The Yellow Ribbon for the Dalai Lama

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Thousands of people have already crowded into the sprawling Kalachakra Temple compound in Dharamsala, India by the time my husband and I arrive at 8:00 a.m.

We’re gathering in anticipation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s first day of teachings at the very temple where he has his private chambers, and where he frequently addresses the public. Everywhere you look, your eyes rest on a sea of Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople, a sizable smattering of foreign tourists and a substantial sprinkling of Indians, many of them journalists, cameras and video gear in tow.

As we thread our way through the crowd, I get the sensation that this colorful medley of humans, against the ornate backdrop of the temple, resembles a living, breathing and moving mandala- the cosmic order come to life. There is infinite possibility on this cool, crisp morning; all mysteries might just reveal themselves in this gathering of good intentions and open hearts.

We walk upstairs past a jam-packed garden to where there are two prayer halls, one of which the Dalai Lama will use to transmit his teaching.

In and around these halls hordes of people sit, in hallways, on staircases leading to toilets, by a room full of ever-burning candles and by the cellar kitchens where butter tea is being boiled. As we look for a small space to squeeze into, a child’s voice crackles an adorable, stilted chant through the loudspeaker system; his voice rings with the crystalline innocence of youth. Others, like us, are navigating the crowds searching for an empty spot. Ropes have cordoned sections off, and security is still ramping up for the Dalai Lama’s arrival.

We jostle our way into small opening by a large column that faces the large hallway the Dalai Lama will soon walk down. Not too far ahead are a couple of stairs leading to the antechamber he’ll enter to reach his chair in the prayer hall. We arrived twenty minutes early, and the teaching is evidently going to start late, so we have time to stand among the sea of visitors, to observe the goings on that lead up to an event of this magnitude.

The smart ones who arrived early spread out mats and sit on cushions, many quietly munching on snacks.

Tibetans and foreigners are chitchatting, smiling and laughing side by side. Two of the security guards near the antechamber entrance, Indians, are rail thin, mustached, ever-smiling and holding long, austere-looking rifles. At intervals, various monks inhabit the holding area leading to the antechamber, and I keep expecting each one to be the official greeting party for the Dalai Lama. But then they leave and others take their place. Time seems to be lackadaisically seeping outward rather than moving forward in chronological sequence.

At a minute to nine, an older Tibetan man in a royal blue apron who’s been standing by the stairs the whole time, disappears into the antechamber and scurries back out with a bright yellow ribbon. He painstakingly goes about wrapping it around the stair rail that the Dalai Lama will use as a support on his way up. He corrects it, flattens and presses it again and again until it is absolutely perfect and he’s satisfied.

This tiny gesture, almost lost in the tide of brewing excitement, deeply moves me as emblematic of the purity of honest work and holy servitude.

This bright yellow ribbon that forms a vibrant part of our view on a very special day, strikes me as a beacon of far more. Sometimes we wonder about arguably overwrought rituals in spiritual tradition, and in our cynicism, declare all the pomp and circumstance excessively elaborate, meaningless and unnecessary. We find infinite things to feel sour about as we get lost in the details and distractions of our lives and lose sight of the small marvels happening around us at every turn.

I couldn’t argue with any degree of certainty about role of ritual in our lives or spiritual practice. My own views keep changing with time as the rest of me evolves and adapts to the life I find myself living.

But what I feel deeply, looking at the man with the yellow ribbon, is that every single action affects the universe.

Every act of true devotion brings out the light in the one who is devoted and that light reaches all of humanity. Everything we do that is in service of something greater than us builds into a momentum of positive energy that will only expand with our combined efforts. Before the teachings have even began – before the deliciously strange butter tea is served to thousands! – lessons arrive right in our laps. I can’t help but feel these lessons were meant for us to discover.

One yellow ribbon taken in isolation is a shiny and slightly garish curiosity. A yellow ribbon lovingly handled to mark a great occasion by a man who, just like the rest of us, has good days and bad, depends on others and has dependents of his own, and wants to be happy and free of suffering, is a beautiful manifestation of connectivity at work.

The care that emanated from those aging hands arranging one yellow ribbon one the first day of the Dalai Lama’s public teachings, those inordinately generous offerings, is also the care and love that feeds the world.

*This article was published on The Tattooed Buddha.

 

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A Year of Writing – and Publishing!

Hello Everyone!

As dawn crept in on my 40th year, I shivered with excitement – and trepidation, and oddly, a feeling of peace.

I’d already created a card from a photo of mine, so I could send my sincerest gratitude to so many people I love and hold dear. In this age of Internet, living as far away as Japan still feels, well … far, but I’m also able to stay connected in so many ways that fill my heart.

Less than two months after my birthday, I heard from Prolific Press that they were interested in publishing my travel-based poems that became my very first published collection, “Formation: Along the Ganges and Back Again.” I was flummoxed, elated, terrified, bedazzled, and mostly, filled with wonder.

Over the coming months, as I hunkered down daily to work on a new novel I’d started, Prolific Press and I selected, revised, formatted, compiled some more, and eventually, came up with the title and beautiful cover image for the book!

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As this was going on, the words and the poems continued to flow, and by the happiest of serendipitous encounters, I discovered Women’s Spiritual Poetry, a beautiful blog and project that serves as a platform for women’s poetry from all over the world. I submitted my first poem there, and had such a warm, lovely experience that I haven’t looked back! Catherine Ghosh, WSP’s courageous, generous, brilliant and gifted leader, provides such a warm and protective space for her writers, that becoming part of this community has been a truly remarkable gift – yet another in my 40th year!

They say 40 is magical, powerful, special, and I believe this to be true.

A few months ago, Catherine invited us women to become part of a collaborative effort: her second anthology of poetry consisting if poems coming from the blog. I leaped at the chance! I ended up getting involved in the selection process, have five poems included in the book, and I also did a little bit of proofreading, and wrote an introduction for one of the chapters: Voicing Soul Secrets.

There was actually another little serendipity involved here. I live in Japan, as you know, so much of the work that goes on in my co-writers/poets’ lives happens while I’m in the throes of dreamland. I’d noticed late at night (for me), before going to bed, that 13 writers would be needed for chapter introductions. My eye fell immediately to Soul Secrets, but I didn’t want to be pushy – I was fairly new to the group, and didn’t want to overstep, and I for sure didn’t want to take some work that another poetess was dreaming of doing! I told myself that if it was still available in the morning, I’d offer to write it.

When I woke up … it was the only one left!

Being intimately involved in the production process of this book was a privilege and a huge learning experience. I got to watch as one of our poetesses, Shailie Dubois, offered a painting she’d done that was so stunning it ended up on the cover of the book – she also did another for the back cover, and did one of the book’s two trailers (Catherine, a masterful video creator), did the other).

And now, just after my 41st birthday, I am gifted again … with the release of the book! On the day of its release, our new poetry book “Where Journeys Meet: The Voice of Women’s Poetry” made it to the #1 spot on Amazon’s Bestselling New Releases in Poetry by Women *and* to the #2 spot in Bestselling Poetry by Women (in general) right next to MARY OLIVER, one of my heroines!

where journeys meet

What a year, and bookended (!), no less, by two books. For a human like me, who has been dreaming and breathing words her whole life, this is a moment I want to fully dive into with my full appreciation and gratitude.

The work never stops, the words continue to flow, emotions run in every which way … but for now, we are here, and there is a lot of celebrating to do.

Thank YOU for being here to celebrate with me. May we share words and hearts for a long time to come!

Tammy xo

Formation: Words, Memories and Book Encounters

New shipment arrives!

New shipment arrives!

I had copies of my book shipped to Canada, where I’m from, for my recent visit there.

It was a strange and beautiful thing, to be in the place – both geographically and emotionally – that inspired the book’s first section of poems, along with the love of my family and friends, whom I hadn’t seen during the span of my Eastern travels.

Here I was, filled with such warmth and intimacy after so many years away, and all of this took me to a space utterly beyond words. We come into the world without words, and words fail us when strong and powerful emotions take over. Somewhere in between, there is the dance of expression, the muse of experience, and there is specifically, for me, the written word, one of the primary ways I have chosen to express my passion for being in this world.

Here were both my words and the wordless commingling in and around the space of love, connection and gratitude. For the first time in years, I spent days on end (three weeks worth!) without writing a single sentence, and yet I had this Formation of words already written, there for the sharing. Life – its cycles, its swirl of emotion and lessons – is wondrous.

Thank you so much to those of you who have found your way to my book! Formation can be found here:

Amazon

Prolific Press’s site

Tammy, xo

Book Appearance!

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Hello!

I’m on a virtual bookshelf!!

Well, not me (or virtual me) personally, but my book, “Formation” has landed in great company! Check it out and while you are there, take a look at the esteemed company my poems are keeping; there’s some great stuff on Camel Saloon, and I’m so grateful to them for supporting my work over the years.

To buy “Formation”, you can go here or here!

xo

Exciting News: My Book is Released!

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Hello Everyone!

I am thrilled to be writing with a very exciting announcement …

I have written book of poetry, published by Prolific Press, and it’s just been released!

I’m so excited to formally introduce my first full published work, “Formation: Along the Ganges and Back Again”, and so grateful to Prolific Press for seeing something in my heaping manuscript of poems, and helping me make this dream of mine come true! I’m so proud to say that the book is available here:

Prolific Press’s site: http://tinyurl.com/q8zbed4
Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/onw2ppr

Just to tell you a little bit about it, I thought I’d share the official synopsis!

“Formation” begins with the attempt to engage with a lost childhood through words – but ultimately, it is a search for something deeper, the mining of then and now for a love that hovers, ever elusive. The search inspired a journey eastward, where inner and outer worlds collide. In their form, content and spirit, the poems in this collection reflect the varied landscapes of Southeast Asia, India and Japan. “Formation” takes the reader into the heart of the poet’s reminiscences and passions as they mesh with the lively physical and spiritual spaces encountered.

It’s been a long road from the days these poems were scribbled in moments of passion and reflection, over chai or after days of retreat, onto just about anything from napkins, homemade journals I crafted from found paper and mosquito coil boxes (there’s nothing like creative re-purposing) and any number of journal-jewels I found along the way, mostly in Thailand, Laos, India and Japan. I’m beyond humbled and exhilarated to see years of being on the proverbial road, learning, musing and word-forming, ending up here, with this beautifully put together collection. The evolution of these scattered works into this book has been a profoundly rewarding experience in itself, and one that is very close to my heart!

I invite you to have a look at the book at either of the links above, and would be ever so grateful for your support. Prolific Press is an indie publisher who puts a whole lot of passion into the books they produce, and support for small publishers (and of course, their authors) goes a long way!

If you do buy it, and love it, and would like to review it, or have any feedback at all, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to hear from you, and every Amazon review helps to get the book out there! And if you know anyone who might be interested in poetry, travel-writing, or who might just need a book to read, please share and pass this along!

You can also find up-to-date information about the book right here as time goes on. Thank you so much for sharing in this adventure with me. It’s an exciting and heart-palpitating thing, to be baring oneself like this in such a public arena, so I’m very grateful for your support!

With love and in gratitude,

Tammy xo

xo

FREE e-book of Stories to Accompany my travel poetry book “Formation”!

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Hello!

I’m so excited about the release of my first poetry book, “Formation: Along the Ganges and Back Again”, published by Prolific Press!

“Formation” takes the reader on a geographical and spiritual journey from my childhood in Canada all the way to Southeast Asia, India and Japan, in the name of taming the mind and exploring the limits of the heart.

The poems in this collection are very much inspired by – and mostly written during – my extensive eastward travels, so I thought you might want to know a little bit more about how I came to these travels and what they were like!

As you know, I have a column on elephant journal, and have written a lot about my travels for them.

I thought I would take a few of the more relevant ones, and put them into a nice package for easy and fun reading. There are several photos in this PDF, so I hope the downloading goes okay – I sincerely hope you enjoy, and I would love any thoughts or comments you might have!

Happy reading,

Tammy x

Formation Companion Piece of Travel Stories by Tammy T. Stone