When we were in Darjeeling a year and a half ago, we visited the Tibetan Refugee Self Help Center. The center provides artisan training and support of residents of all ages. People who live there make a variety of handicrafts, including jewelry, weaving, and clothing. They also make prayer flags, so I loaded up on a full supply to bring back home. The flags have prayers printed on them, which are carried by the wind out into the world.
When I returned, we hung them in our garden. Over the months, the wind has carried their prayers and blessings far and wide. During that time they have gradually unraveled and faded in the sun. I knew it was time to replace them, yet I felt hesitant to do so, since they were one of the last remaining physical reminders of my trip to India. It was hard to let go. A new set of flags arrived from a friend, and I realized it was time.
The flags, once replaced, are traditionally burned. At first I wanted to keep a few flags to incorporate into art projects. In the end, I decided to add them to the pile. On Wednesday evening I burned them all, and what was left was ashes. It was a process of letting go, leaving a space for something new. I thought of the Phoenix bird story, how it was reborn from ashes.
On many layers our world is burning. Between rising concerns around COVID-19, especially here in Arizona, and equally concerning social justice matters, we apparently have stepped into the fire. The Arctic is literally burning at this very moment. We are being asked to make a transformation, individually and collectively, whether we like it or not.
Some days are more hopeful than others. I have times when I feel strong and courageous, and others when I find it necessary to reach out for support. I hope that somehow we can get through this time, and emerge anew from the ashes. In the end, it always comes back to showing up to do the work. I leave you with these words from Rumi that say it best of all:
“Work. Keep digging your well.
Don’t think about getting off from work.
Water is there somewhere.
Submit to a daily practice.
Your loyalty to that
is a ring on the door.
Keep knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there. “