Time. Just when I think it no longer exists, it stops; Against a wall I crash; Into the realization that more than a meager measure of minutes, it is a cunning calculator of change. Elevated for a single breathtaking glimpse of the horizons of the divine plan, and then falling back in faith that the story is, indeed, written all by the same hand.
And I knew Time wasn’t linear, but who knew that in circles we could travel so far? So I follow the loop, and go forward, back; To a minute captured in ink, at the entrance to the Jokhang, in Lhasa, Tibet.
April 4th, 2005
Mind, Speech, and Body. Thought, Word, and Heart. Pilgrims in their most intimate surrender, on all sides, surround. Full body prostrations humble egos insistent on standing, solemnly to the ground. Men and women. Rich and poor. Ignorant of race, sex and class is the number of miles we each must walk, simply to fall on Humility’s floor. Instructed then, to yes please enter, but leave the life we’ve walked in, with the pile of shoes at the door.
I thought I came to observe, but I’ve quickly become the observed. A man squats, telephoto lens, no bush to beat and without blush, snapping shots of the pale girl sitting in the street. Obviously odd for her square and muted clothes, she scripts in matching block letters, acting innocent of being noticed.
And to whom and what of, does she write? I look through his lens and wonder too. It seems a very Western obsession to wander back and forth between past observation and future expression; Over- and under- analyzing segments of time that no longer or yet exist, instead of simply experiencing the moment of “now” naked and as it is.
An ancient Tibetan man, with a smile a lifetime younger, spins a prayer wheel in his right hand as he extends to me in his left, a customary gesture of welcome. I smile back, and his eyes they glow. A mirror flashes as recognition catches, before a gust of wind starts time again and blows; In a blink, back down the veil falls over his eyes, with a final teasing wink testifying to the truth of our oneness that he knows.
Square shadows of square shoulders cast square shade upon my ground, as a group surrounds me in the suits and caps traditional to the men of Tibet’s region, Kham. In low dusty voices they chatter, scratch chins, point fingers and finally decide my activity no longer worth their banter. The cloud of their presence passes, and I find myself for the first in many minutes, in observer absence.
I poke my head out from the cover I’ve taken in paper and pen…
Mind, speech and body. Thought, word and heart. The prostrating pilgrims keep in rhythm with the small hand of a clock. Suddenly aware, for the first time, of my own looming shadow over them, I slap myself for ignorantly assuming I had a right to sit here and witness these intimate acts of devotion and submission.
I turn just in time to see, in front of a barred window, a small monk in signature maroon robes. In one hand he holds a violet sun umbrella that he reaches up into the air as he grabs onto the bars to help lift himself up onto his toes. (I know the window, for I’ve peeked through it too, and know that thousands of prayer-lit butter lamps present a very peek-worthy view.) And again the mirror flashes and blinds me with a body swapping vision of myself; Small girl, eager toes, an understanding shaded by the big umbrella of all she thinks she knows. Stretching up, peeking in, through the barred window of her severely limited perception.
I scribble incomplete and run-on sentences in an attempt to comprehend it all, but am stopped by my own smile, when the violet star-shaped shadow wanders from the window and upon my journal falls.
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