monday, January 23, 2006
This photo is from last Thursday, taken just after the sun set (always miss that part!). But the colors were still brilliant in the sky, so I thought I'd share them with you! It's been a busy weekend, with working on Ngagpa Yeshe Dorje and then Khenpo Norgye teaching. It has been fantastic, but as the video gal, it's kept me from updating here.
I'll be heading out to continue researching retaining wall options tomorrow, camera in tow. For now, however, I'll leave you with the usual invitation. It is our hope that by sharing these images with you, that you might be inspired to come see the Stupas for yourself, in person. Not only are they beautiful to behold, tucked in a tranquil setting not far from the frenetic activity of Washington D.C., but they offer limitless blessings to all who encounter them. They don't care what faith you follow, or if you have no faith at all. They offer their blessings freely and without condition. They exist only to bring benefit to beings. And they're located right here, in Poolesville, Maryland, available to you 24 hours a day, every day....
Friday, January 20, 2006
The morning started with Amber and I cleaning up inside the temple in preparation for the teaching this evening. To our surprise, Khenpo joined us and offered to babysit! He took little Sophie on a tour of the temple, showing her all the thangkas and identifying the many images and photos for her...
After working inside, we headed out to the Stupa. As was predicted, the weather today was amazingly balmy for mid-January. We worked in short sleeved T-shirts for the afternoon. We used our grinder to remove the bulk of the paint from the bumpa, our modest goal for the warm day (didn't want to bite off more than we could chew, knowing temps will drop any time). You can see it worked well! Next step was to sand the surface to smooth it out...